Monday, July 21, 2008

Houston Chronicle Editorial - Erik Camayd Freixas

An editorial in Sunday's Houston Chronicle offers their solidarity and support for Erik Camayd-Freixas's decision to speak out. Some excerpts from this piece:

No matter how fed up some Americans have become with the number of undocumented foreigners who illegally cross U.S. borders in search of work, such blatant trampling of everyone's right to due process is unacceptable. When the government can disregard the Constitution, it is as much a danger to American citizens as it is to powerless Latin American peasants caught up in a federal immigration dragnet.

Many told stories of being the sole support of their American-born children or feeble parents back home. Some of the Guatemalans, Camayd-Freixas suspected, might have had valid asylum claims based on that country's horrid human rights record. At least one immigrant had an application for a change of legal status pending. In accepting the guilty plea that would return him most quickly to his family, he lost all hope of eventually being allowed to remain legally in the country. Immigration lawyers who could have advised the defendants on such matters were barred from the proceedings.

"Deporting unauthorized workers is one thing," wrote Camayd-Freixas. "Sending desperate breadwinners to prison, and their families deeper into poverty, is another."

The Chronicle's editorial board agrees. These workers broke U.S. immigration laws and should have been dealt with accordingly. Instead, the government came down on them with a hammer, trumping up charges that forced innocent people into pleading guilty. Many of the immigrants begged to be deported so they could find some other means to provide for their impoverished loved ones. They took the government's offer not because they were guilty, but to avoid a long stretch in jail before trial and the possibility of a lengthy sentence should they be found guilty. No matter what, all would be eventually deported.

In this case the executive branch made the judicial branch a rubber stamp, depriving judges brought in of the authority to use their judgment in dealing with individual cases. It made a mockery of American values of fairness and the right of every defendant to have his case heard on its merits.

It's an example of American "justice" at its shameful worst.

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