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Man without a country?
January 5, 2011 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Portrait of an Immigrant Detainee as a Young Man. Meet New York bike-scene fixture Pablo Airaldi. He made friends with everyone—except ICE officials.
posted by fixedgear (53 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm actually sitting two doors down from that bike shop right now. There have been posters about this guy in the coffee shop I'm sitting in for a couple of months. I never made friends with him so I guess he didn't make friends with EVERYONE. Anyway, this story seems to be gaining steam. Here is a bunch of local coverage from the beginning.
posted by spicynuts at 7:58 AM on January 5, 2011


Glad to see ICE has time for this. Nothing else going on that might be a higher priority?
posted by a3matrix at 8:17 AM on January 5, 2011


He's not a citizen but is a felon. He victimized people by stealing their stuff. That really, really sucks. He has no right to be here. Being a cool bro doesn't change that.

He has forgotten the language he spoke until he was nine? Doubtful.

I am glad ICE has time for this. Wish they (or their predecessor agency) had paid more attention to little stuff similar to this like, oh say, expired student visas a few years ago.
posted by codswallop at 8:34 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am conflicted, since he lived in the US as a child, he is essentially an American, but the US - *any country* does have the right to decide who to let stay in the country. I do think though one stupid act as a teen-ager shouldn't be a deportable offense unless the act is particularly heinous. This wasn't. And this guy has a clean record 8as an adult.*


He has forgotten the language he spoke until he was nine? Doubtful.
Not necessarily, use it or lose it even of one's first language is not unheard of. Doubtful only that the language is Spanish, and not, say Ubykh. Not hard to keep up speaking Spanish in the US.
posted by xetere at 8:47 AM on January 5, 2011


He's not a citizen but is a felon. He victimized people by stealing their stuff. That really, really sucks. He has no right to be here. Being a cool bro doesn't change that.

I think the article says he was convicted for transporting stolen auto parts, which isn't the same as stealing them. It's definitely a crime but it's not of the same magnitude as going out and stealing the cars.

He has forgotten the language he spoke until he was nine? Doubtful.


I know plenty of kids who do not speak Spanish or Portuguese who were about age when they came here. The article doesn't state he "forgot" his native language. That's now what happens. It's when you don't use a language for nearly twenty years where you get to a stage where you can't use (or, as stated) speak the language anymore. You can't form the sentences or think in the language anymore so, you can't use it in the meaningful sense of the word.
He can probably understand spoken Spanish, though.
posted by fantodstic at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know plenty of adults** who do not speak Spanish or Portuguese
Oops. Adults, of course. Haha
posted by fantodstic at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2011


My first language was German, which I spoke exclusively until I was five, but I quickly forgot it entirely (though I later recovered some fluency after spending months at a time immersed in the language for several years). At five, I was pretty talkative and self-aware. I still remember much of the time. It's not hard to imagine such a language loss occurring four years later. Still, nine might seem a little old for a total loss.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:58 AM on January 5, 2011


He's not a citizen but is a felon. He victimized people by stealing their stuff. That really, really sucks. He has no right to be here.
Did he steal? Article says he was "caught transporting stolen car parts as a teenager, and at the behest of a harried public defender in Indiana, pled guilty to a felony in order to avoid jail time."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:10 AM on January 5, 2011


Born in Uruguay and brought to America by his mother as a child, he was a legal permanent resident, but he got caught transporting stolen car parts as a teenager, and at the behest of a harried public defender in Indiana, pled guilty to a felony in order to avoid jail time. The result: a suspended sentence of 545 days.

If his family had had the money for decent legal representation, he might not have ended up with a record that makes him deportable. Ah, the American way!
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2011


If his family had had the money for decent legal representation, he might not have ended up with a record that makes him deportable. Ah, the American way!


This could also have been avoided by not participating in stealing someone's property.
posted by tiger yang at 9:17 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This could also have been avoided by not participating in stealing someone's property.

Oh, of course.

