LatinaLista — This week, we learned from a Justice Department report that the White House interfered in the hiring of immigration judges by politicizing the hires. In other words, if the candidates met the conservative criteria or were recommended by Republican members of Congress, they were hired. If they were determined to be liberal or Democrats, they were shown the door.
This month we learned from federal translator Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas, who worked the Postville raid in May 2008, and who reported his eyewitness observations last week to Congress before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, that there were some “irregularities” in the judicial system in Postville.
Among the most blatant were:
1. The court failed to maintain a physical separation and operational independence from the ICE prosecution.
2. There was inadequate access to legal counsel.
3. The court failed to provide a level playing field for the (centralized) prosecution and the (fragmented) defense.
4. At initial appearance there was no meaningful presumption of innocence.
5. Many defendants did not appear to understand their rights, particularly the meaning and consequences of waiving their right to be indicted by a grand jury.
6. There was no bail hearing, as bail was automatically denied pursuant to an immigration detainer.
7. The heavier charge of aggravated identity theft, used to leverage the Plea Agreement, was lacking in foundation and never underwent the judicial test of probable cause.
8. Many defendants did not appear to understand their charges or rights, insisting that they were in jail for being in the country illegally (and not for document fraud or identity theft), and insisting that they had no rights.
9. Many defendants did not know what a Social Security Number is or what purpose it serves. Because “intent” was an element of each of the charges, many were probably not guilty, but had no choice but to plead out.
10. The denial of bail, the inflated charge, and the leveraged Plea Agreement combined to create, for the many sole providers whose families were put in jeopardy, a situation of duress under which the pleas were obtained. Under these circumstances, the pleas, in many cases, may have been coerced.
11. At sentencing, the judges had no discretion to administer justice, as they were presented with a binding and coerced Plea Agreement.
And today, we learn that the irregularities that occurred in the Postville courts, to which Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas testified to before Congress, were premeditated and came complete — with a how-to manual.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union were able to get a hold of the government “manual” that was issued to defense lawyers representing the undocumented immigrant workers apprehended and prosecuted in Postville.
As Dr. Camayd-Freixas so expertly noted, there was purposeful disregard for the judicial process. What the federal translator didn’t realize was that it was all scripted.
The manual contained “prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights that were used to push the more than 300 Postville workers through mass criminal proceedings as quickly as possible.”
According to the ACLU analysis of the manual:
The government “manual” provided for the workers to waive all their legal rights and in the overwhelming majority of cases, to plead guilty to charges of falsely using identity documents for employment. It was an important tool used to rush defendants through the criminal justice and immigration systems without a criminal trial or immigration proceedings. The plea forms in the “manual” included a requirement barring immigrants from pursuing any legal claims or procedures under the immigration laws.
The revelation of this manual implies that the same “code of conduct” is being applied to apprehended undocumented immigrants in makeshift courts across the country in order to expedite their removal. Yet, the question begs to be asked: Why the hurry?
Why is it necessary to traumatize families by separating them and not allowing them to have contact with each other after apprehension?
Why is it necessary to deny due process to illiterate immigrants who cannot seriously be considered threats to national security?
Why is it necessary to disregard the foundation of the U.S. justice system — “innocent until proven guilty?
Why is our (immigration) judicial system working hand-in-hand with ICE when it should maintain its independence from that entity?
Why is it necessary to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on whole families who otherwise were living non-criminal, peaceful and productive lives?
Why is it necessary to have to ask the federal government to explain itself?