LatinaLista — One of the universal signs of an abusive country that doesn't respect basic human rights is when that country locks up a person and essentially throws away the key.
In other words, the person is indefinitely incarcerated/detained without being charged for a crime or allowed to have a trial. It's a practice that registers high levels of protest from free world countries whenever it's enforced by oppressive nations.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft loses his bid for immunity from being sued.
However, it's a practice that has been all too common in the United States as well -- just under the radar.
Last Friday, a federal appeals court in California shed light on the practice when it rejected the notion that former attorney general John Ashcroft should have absolute legal immunity from being sued by a U.S. Muslim man who was detained for weeks as a material witness in a terrorism case when there was no proof to hold him or charge him with anything.
Al-Kidd, a Muslim convert who had been a standout running back on the University of Idaho football team, was confined in a high-security cell lit 24 hours a day, according to the opinion. He was strip-searched and transported, in shackles, across three states for 16 days before a court ordered his release. Authorities could not offer evidence of criminal wrongdoing by al-Kidd, and he never testified in a court proceeding.
For more than 15 months after his release, al-Kidd was forced to live with his parents-in-law in Nevada, curtail his travel and report to a probation officer. Al-Kidd lost his job with a government contractor after being denied a security clearance. Since his arrest, he has separated from his wife, suffered emotional trauma and been unable to hold a steady job, the judges wrote.
The tactic of holding someone without charging them with a crime is being referred to as "preventive detention" and as this ruling illustrates it's counter to what is represented by the U.S. Constitution.
In their ruling, all three judges, who happened to be appointed by Republican presidents, wrote: some "confidently assert that the government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions . . . because the government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing or to prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world. We find this to be repugnant."
Equally repugnant is the practice of using indefinite detention to lock up undocumented immigrants, who pose no flight or security risk, for months and years as they try to defend themselves in the deportation process.
Both of these examples underscore the fact that such indefinite detention practices are not how a free country exemplifies their democratic ideals.
So, it's surprising to hear that the Obama administration is seriously considering allowing the continuation of both types of third-world detention practices.
The practice of indefinite and/or preventive detention was started under the Bush Administration. One as a way to enforce illegal immigration and the other to justify unlawful acts of holding American citizens who happened to fit a particular profile.
Regardless of who is being detained, it's not a practice that serves any purpose when the detainees have not committed any heinous crime and actually want to cooperate with federal officials.
Critics will say that undocumented immigrants will flee and so that justifies them being detained indefinitely. Yet, while a small number may flee, those who have established roots in this country and have families who consist of American-born citizens, have shown to be trustworthy in not fleeing but staying and securing legal counsel to fight deportation and separation from their families.
Being detained practically prohibits these undocumented immigrants from having a fair chance to fight for their cases. Also, for some unknown reason, they are detained miles and miles away from their families which provides a larger hardship on already suffering families.
In either instance, to continue the practice of indefinite detention is not something expected from the Obama administration. It is seen as a continuation of a hardline, extremist stand from a former administration that history will show had little regard for the democratic ideals of this country or its Constitution.
Dissolving this policy would be a big break with the Bush administration and the Obama administration owes that much to the people who believed him when he said in his campaign that it was time for a change.
It is time for a change and holding people in detention indefinitely is a policy that is a black eye on a country that likes to believe it is still a world-class champion of democracy.