But it's also true that moneyed criminals have more options and fewer risks (assuming the crime was nonviolent, at least) than poor criminals. That's injustice right there.
posted by rtha at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I have a hard time wrapping my mind around is the timing. If this wasn't a deportable offense when it happened, then why, more than a decade later, is it a problem now?
posted by Karmakaze at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2011


Yeah, I don't really get the "He shouldn't be here!" stuff. Had he been a citizen, he wouldn't have spent a day in jail -- and indeed he didn't spend any time in jail at the time.

The argument being made is that he should be treated vastly differently then someone else, simply because of the circumstances of his birth, despite having the same childhood as that other person from age nine. There is no rational moral basis for punishing people for things they can't control, like their birth. Racism is the only possible motivation for wanting him deported. Sorry.
posted by delmoi at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


There is nothing especially American about that outcome.

Anyway, a retroactive Padilla challenge to that plea deal may receive a favorable hearing in the 7th circuit. IANAL, IANYL, TINLA.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:37 AM on January 5, 2011


What I have a hard time wrapping my mind around is the timing. If this wasn't a deportable offense when it happened, then why, more than a decade later, is it a problem now?

9/11 NEVER FORGET.
posted by spicynuts at 9:40 AM on January 5, 2011



The argument being made is that he should be treated vastly differently then someone else, simply because of the circumstances of his birth


Yeah it's called the difference between being a citizen and not. We treat those two conditions differently all the time. If he was a citizen, regardless of his race, he wouldn't be deported. That doesn't mean there isn't racism involved in the aggressiveness of these crack downs, but your statement about 'circumstances of birth' doesn't stand. That's what citizenship is.
posted by spicynuts at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


your statement about 'circumstances of birth' doesn't stand. That's what citizenship is.

Not if the new majority in the House has its way!
posted by hippybear at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is the banality of evil, folks. Setting aside all the laws and abstract concepts, we're talking about kicking a person out of the country he's lived in since age 9 for no good reason. That's it, bottom line.

But when you incorporate the laws and abstract concepts, suddenly it gives people cover for arguing for an evil to be committed. Oh, he did something ten years ago that's technically a felony? Oh, he doesn't have the right paperwork? Oh, countries have the right to determine who's allowed to stay? Well, then. Kick the poor shmuck out.

You know what, assholes? Being born on one side of an imaginary line doesn't make you special. People who live here should be citizens. That is what the word citizen should mean. Move here at any age and indicate that you want to stay? Boom, you're a citizen. That's how the law would work if we were a decent people. I don't know why more people don't see it like that.
posted by callmejay at 10:34 AM on January 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I hate shit like this. Twelve pages of "completely irrelevant" and one paragraph to describe that, in fact, he did in fact do what he was accused of doing, he plea-bargained out with a felony on his record, and that means Immigration can deport him, now or at any time they fucking feel like it in the future. He may be bro to millions out there in Cycle City, but that changes exactly... nothing.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2011


This is the banality of evil, folks. Setting aside all the laws and abstract concepts, we're talking about kicking a person out of the country he's lived in since age 9 for no good reason.

I'd say being known to commit crimes is a pretty good reason to be not welcome in a country.
posted by madajb at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2011


Is this the MeFi Free Republic Readers Anonymous Board?
I feel like I've fallen of the edge of the blue and landed in some alternate reality...
Or maybe I just missed the sign at the door that says "please remove your sense of proportion and humanity before entering".

Does anybody really think that non-white-collar immigrants bring all of the problems and troubles they get into here with them? That what they do here is somehow innate to their nature rather than a consequence of their conditions here and that therefore they should be kicked out for stuff like this because it's their evil nature that makes them do it? Immigrants looking for a better life (as opposed to those gaining entry via qualifications/job offers etc) generally have no choice but to fill the gaps in the social fabric left available to them by the host society. If that society collectively decides to treat them at best as a necessary evil and mostly as a source of low wage labor with little in terms of rights and no interest in cultural integration then it should come as no surprise that criminal behavior evolves in that strata as an alternative means to improve conditions.
A society that refuses to fully integrate immigrants and provide them with some sort of sense of stability and predictability has not right to get all bent out of shape about the consequences of that approach.
Kicking out someone like this guy has no point to it other than to demonstrate to the community of immigrants that they better know their place, that they will not now nor in the future be considered to be of equal value to born citizens regardless of how long they've lived here and that they can be gotten rid of at any time for almost any reason.

