Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Seeking Asylum in O Canada!

The article below demonstrates that while there are many seeking asylum in the U.S., there are others that wish to leave the U.S. As you read the article below, remind yourself about the tensions between state and family. That is, does agreeing to military service trump your own wanting to preserve your life, or even vice-versa? Do you hold duty to yourself or to the state? Does not following law create anarchy? Is being sent by the state coupled with your unwillingness to fight in a war in which you could get killed, however likely or unlikely, reasonable grounds for human persecution? Have fun and enjoy!

Will War Deserters
Find Asylum in Canada?
February 8, 2006; Page B1
TORONTO -- Attorney Jeffry House has a simple message for the dozens of young American soldiers and Marines seeking his help staying out of Iraq: He understands exactly where they are coming from.
Mr. House had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and was working at a bank in that state when he received a draft notice for Vietnam. It was December 1969, he was 23 years old, and with a war he abhorred showing every sign of accelerating, he made his mind up quickly. Packing all his possessions into a Volkswagen Beetle, he fled to Canada, joining the thousands of young Americans streaming into the country to avoid fighting in Vietnam.
Now a prominent human-rights lawyer here, Mr. House is working to keep another generation of young Americans out of a contentious war. He is the lead attorney for Jeremy Hinzman, the first U.S. service member to formally seek political asylum in Canada because he refuses to fight in Iraq.
Mr. Hinzman's request was denied last year, but Mr. House persuaded a Canadian appellate court to rehear the case, as well as that of a second deserter, Brandon Hughey, today. Authorities in Canada and the U.S. say that a ruling in the two men's favor could trigger similar applications from American deserters living secretly in Canada -- a group of about 200, according to estimates of Mr. House, among others.
The case is putting the spotlight back on one of the Vietnam era's most divisive dramas -- the mass flight north of an estimated 50,000 young men seeking to avoid serving in the military. Indeed, Mr. Hinzman's biggest supporters come from the thousands of Americans who remained in Canada when the war ended.
The Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign -- which is paying some of Mr. House's legal fees and petitioning the Canadian government on behalf of Mr. Hinzman and the other deserters -- is led by a Vietnam deserter and counts numerous others among its membership. At a recent meeting to plan rallies for the day of the protest, one aging deserter wore a T-shirt that said, "Resisting U.S. Wars: A Canadian Tradition."
But there are major differences between Mr. Hinzman's case and those who resisted the Vietnam War. Because the war in Southeast Asia took place while the draft was in effect, deserters could claim they had fled to avoid being forced into service they had neither sought nor agreed to fulfill. Today's military is an all-volunteer force, which means that all of Mr. House's clients willingly agreed to serve. That has led to a healthy degree of skepticism about the deserters' true motivations even in Canada, a place where antiwar feelings run deep and the Iraq war is deeply unpopular.
The Hinzman case has infuriated many Americans, who say that members of a voluntary military have no right to pick which orders they will follow. Some critics note that the volunteers sign an "enlistment contract" that details terms of service and includes an oath to obey orders. Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly has advocated a boycott of Canadian-made goods if Canada doesn't send deserters back to the U.S. to stand trial.
Mr. House, who considers the Iraq war to be unlawful, because it was started without the United Nations' sanction, and immoral, is at the intersection of both generations of American war resisters. He represents 11 other military-service people with cases similar to that of Mr. Hinzman and has met with a total of 94 deserters who were steered to him by Quaker churches and other groups. He sees an increase in phone calls and emails whenever a U.S. military unit gets a call-up notice for Iraq, and says jittery soldiers sometimes fly to Canada to talk to him about asylum.
