The Brutal Reality of “Getting Tough” on Illegal Immigrants

So, you say you want to get the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants out of the country.  All of them. They’re all lawbreakers and they shouldn’t be here.

How are you going to do that if an illegal doesn’t want to leave?  It’s not the same thing as arresting a domestic criminal and imprisoning them.  We have an infrastructure to facilitate that.  Deporting 11 million people is another thing.  How do you do this?  Literally drag them onto a plane accompanied by a bunch of federal officers, and shoot them full of powerful drugs so they’ll be compliant?

Turns out, that’s what we’ve been doing for years, according to the Washington Post’s Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest:

An analysis by The Post of the known sedations during fiscal 2007, ending last October, found that 67 people who got medical escorts had no documented psychiatric reason. Of the 67, psychiatric drugs were given to 53, 48 of whom had no documented history of violence, though some had managed to thwart an earlier attempt to deport them. These figures do not include two detainees who immigration officials said were given sedatives for behavioral rather than psychiatric reasons before being deported on group charter flights, which are often used to return people to Mexico and Central America.

Even some people who had been violent in the past proved peaceful the day they were sent home. “Dt calm at this time,” says the first entry, using shorthand for “detainee,” in the log for the January 2007 deportation of Yousif Nageib to his native Sudan. In requesting drugs for his deportation, an immigration officer had noted that Nageib, 40, had once fled to Canada to avoid an assault charge and had helped instigate a detainee uprising while in custody. But on the morning of his departure, the log says, he “is handcuffed and states he will do what we say.” Still, he was injected in his right buttock with a three-drug cocktail.

In one printout of Nageib’s medical log, next to the entry saying he was calm, is a handwritten asterisk. It was put there by Timothy T. Shack, then medical director of the immigration health division, as he reviewed last year’s sedation cases. Next to the asterisk, in his neat, looping handwriting, Shack placed a single word: “Problem.”

When he landed in Lagos, Nigeria, Afolabi Ade was unable to talk.

“Every time I tried to force myself to speak, I couldn’t, because my tongue was . . . twisted. . . . I thought I was going to swallow it,” Ade, 33, recalled in an interview. “I was nauseous. I was dizzy.”

As he was being flown back to Africa, his American wife alerted his parents there that he was on his way. His father was waiting at the Lagos airport. It was the first time in three years that they had seen one another. Shocked by how woozy the young man was, his father decided not to take him home and frighten the rest of the family. Instead, he checked his son into a hotel.

Ade was in the hotel for four days before the effects of the drugs began to abate.

Ade had no history of mental illness warranting the use of these drugs, nor of violence.  He was in the US as a student.  According to the post, he pleaded guilty to a felony after he was arrested in a car driven by his cousins where fraudulent checks were found.  At the hotel in Lagos, a family doctor wanted to treat him for his grogginess.  But US officials didn’t see fit to leave information about which drugs they had put in his system.

Ade’s pulse was dangerously low, and when he tried to walk around the hotel room, “he leaned on the wall,” (the doctor) said. “He was talking, but a slurred kind of speech.”

According to the Post’s research, the injection probably contained Haldol, which is used for schizophrenics when they are in acute psychotic states.  Of course, there was another notable use for Haldol.  It was the drug adminstered by the Soviet Union to the dissidents it housed in psychiatric prisons.

Read it all, because there’s much more, including this bit of black humor:  The federal government’s pitch to recruit the required medical escorts to keep the injections coming.

To recruit medical escorts, the government has sought to glamorize this work. “Do you ever dream of escaping to exotic, exciting locations?” said an item in an agency newsletter. “Want to get away from the office but are strapped for cash? Make your dreams come true by signing up as a Medical Escort for DIHS!”

That brings up the issue of cost.  We’re paying for ICE personnel and a medical escort to fly each one of the deportees back to their home country.  Which, for the violent or truly insane might be warranted.  But not for all 11 million, most of them working or enrolled in school.

Goldstein and Priest of done us a big favor, putting the flesh on the easy arguments of the immigration hardliners.  There are economic arguments on both sides, and reasonable people can come down on the side that says illegals undermine the wage structure.   What this story demonstrates is that the illegal immigration issue is two distinct problems, and we haven’t got a clue on what to do about the biggest part of it: What to do about the people here now; how to address them and keep our souls.

7 thoughts on “The Brutal Reality of “Getting Tough” on Illegal Immigrants

  1. Having listened to Jon and Ken a time or two, my understanding of the Chase Every Last One of Them Out theory is that, if you make employing illegal immigrants unpleasant enough (fines and jail and Ch-i-knows-what-else for the employers), the jobs will dry up, and the illegal immigrants will deport themselves. This is marginally less silly than actually rooting for mass deportations, so, at least that.

    I can see where you’re going about using drugs as a secondary restraint, but I can’t go there, with you. I wish somebody from DIHS would shoot me full of free dope before my next flight. The four days of lethargy story is deeply fishy. And the guy isn’t a Soviet political prisoner, he was a check forger being thrown out of the country. How many Soviet prisoners would have given their right eyes to be punished in that way?

  2. Think outside the box John. This ones easy, it’s muddled thinking and special interests that are blocking resolution of this problem.

    No fence needed. No mass deportations either.

    Simply institute a system that addresses immigration as an issue of supply and demand. Do it in a way that supports the integrity of individuals and our soveriegn borders. To do that the program must have three factors satisfied:

    Institute a new bracero (guest worker) program consisting of freely available green cards at the border for anyone who wishes to seek work in the US. Let as many enter as wish to, if they can find work in the US then clearly we need them.