Punishment is supposed to be proportional to the offense. In this case the punishment (of total destruction of the life this guys made for himself) does not even come close to matching the severity of the crime. It's utterly excessive. Never mind that he was already sentenced for this. Since when is it ok to punish people twice for the same offense? Why can he be deported now when it apparently wasn't important enough to do so when his original offense got him into the system in the first place?

Ridiculous.
And shameful.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:37 AM on January 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'd say being known to commit crimes is a pretty good reason to be not welcome in a country.

You think a crime that didn't even merit jail time is a "good reason" to be deported?

(Note how you change "being deported" to "be not welcome" to make it sound more reasonable. More banality of evil.)
posted by callmejay at 11:40 AM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Move here at any age and indicate that you want to stay? Boom, you're a citizen. That's how the law would work if we were a decent people. I don't know why more people don't see it like that.

Because it’s grossly impractical? Almost every country in the world has immigration laws. Getting a visa to permanently live (and especially, permanently work) in many other countries is infinitely harder than it is in the U.S. (in South America, for example – I know because I once tried). Many people have this silly proclivity to assume that immigration is solely an American concern, like we’re the only country to enact lotteries and laws designating who gets to live/work here and for how long. Just curious: if a no-questioned-asked open-border policy were enacted in the U.S.: how would we account for the tax burden? The overload of the school systems? Hospitals? Even the basics (Agriculture? Water?) we'd need to buttress the added weight would render it an economic inconceivability. I'm seriously curious here. What currency do you think the countries of the world run on - love?

I’ll be the first to admit that Pablo seems like a great dude - that he should be here, in the U.S. - and that, admittedly, ICE are being downright draconian. However - and as much as our warmed hearts don’t like the facts - he pleaded to a felony before he applied for U.S. citizenship. I love a good story too, but law is where the specific supersedes the anecdotal, and he, like everyone else, is not above it. Stop blaming racism when the party in question willingly broke the law and thus altered how his future citizenship status would be treated given the preexisting immigration laws that exist in this country.

While I’m at it, I should also mention that this article is horribly written. Not only is it guilty of wanton acts of editorializing ("ICE stole him," "blame Bill Clinton"), not only does the writer lazily analyze Pablo’s character by describing the myriad details of his social media profiles, but we get silly, paint-by-numbers clichés to elicit sympathy that don’t even make sense: Pablo says he was “robbed of my language” when he moved into his stepfather’s home at age 9. He left the home at age 15. Barring the improbability that one would forget an entire language in such a short amount of time (I was removed from a Spanish speaking environment 16 years ago at the age of 17, and I still speak it fluently) why couldn’t he conceivability converse with his mother in his native tongue when his stepfather wasn’t around?
posted by tiger yang at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2011


In general, there is no statute of limitations on removability. ICE are probably uninterested in him personally, but are under considerable political pressure to keep the numbers up and his case is an easy win. He should have sought expungement in Indiana before now, and/or got married. As it is, his chances are slim because the window for filing a claim of inneffective assistance of counsel is likely long closed. Discretionary waivers are likely to be in shorter supply than usual for the next year IMHO. I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc..
posted by anigbrowl at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2011


Metafilter is Freerepublic now because some people disagree with you? Take a deep breath.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2011


This has got to be the one of the ugliest Metafilter threads I've ever walked in on.