U.S. Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman and son Liam at a recent meeting of war resisters in Toronto.
Mr. Hinzman's petition to remain in Canada was denied last March by the government's Immigration and Refugee Board, which ruled that the punishment he faced in the U.S. didn't rise to the level of persecution necessary for gaining asylum. (Under U.S. law, desertion in wartime technically carries the death penalty, although that was last used in World War II. More commonly, deserters forfeit all of their service pay since their enlistment and serve as long as five years in prison.)
The board refused to wade into the politically sensitive area of the war's legality, deeming the question irrelevant. In challenging the ruling, Mr. House hopes the appeals court will order the board to take the legality of the war into account. "The case law in Canada and throughout the world says that soldiers can't be forced to take part in an illegal war," he says.
It is unclear how many Americans are actively avoiding service in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, 110 service members from the various branches of the armed forces filed conscientious-objector requests in 2004, four times the number in 2000, with slightly less than half being granted.
Approximately 6,000 military personnel have deserted since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. It isn't known how many were captured or turned themselves in. Of those that were, some were sent on to Iraq, while others were court-martialed and received punishments ranging from dishonorable discharges to short prison sentences.
In Mr. House, the deserters find both an advocate and a kindred spirit. His own flight north was spurred by his increasing doubts about the justification for the Vietnam War. He didn't tell his parents until the night before he left. His father, a World War II veteran, angrily knocked a plate onto the floor, while his mother ran into her bedroom and cried.
When U.S. forces poured into Iraq in 2003, Mr. House didn't think it would have any impact on his life. "It had literally never occurred to me that there might be American deserters until Jeremy's head poked through my office door," he says.
Mr. Hinzman, 27, arrived in Canada in January 2004 after an 18-hour drive from North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, was preparing to deploy to Iraq. A lanky South Dakota native, Mr. Hinzman enlisted in the Army in 2000 seeking money for college and a chance to do something bigger with his life. To the men around him, he was a model soldier. Inside, however, he says he was tormented by doubts about whether killing was ever justified.
Married to a Buddhist, Mr. Hinzman says he and his wife discussed her faith's pacifist tenets. He says she was strongly in favor of his leaving the Army but denies that he left because of family pressure. "I respect the soldierly ethos, but I didn't want to lose my humanity," he says.
In the summer and fall of 2002, Mr. Hinzman filed for conscientious-objector status that would have kept him in the Army as a noncombatant; nothing came of the applications. His unit was sent to Afghanistan a short time later, and an officer from the unit conducted a hearing on his application at the Kandahar air base.
Under questioning, Mr. Hinzman conceded that while he wouldn't want to take part in offensive operations, "it would be my duty to defend this airfield if it were attacked," according to a transcript of the hearing. The officer cited Mr. Hinzman's willingness to fight in his recommendation that Mr. Hinzman's application be denied.
In July 2003, the unit was sent back to the U.S. and received its call-up orders for Iraq in December. On New Year's Day, Mr. Hinzman was ordered to report to the base to repair and inventory rifles. He did what he was told but afterward left his uniform and equipment at the base, along with a note explaining his reasons for deserting, and set out for Canada with his wife and son on Jan. 2.
Mr. Hinzman's first stop was at a Quaker church in downtown Toronto, where worshippers suggested he speak to Mr. House, who had done work for the church. The two men met a few days later.
Today, the Hinzmans live on a tree-lined street in a working-class part of the city. Unable to gain acceptance to college until his case is settled, he works as a bike messenger. A ruling on his case is expected in a couple of months.

