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Casualties of War on Immigration

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To uphold public safety "by targeting criminal networks and terrorist organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities in our immigration system," sounds  like a plausible mission for ICE, the acronym for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Intent on "targeting the most dangerous illegal aliens", ICE in its 2007 Annual Report claims to have achieved "an unparalleled record of success."   Half of its 27 claims of success focus on immigration. Topping the list is the removal of 276,912 so called illegal aliens, in addition to "a more aggressive worksite enforcement strategy" aimed at the immigration "jobs magnet". What ICE failed to report is how many detained immigrants had died in its custody.  Last fall the government produced the first list ever after California Representative Zoe Lofgren pressed for information, and under the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times obtained and made public a list of 66 detainees deaths. This week a series of investigative reports unveiled that "no government body is required to keep track of deaths and publicly report them", furthermore in the process of confirming the list of 66 deaths, in the few cases that could be verified, the cause of death was inconsistent with the facts.  The overwhelming majority of causes of death consist of obscure statements of "brain hemorrhage", "cardiac arrest" and "suicide" being the underlying reason the abuse, or in the best of cases, neglect to which immigrant detainees had been subjected. An overwhelming majority of deaths are of Hispanic immigrants, a total of 49 of the 66 reported deaths.  How many others have died?  We will never know. The reality is that the lack of accountability for the death of detained immigrants is "allowing some deaths to be swept under the rug while potential witnesses are transferred or deported" wrote New York Times reporter Nina Bernstein. The risk is high for the "thousands of people who are not American citizens...being locked for days, months or years (…) Some have no valid visa; some are legal residents," reads the investigative report.   It is truly perplexing that legal residents whose application for citizenship had been denied were afterwards detained without a prior court hearing and processed for deportation. One of the 66 detainee deaths corresponds to one of such cases. This tragedy is no freak occurrence.  It follows a clear script of targeting illegal or undocumented immigration as the most prominent feature of a "war on terror" intent on exploiting 9 /11, as we read on ICE's Annual Report: "Had this effort been in place prior to 9/11, all the hijackers who failed to maintain status would have been investigated months before the attack…"  [ad]

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