Yes, he committed a crime, or more properly, was an accessory to a crime. But some of you think the proper response is to deport him? The guy came here as a minor, it's not like he just happened packed up and moved to the good ole USA yesterday; he's lived in the US for ~20 years. Some of you are suggesting that someone who spent their entire adult life and most of their childhood in the US should be deported back to a country that's probably nothing more than some hazy memory to them. Quick, try to recall everything you can about your life before 9 years of age. Now compare that to how much of your life since then, which do you think is the more relevant part.

He made a stupid decision 10 years ago. Ten fucking years ago. He got terrible incomplete and incompetent legal advice which led to him making an uninformed decision about his fate. He then went on to stay out of trouble and go on to be a respected and loved member of his community. Isn't that exactly what we expect our legal system to accomplish? That those who commit a crime learn their lesson and go on to lead productive lives? Well that's exactly what this man did.

Some of you seem to be frothing in your own hipster-rage, unable to past the tattoos, fixies, and burlesque shows. You seem to missing whole "kid with a troubled past finds his calling, runs a business doing what he loves, and is in turn beloved by his neighbors." The guy is a regular goddamn Horatio Alger, yet some of you are condemning him because he doesn't fit your own idiosyncratic view of acceptable local businessman? I can't believe some of you are so petty and cruel as to condemn a man to what is more like Ancient Greek Ostracism than deportation, simply because he rides a bike and has fun doing it.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


Just curious: if a no-questioned-asked open-border policy were enacted in the U.S.: how would we account for the tax burden? The overload of the school systems? Hospitals? Even the basics (Agriculture? Water?) we'd need to buttress the added weight would render it an economic inconceivability.

You seem to be assuming that immigrants are a net drag on the economy. This is the opposite of the truth. While there might be some free rider problems (e.g. people immigrating when and only when they get diagnosed with expensive diseases) on the whole, immigrants are worth more than they cost even from a totally amoral economic standpoint. They work, they pay taxes, and they buy shit. You know, just like native-born Americans.

Focusing on immigrant free-riders as an argument against open immigration is about as fair as focusing on "welfare queens" as an argument against unemployment and social security. You're pointing to the exceptions and pretending they're typical.
posted by callmejay at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


You think a crime that didn't even merit jail time is a "good reason" to be deported?

Not necessarily, no. That is why I did not say "This guy should be on the next plane".
However, I do think being convicted of a felony should be cause to take a second look as to whether you are a welcome and wanted addition to the country.

(Note how you change "being deported" to "be not welcome" to make it sound more reasonable.

No, I changed it to more accurately reflect my thoughts on the matter, but don't let that get in the way of your rhetoric.
posted by madajb at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2011


However - and as much as our warmed hearts don’t like the facts - he pleaded to a felony before he applied for U.S. citizenship.

As an eighteen-year-old kid. Based on the advice of a public defender - bless their service, but we all know that oh-so-many of them don't exactly have the conditions to do a good job - who didn't tell him that it could affect his immigration status.

How's that for informed consent?
posted by entropone at 11:58 AM on January 5, 2011


Getting a visa to permanently live (and especially, permanently work) in many other countries is infinitely harder than it is in the U.S. (in South America, for example –I know because I once tried).

In many cases, that's a reciprocation of US policy, as seen from abroad. Call an embassy/consulate with a general inquiry and get the same frosty response; then 'clarify' that you're a citizen of Canada or Spain, for example. You may be surprised.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do think being convicted of a felony should be cause to take a second look as to whether you are a welcome and wanted addition to the country.

Does this second look allow for the answer "YES"? Because that's what the article is about - the dude's a good guy, a hardworking and valued member of his community.
posted by entropone at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2011


You seem to be assuming that immigrants are a net drag on the economy … Focusing on immigrant free-riders as an argument against open immigration is about as fair as focusing on "welfare queens" as an argument against unemployment and social security. You're pointing to the exceptions and pretending they're typical.

How is asking you to explain how a hypothetical no-questions-asked open-border policy would affect the economy of a country in any way mean that I hold the view that immigrants are a net drag on the economy? When did I ever hold the view that immigrants are free-riders? I asked you a legitimate question as to how the economy of a country would buttress a 100% open-border policy. Why does questioning your worldview inherently imply that I hold some variation of a "welfare queens" argument against unemployment and social security?
posted by tiger yang at 12:02 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this second look allow for the answer "YES"? Because that's what the article is about - the dude's a good guy, a hardworking and valued member of his community.