New Immigration Cop

Thought this might be interesting...

The New Immigration Cops
Cities and States Take On Difficult Duty
Of Handling Undocumented Workers
February 2, 2006; Page B1

Alabama state trooper Gary Hetzel usually stops people for going over the speed limit. Now, he sometimes arrests them for illegally crossing over the U.S. border, too.
Recently he pulled over a van for speeding and ended up detaining 14 undocumented immigrants who had paid smugglers at the Mexican border to transport them to Atlanta. The van's driver and co-driver were charged with human smuggling; the 14 immigrants were deported. "If I hadn't been trained, I would have just ticketed the driver for speeding and sent them on their way," said Mr. Hetzel.
Such actions are normally the province of federal immigration agents. But even though some police groups have concerns, a slew of cities and states in the U.S. are increasingly taking on the duty of verifying the immigration status of people stopped for traffic infractions and other violations. In Alabama, about 160 illegal immigrants have been arrested since the state entered a special partnership in 2003 with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of Homeland Security, or ICE as it is known. Under this arrangement, officers such as Mr. Hetzel are specially trained in some immigration enforcement duties.
Alabama decided to join the program because local officials believed ICE's small staff in the state was unable to cope with the swelling numbers of illegal immigrants. Last fall, Gov. Bob Riley pledged to double the number of state troopers trained to deal with illegal immigrants, saying: "Alabama welcomes those who enter the country legally, but we won't stand idly by and do nothing when we catch illegal immigrants in our state."
Forty-four of the 650 state troopers in the state, a figure that includes administrative and field officers, have taken the five-week training course and are now authorized to enforce federal immigration law. That training involves detecting false identification, understanding the details of federal immigration law as well as the pitfalls of racial profiling and other possible civil-rights violations.
The ICE partnership empowers local officers to temporarily detain someone who has violated federal immigration law -- something that they are typically not allowed to do. That is a valuable tool in states where there are few ICE agents. The trained officers usually don't participate in sweeps or actively search for illegal immigrants; the emphasis is on human smugglers and convicted felons that officers come across during the course of their duties.
The federal program to train local police officers in such duties has existed since 1996. Florida, the first state to join the federal program in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, tailored its version to help block possible terrorist infiltrators. Interest in the program has taken off recently as the national debate over illegal immigration has heated up.
In recent months, ICE has received requests from several states in New England and the Midwest, as well as counties in Texas and California, which are interested in immigration training.
"It has proven very difficult for the federal government to increase manpower in the enforcement of immigration law fast enough," says Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who oversaw the application of the program when he served as counsel to the U.S. attorney general from 2001 to 2003. "This provision allows those states that want to help to fill in the gap."
The ICE program has sparked emotional debate in some regions. In December, the city council of Costa Mesa in southern California became the latest jurisdiction to decide to enter the ICE program. Mayor Allan Mansoor, who proposed joining, said the initiative would designate specialized officers, such as gang specialists and investigators, to do immigration checks. The program's primary focus would be on identifying criminals.
Mr. Mansoor, who is also a deputy sheriff of Orange County, estimates that 10% to 15% of all inmates in the county's jails are illegal immigrants. He said that many undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes were released into the streets of the U.S. after serving their prison term rather than being sent home. "We want to make sure they are deported," he said.
But Costa Mesa wasn't unanimously behind the mayor. Before the vote, several city council meetings were rocked by opponents shouting that the plan was discriminatory and would undercut fragile ties between immigrants and the police. Ultimately, the council voted 3 to 2 in favor.
Some police organizations and human-rights groups are concerned that deputizing local officers to handle immigration enforcement might violate civil liberties -- and undermine safety.
"A key concern is that state and local enforcement involvement in immigration can have a chilling effect on the relationship with the immigrant community in their jurisdiction," says Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. That could lead immigrants to become reluctant to report crimes or cooperate with officers investigating incidents. While the association, which has 20,000 members, hasn't taken an official stance on the ICE program, he said it also was concerned that the complexities of immigration law can create liability issues.
Some critics argue that federal authorities are specialists and therefore better suited to handling specific tasks such as immigration enforcement. Lisa Navarrete, a vice president for the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the U.S., says that local police officers who enforce immigration law are bound to engage in racial profiling, in part because they are stopping people they meet during the course of the day instead of pursuing specific investigations based on solid leads.
"That can result in harassment of immigrants who are here legally, simply because they are Latino and speak accented English," she said.
Some also worry that the federal government is trying to spread the burden of rounding up illegal immigrants at a time when state and local police departments are already strapped for resources. Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, stresses that the program is entirely voluntary. "We are not going out and soliciting participation," she says. But, "we are receiving inquiries from all over the country."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently said that the city wouldn't follow the lead of Costa Mesa and involve police officers in identifying illegal immigrants.
However, civilian jail personnel in Los Angeles and San Bernadino counties who have undergone ICE training are screening foreign-born inmates to determine whether they can be deported, according to an ICE spokeswoman.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Persistence of Misperceptions

Marc Fisher, a columnist for the Washington Post, illustrated a common misperception about immigrants within the United States: “They’re taking our jobs. They’re stealing our slots in colleges. They’re out there on the street corner, scrounging for work, dragging down wages, flouting our laws. Here in Virginia’s capital, you can feel the accelerating drumbeat of accusations: Whatever the social ill, the cause must be those illegal aliens, don’t you know?”

Frightening as it is, I am becoming more aware of the discrimination that immigrants face and realizing that part of this country is no longer willing to accept those who seek a new home. It amazes me because most of us have ancestors that came to the United States from other countries; yet, people have such a negative outlook about those who enter the country today. Fisher mentions in his article, “The Wrong Approach to Illegal Immigration,” that the state of Virginia is addressing a bill that would give state police the authority to enforce immigration laws. He also discusses how the state wishes to ban illegal immigrants from attending its public educational institutions. I know that entering the country illegal is unlawful, but many forget about the young children who are brought into the country illegally by their parents. By barring immigrant children from education, there are few opportunities for them to become successful Americans. The President of Northern Virginia Community College, Bob Templin, accurately stated that “education for the immigrant is the gateway to the American dream.” As a country, we need to stop being so selfish and start accepting those who are just seeking a safe and meaningful life.