    BUT, said card to have an imbedded computer chip plus a magnetic strip registering the applicants info and a fingerprint/picture ID – just like advanced drivers licenses.

    Plus, mandatory employer jail sentences and company fines for companies found violating the hiring of illegals (those without a card).

    The companies would simply swipe the card through a terminal and the info would be sent to central computers for confirmation.

    The company would be sent an automatic email confirming the applicant on file within 48 hours.

    Even if there was a mistake, the employer would have the email as proof that it was in compliance.

    If the immigrant knew that he was legal he could go to an appropriate gov. office for resolution of the problem.

    Finally, a time limit upon how long (say six mths) the card would be valid. Once the card expired, the now illegal immagrant would have one month to exit the country. Any failure to do so would being jailtime and then permanent extradition.

    Any immigrant complying with the program would have the right to renter the US again in six months.

    What I’m basically proposing is to let the free market determine how many immigrants we can absorb and make it in the employer’s and immigrant’s best interest to comply.

  3. I like this idea.

    I suppose it could be adapted as well to deal with the existing illegal population. Give them a fixed period to bring proof of employment to a federal center to get the same card. If they have no criminal violations, they get a six-month card. However, if their employer requests it, a longer-term card could be requested, say up to two years assuming the employee remains an employee.

    Oh I guess you’d get the illegals in country to pay a fine, too. But it can’t be so punitive that they stay underground.

    [Sigh.] This is one of those ideas, like drug decriminalization, that will fail because of demagogic politics. The status quo is costly and cruel but that’s how we like it.

    I hate being old and unidealistic.

  4. Yes, I see no reason why it couldn’t easily be adapted to deal with the existing illegal population.

    BTW, once a guest worker obtained employment I see no reason for not making the card ‘semi-permanent’.

    That is, as long as they are employed, their card is valid. If they were laid off, quit or even fired* (*for the purposes of the card its not worth investigating the reason; resulting in appeals, legal issues, etc.) the card would automatically renew for 6 more mths of job-seeking.

    Obviously the details would need to be worked out but in principle the idea appears sound.

    I don’t however see that demagogic politics are quite the barrier to implementation of the idea that you do. Here’s why:

    Ideally, age brings wisdom and the tempering of idealism with realism. This is not the same as apathy and the abandonment of ideals.

    I realize there would be the typical knee-jerk reaction to the idea but the right champions of the idea could sell it on its merits.

    The art of compromise is convincing each party that agreeing to the compromise results in more than they could achieve without the compromise.

    That’s clearly the case here with deadlock in Congress and the prospects of any conventional ‘comprehensive’ legislation being merely cosmetic.

    No resolvement of the issue means every side ultimately is unhappy with the status quo. The right people leveraging that ‘point’ is the key to getting each side to give honest and open-minded consideration to the idea.

    If the idea has value, a consensus of support starts to build, once that happens, momentum to implement the idea builds.

    Closing the deal always means dealing with a final barrier to implementation. The best method for dissipating opposition is honestly addressing the concerns of any expressing reluctance to accept the idea.

    Most of the disageements in the US consist of each side talking past the other because neither side accepts the others operational premise…so each sides logic sounds like nonsense to the other.

    It’s muddled thinking with each side embracing its agenda over reason and intellectual honesty that is causing the deadlock.

    In spite of the present day fault lines in the body politic, the founders methodology for resolving disputes and issues remains the best yet invented.

    That is why we are the world’s oldest and strongest democracy.

  5. A guest worker program that worked (leaving aside that there’s plainly no way any existing government agency could create or even administer such a program) addresses nearly none of the left’s problem with illegal immigrants. And it’s really disturbing to me that the right likes it. America isn’t Yemen. Why does anybody want to keep immigrants from becoming Americans? Why is it good to codify a population of non-citizen residents? Citizenship has got to be as powerful a positive social force as loving Jesus, hasn’t it?

    There are other problems (it would be a logistical nightmare to open the gates and hand out green cards–the Mariel Boatlift is not a good immigration model), and it also doesn’t assuage the people whose problem with illegal immigrants is that there are too many people here already, or that most immigrants don’t make enough money to offset what the government spends on them. So, you’re still not solving even a plurality of the complaints about the status quo.

    The status quo has nothing to recommend it, except that it doesn’t cost anything new to keep, and it’s not a real problem. It’s unpleasant for the illegal immigrants which is a true shame, but outside of that, it’s just a lot of people yelling without saying anything that matters. It would be better if people who work hard and live decent lives didn’t have this cloud hanging over their heads; it would be better if they were paying income taxes; it would be better if they had a path to citizenship. And it would be better if the quota system were radically revised to something that made any sense: what makes 175,900 the right number of Mexicans to be permitted entry in a year?

    It’s a pretend problem that can’t be fixed. Sounds like something that’s going to be fought about for the next few decades without anything really changing. Hey, we’ll need something to bicker about after the people who oppose gay marriage die, and ectogenesis takes abortion off the table.

  6. I’m not sure if all or even most illegal immigrants want to become Americans. Before we tightened the border, the tendency was for Mexican illegals to go back and forth, making money here and bringing it to family members there. They’re staying longer now because it’s so much harder and dangerous to come back — an inintended consequence.

    A guest worker program would exist independently of the process by which an immigrant would achieve permanent residency and citizenship. It doesn’t have to be either/or. You could be a guest worker who is also waiting for approval of a formal immigration petition.

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