Of course. It shouldn't take 2 and a half months either, but it should be done.
posted by madajb at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2011


tiger yang:

If immigrants are not a net drag on the economy, then isn't it obvious how the economy of a country would be affected by more immigration? It would, because immigrants are not a net drag, either stay the same or (more probably) be improved. The only way that wouldn't happen is if some vastly disproportionate number of them were taking benefits without contributing anything. This is not the case for even illegal immigrants, therefore I assumed you must be making faulty assumptions that I analogized to the "welfare queen" arguments.
posted by callmejay at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pruitt-Igoe: Metafilter is Freerepublic now because some people disagree with you? Take a deep breath.

Yeah, well, sorry for the unchecked emotional response. The thread got me quite upset.

I'm an immigrant myself, albeit one that got here based on qualifications, experience and a job offer. But even considering that my immigration experience is a cush, safe and luxurious one I can tell you this:
For the first 5 years until I managed to get my green card I was living under the constant threat of losing everything over night. I quickly put down roots and started feeling at home. Most of my friends were here, a don't have a whole lot of family back where I'm from and obviously all my stuff was here. My life was now here. Yet during this time I had to anticipate that if my contract wasn't extended I'd have about 2 weeks to leave or convert to a tourist visa. I would've had to give up everything at a moments notice if things went bad. Even if some other company would've hired me I would've had to leave and re-apply for a new visa from abroad not knowing whether I would be allowed back into the country. Despite have enough good fortune to be able to immigrate this way I can tell you that during those years the stress and fear of losing it all again was constantly gnawing at the back of my mind and that is not a pleasant experience at all. Never mind the various times I was pulled aside by customs/immigration agents at the airport for no reason after trips abroad being asked weird questions. You try and stand there while knowing that they could simply decide to turn you around and send you back home with a 10 year ban on entering the US while you would have nowhere to go and everything you worked for would be lost. It's not fun, trust me.

Again, I know full well that my immigration experience ranks at the top in terms of safety, convenience and lack of hassle. I can't even imagine what all this stuff feels like for someone who has immigrated with considerably less ease, less safety nets and nobody in the US to back them up and help them.

Anyhow, long story shot... the hard-assed responses in this thread and the lack of reflection and compassion just got me riled up.

Sorry again for the emotional response.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This has got to be the one of the ugliest Metafilter threads I've ever walked in on.

Not sure if I'd go that far. Yes ICE can be extremely heavy-handed and the way the U.S. treats undocumented immigrants is deplorable, but you have to admit, folks who want more enforcement and regulation of the borders deserve a hearing of their views, especially seeing as how no country has yet come up with a good way with dealing with "unwanted" immigration. If anything, we need spirited debate more than ever, if only to sharpen our understanding of why the system is broken right now. (sorry to get all Jon Stewart on you. please feel free to ignore my plaintive pleas for moderation)
posted by jng at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(but otherwise Panjandrum agree with you completely that the situation here is messed up and wish we had a better system so that with cases like these, folks could find an avenue to stay here openly)
posted by jng at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


He has forgotten the language he spoke until he was nine? Doubtful.

It's quite likely, actually. I was fluent in (British) English and Hokkien and knew Malaysian and Cantonese when I moved to Canada at age 8.

I only speak English now and the rest is as a foreign language to me. And that's without the threat of violence from a stepfather, just total lack of daily use.

And it's now Canadian English, because nobody understood me when I said words like "boot" and "spanner."
posted by wenat at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2011


Yeah, jng, I may have been a bit hyperbolic there. I was reacting more the "hurf durf cool kids" tribalism than anyone's specific views on immigration policy and enforcement.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2011


If immigrants are not a net drag on the economy, then isn't it obvious how the economy of a country would be affected by more immigration? It would, because immigrants are not a net drag, either stay the same or (more probably) be improved. The only way that wouldn't happen is if some vastly disproportionate number of them were taking benefits without contributing anything.

