After the September 11th attack of the World Trade Center by terrorists, America has since curtailed a great deal of freedom regarding immigration policies in an attempt to curb illegal immigration. This change has had far-reaching effects on immigrants to the United States, and especially to the Islamic community of Arab origin. Illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States from countries such as Mexico are said to have been subjected to inhumane treatment by border patrol agents. This essay seeks to identify the reasons why illegal immigrants held in cells are treated as criminals by the authorities.
Recently, in the United States, there are rising cases of operational raids being performed in homes and workplaces with the target of arresting illegal immigrants most of who are innocent and cause no apparent threat. After such raids, the apprehended individuals are taken to court and finally to prison. The civil rights lawyers have incessantly complained about such treatment but no adequate action has yet been taken. The illegal immigrants in the hands of immigration officials are often treated like criminal gangs. Such handling deprives the illegal immigrants of their basic human rights, as most of the time they are forced to relinquish their rights. Most of these illegal immigrants who work in American companies and help these companies accrue lots of profits are quite often deprived of fair hearing. It is only paradoxical that the companies that make fortunes out of the desperation of these illegal immigrants are not charged by the authorities. It is very common to find illegal immigrants languishing in detention centers without legal representation or even good medical care when these immigrants are critically ill (Baumgarten 1998, p.3). Cases concerning illegal immigrants take relatively long periods before they are heard and determined. Ironically, in the United States, there are some counties and towns that have cells that are unoccupied while those holding immigration prisoners are often overcrowded. Children are also part of those held in immigration cells, while this seems not to bother the concerned authorities. The government has since promised to build family detention centers. Police officers are present everywhere searching for immigration documents. These activities have been heightened by the backing of politicians who clamor for federal appointments. Swoops conducted by the police officers should not be about forcing people to go back to their countries of origin even when they have fulfilled immigration requisites.
The backlog of cases related to illegal immigration drag for ages. Efforts to fix this problem by coming up with legislation policies that expedite the determination of these cases have often failed. The major politicians in the United States mostly in the Republican Party as well as in the Democratic Party have set up ways of keeping millions of illegal immigrants in abject poverty and great fear. Very few national figures have stood out and condemned restrictionism. However, Senator Edward Kennedy is credited for having stood firm against restrictionism. John McCain drummed up support for sensible reforms, although his party registered some degree of discomfort. The general American public is very moderate when it comes to immigration reforms. This was indeed confirmed by the poll that was conducted (Gibson 1998, p.5). This public moderation has unfortunately remained so despite efforts made by lobbyists to entice the public to approach the issue of immigration reforms with courage and plan. However, instead of these Lobbyists being strict and forceful about their appeals, they have decided to remain discrete and cautious about their opinions. The restrictionists are of the idea that illegal immigrants ought to have no human rights. It fails to come to a consensus with a position that illegality has got nothing to do with identity and that illegality is a status that can be amended by reparative efforts on the part of the immigrants when they start living legal lives. The state should therefore consider revising its enforcement compulsion to permanently help change the issue of illegal immigration. Newly arriving immigrants have been targeted for unjust punishment.
The perception that people have about the United States as a land of unlimited opportunities has accelerated the upsurge of illegal immigrants who cross into its borders every day without proper travel documents. In particular, statistics indicate that more than 1 million people across the Mexican border into the United States illegally. Upon reaching their destination, they have to live with the fact that they are not welcome in the United States. Sometimes these immigrants are caught and deported by the United States Border patrol police manning the US-Mexican border. These officers are duty-bound by the law to treat illegal immigrants humanely. This is a sharp contrast to what happens as the illegal immigrants are normally beaten up and kicked by the border patrol officers. These are abusive acts infiltrated by individuals who are supposed to be upholding the law (Gustafson 1998, p.10). Border patrol officers have also subjected illegal immigrants to inhumane treatments such as beatings, rapes, and homicide. And due to the lack of adequate complaint procedures, most of these injustices go unnoticed. This prevails since the validity of the complaints can only be determined by the Immigration Supervisor who has the authority to forward the complaints to the Justice Department or do away with them. Internal complaint procedures of the border patrol department do not live up to the expectations. Therefore, the formulation of new complaint procedures should be put in place to ensure that the illegal immigrants’ complaints are addressed adequately. These abuses should signal help in jump-starting the re-examination of border patrol enforcement measures and policies.
The border patrol department makes the highest number of arrests compared to other law enforcement agencies. Additional resources and personnel contributions to this program especially after the Clinton initiative of 1994 should also be considered. The border patrol agents endowed by the immigration Act of 1990 have added to the amount of anxiety in illegal immigration. It gives the border patrol officials the supremacy to make arrests and searches without warrants. Additionally, the act allows the INS officials to issue arrest warrants and also handle firearms that can be used wrongly. The existing immigration laws also allow the border patrol agents to determine the circumstances that can warrant arrests and interrogation of suspicious immigrants. The greater latitude they are given in enforcing their powers gives them a leeway into violating the rights and liberties of the immigrants. Courts also solely depend on the conclusions that the border patrol agents draw after apprehending illegal immigrants.
The review standards allow the border patrol agents to factor in race and lineage in making determinations. The reason to believe has been interpreted by United States Supreme Court to imply something less than probable (Sage 1998, p.4). Failure to produce valid immigration documents when asked to can also warrant a probable cause of arrest. The robust law enforcement power accorded to border patrol agents by the congress and supreme courts are also to blame for the abuses that illegal immigrants go through. Illegal immigrants have the right to keep quiet and refuse to issue documents that show whether they are legal citizens of America. However, upon detention by Border patrol agents, they may be forced to divulge information on their origin and even produce the immigration documents after a subpoena has been sought by the border patrol agents.
The kind of interrogation that the illegal immigrants are subjected to may be humiliating and violate their basic human rights. Abuses illegal immigrants are subjected to by border patrol agents added to 1322 between 1988 and 1994 (Trevino 1998, p.12). Of these cases, only 16 cases were presented before the grand jury for determination. Since September 1983, only 2 border patrol agents have been taken to courts and prosecuted for violation of illegal immigrant’s rights. In 1993 a Mexican illegal immigrant said that she was raped in a van by border control agents in Arizona but later the charges against the agent were dropped. In Arizona, Raul Teran, an agent was charged on grounds of having kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and molested a 12-year-old illegal immigrant girl in1994. Vinson Charles of the San Diego Border Patrol Agency was said to have raped an illegal immigrant who had crossed into the US illegally. The agent was arrested and charged with sexual assault. In other circumstances, the agents prevail upon women into having sex with them because of the powers and authority they wield.
Illegal immigrants just like any other human beings are protected by universal basic human rights which should not be violated just because they have entered another country’s territory. They should be allowed access to medical care and legal representation.
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Gustafson, C. (1998). International criminal courts: some dissident views on continuation of a war by penal means. Houston journal of international law, 1705(3).
Sage, T. (1998). Between rock and a hard place: the legal and moral juxtaposition of Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws as illustrated by revelation of Nazi era accounts. Houston journal of international law, 1705(3).
Trevino, J. (1998). Border violence against illegal immigrants and the need to change border patrol’s current complaint review process. Houston journal of international law,1705(3).