But what you stated in your first post has no relation to current immigration practices in the U.S. … I asked you to explain how the economy would handle your hypothetical notion of a 100-percent open-border policy. It’s a nigh suppositious for you to say that because I disagree with you — because I believe that instantly adding, say, 10 million to the nation’s roster overnight would be economically burdensome beyond belief — that I’m even tangentially against immigration, or that I hold some foreign variation of a welfare queen running amok and “taking benefits without contributing anything” in maintaining that your idea is a bad one. It’s like using my opinion about apples to assume my thoughts about oranges

There is a terribly depressing habit on MeFi to pile on those who don’t peddle the wheel of the confirmation bias by implying that anyone who disagrees with the herd are, in this case, either: closet racists who think that non-white-collar immigrants “bring all of the problems and troubles” innate to “their evil nature” (who said anything remotely close to that ?!?!?); that we’re froth-mouthed hipster-haters with a vengeance against bicyclists and those who don’t fall in line with a "idiosyncratic view" of businessmen (again, where does this come from ??!?!!?), or at the very least, cyber ne'er-do-wells who want to devolve MeFi into a new variation of the Free Republic Readers board.

The case being made by some on here is that we can’t simply go around petitioning laws to be re-written and policy overthrown because the felony was a long time ago, because someone is a “good dude,” or because his was a good story that tugged on our heartstrings. And we should be able to discuss all these things without resorting to wild suppositions and acts of redneck pigeonholing (“he/she disagrees with me = he/she represents x abhorrent quality.”).
posted by tiger yang at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2011


The case being made by some on here is that we can’t simply go around petitioning laws to be re-written and policy overthrown because the felony was a long time ago, because someone is a “good dude,” or because his was a good story that tugged on our heartstrings.

Why not? Personally, I think that when the law has bad effects on good people, the law ought to be sacrificed for the good of people, rather than sacrificing the good of people for the sake of the law.
posted by entropone at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


BREAKING GREAT NEWS: Pablo's release papers have been signed, and he will be picked up by his friends this evening. From my friend Victoria, who was quoted in the Voice article:

For those that are curious, Pablo's criminal lawyer in Indiana (who has been working on this for 1.5 years now) has finally gotten a reduction of his original suspended sentence from 2002. The DA was resistant for a long time but it has finally worked out. He was deportable because he had a conviction that carried a 1+ year sentence but since it is now less than a year is no longer deportable. Hope that makes sense!

Yep, this is actually the end of his immigration woes! This has been going on since 2008 and its amazing that its finally over. (Its common for deportation and removal proceedings to go on for years while detainees are held in private prisons with no standards of regulation)


Thanks to all those showing concern for his case. Let's not forget about the thousands like him, and continue to fight for immigration reform.
posted by stachemaster at 2:24 PM on January 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


One comment noted that he did not steal but rather dealt with stolen parts. The conviction made him a felon, and because of that he became subject to deportation. As to what ought or ought not be done, that is for you to decide. I am simply focusing on why he was subject to deportation.
In passing, I know a guy who was caught with hash, an American teacher in Korea. They did not jail him but deported him and he was told he could not return to Korea for some 3 years and then only as a tourist and not as a teacher of children. Deportation then seems the norm.
posted by Postroad at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2011


He has no right to be here. Being a cool bro valued member of his community doesn't change that.

He may be bro to millions out there in Cycle City valued member of his community, but that changes exactly... nothing.

tiger yang, that's what I meant by what I said. That he's not just a "cool bro," but is in fact someone who is contributing to his neighborhood and society at large, someone who runs a small business (even if it's not the kind of idealized Mom & Pop Store), because that does change things. That people jumped immediately on the fact that he is, apparently, a "cool guy," to the expense of taking into account mitigating factors felt sloppy, knee-jerk, and just plain jerk-like to me. Because those factors will be taken into account by an immigration judge, which is exactly why he could face a year in prison and not get deported.

To jump to the conclusion that he is not citizen, he plead guilty to a felony, and should therefore automatically be deported ignores facts like his lack of contacts, family, or roots in Uruguay, that he arrived in the US as minor, that he had incompetent legal advice, that he complied with every aspect of his sentence, that he apparently never had another brush with the law, that he has successfully established roots in Greenpoint, and that, had he not tried to travel to Canada, ICE probably never would have even noticed him. The problem here is not that there is a law allowing for non-citizens to be deported if they commit a felony, it's that it's being applied capriciously and retroactively, in this case. If you did not enjoy the tone of the Village Voice article, you could try these short pieces, which show other instances of draconian law enforcement that serves neither the public good or justice as a principle.

The point is we should go around petitioning for laws to be re-written and policy overthrown because the felony was a long time ago or because someone is a "good dude" valued member of his community, because the reason these stories tug our heartstrings is because they in no way resemble what anyone could call justice. They simply represent the capricious and heavy handed application of law for law's sake. If you can think of what greater good deporting the Pablo Airaldi and Andres Morales of the world, I be happy to hear you out, but these, and others like them, seem like exceptional cases. By exceptional I sadly don't mean uncommon, I mean they should be exceptions to this law.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


First Ted Williams and now Pablo Airaldi? I think my heart just grew three sizes.
posted by fixedgear at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2011


Grapevine says he was just released...
posted by bastionofsanity at 3:09 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


what a fucking ugly thread.
posted by concreteforest at 6:45 PM on January 5, 2011


[quoting] Yep, this is actually the end of his immigration woes!

Of course that's a casual characterization on a blog, but as a general matter I hope Airaldi will work with his immigration lawyer to follow matters through completely now even though it will cost more money in the short term - by pursuing a naturalization application, for example.

They simply represent the capricious and heavy handed application of law for law's sake.

Forgive my pedantry, but they actually represent heavy-handed lawmaking. As written, ICE had to instigate removal procedures by default, because of the manner in which he came to their attention. Yes, an immigration judge or the attorney general can exercise discretion with regard to individual cases (most of the time - not always), but there are procedures that must be followed by the alien to request that discretion. Even if an immigration official would like to give a deserving person a pass, they are often unable to do so.

Since the last major overhaul in 1996, known as IIRIRA, the thresholds for removability were lowered, the scope of judicial review was narrowed, and generally the law became a great deal more punitive. Until the Supreme Court imposed some limits in 2001, this law was also retroactive and allowed unlimited periods of detention. Immigrants who are not citizens have a quite different relationship with the government, legally speaking, and if the government holds a negative opinion about such a person it is a great deal more difficult for the individual to rectify the problem. In many situations, no reliable procedure exists to do so. To get a feel for how complex the system is (though a different situation from that in the FPP), here's one of those canned animations by an immigration lawyer whose blog I read regularly. If you can put up with the robot voices, this is about as informative as you can get in ten minutes. It sounds crazy, but he's not exaggerating at all. If you have an hour to spare, you could listen (mp3 download) to Judge Richard Posner - the most cited legal scholar in the US - as he struggles to understand the government's position in a long-running case (a position he went on to reject (pdf)).

Sadly, these sort of cases are not exceptional; there is an endless supply of them. I might add that there is also an endless supply of people with equally ridiculous arguments for why they should be allowed to stay in the US despite being career criminals or worse. The whole system is a big mess, and only Congress can really sort it out; but because it's a touchy subject politically and some people will be furious no matter what policy is put forward, it's a lot easier to dump the whole legislative mess in the lap of the agencies and the judiciary, and then blame them for any negative results.

I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. I'm just a wannabe with a particular interest in this area, so please do not rely on my remarks in any way.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


"pled guilty to a felony in order to avoid jail time"

I'm obviously NAL, but WTF? Don't you cop a plea to a misdemeanor in order to avoid a felony charge? How could a pleading guilty to a felony make you less likely to do time?

Wouldn't be surprised if there's more to this.
posted by bardic at 8:29 PM on January 5, 2011


callmejay: You know what, assholes? Being born on one side of an imaginary line doesn't make you special. People who live here should be citizens. That is what the word citizen should mean. Move here at any age and indicate that you want to stay? Boom, you're a citizen. That's how the law would work if we were a decent people. I don't know why more people don't see it like that.

Do you have any idea how many poor and/or starving people there are in the world that would want to move here? If we allowed it for anyone who wanted to, the influx would be disastrous. We would probably have a population well over a billion, nearly all of it disastrously poor. Our slums would make the worst slums the world has to offer right now look like nothing. The environmental damage would be absolutely catastrophic and ruinous.

I can understand why you'd think this would be justified, but your policy would kill us.

Not that this really effects this particular case. I don't think we should be deporting this guy in this particular circumstance - it's just the justice system showing us that the only reason exile isn't used to punish everything is because the rest of the world won't stand for it. Probably because exile is cheap and permanent and the whole issue becomes somebody else's problem.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:56 PM on January 5, 2011


Yeah it's called the difference between being a citizen and not. We treat those two conditions differently all the time.
Right, because of racism. It may have been a felony, but there is no rational reason to kick him out of the country over it, when another person wouldn't be. Fairness means applying laws equitably. People who grew up in the United States should be treated the same way as citizens in terms of deportability.
In many cases, that's a reciprocation of US policy, as seen from abroad. Call an embassy/consulate with a general inquiry and get the same frosty response; then 'clarify' that you're a citizen of Canada or Spain, for example. You may be surprised.
This is why Americans -- but no one else -- get fingerprinted entering Brazil.
folks who want more enforcement and regulation of the borders deserve a hearing of their views
Views which, at their core, are fundamentally xenophobic. Yes, it's true that poor people do drain social services, but that's true whether or not they are American. Economically, immigration is a net benefit, and the people most likely to be harmed economically are the ones who support immigration the most -- poor Hispanic citizens, because they typically do the same job as undocumented workers, but are also interact with them socially.

This isn't to say that the US could absorb limitless numbers of people, but many of the people being talked about are already here. Keeping them living in the shadows does no good. Our immigration system is a horrific beurocracy, which is terrible because no voters ever have to deal with it.
posted by delmoi at 2:19 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two things:

One: He's free

Two:
Right, because of racism. It may have been a felony, but there is no rational reason to kick him out of the country over it, when another person wouldn't be.

In my original comment I said that in this particular instance, the aggressiveness of the prosecution is clearly racially motivated. However, the point of my comment was that all non-citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual preference, whatever, are treated differently. They are not citizens.
posted by spicynuts at 8:00 AM on January 6, 2011


[re. treating immigrants differently from citizens] Right, because of racism. It may have been a felony, but there is no rational reason to kick him out of the country over it, when another person wouldn't be. Fairness means applying laws equitably. People who grew up in the United States should be treated the same way as citizens in terms of deportability.

No, it is not because of racism or even socioeconomic status. There are abundant examples of white people, from continental Europe, Russia, or current & former commonwealth countries who have run into problems with the immigration system, and of wealthy or well-qualified people set back by years due to foolish bureaucracy. And there are also abundant examples of immigration largesse being widely extended towards people of color (or specifically, citizens of countries which are mostly non-white); 'Temporary Protected Status' is offered for people affected by natural disaster or civil unrest, and makes it easier to enter or remain in the US, often including the option to adjusting to permanent resident status. Recent beneficiaries include citizens of Haiti and El Salvador.

Amnesty provisions can also be very generous, even overcoming criminal or administrative barriers, but amnesty claims often require satisfying high standards of evidence, too high in some cases. That's partly because credibility determinations are up to an immigration judge, and immigration judges are hopelessly overworked and frequently forced to decide cases on a hunch. But there are also problems with incompetent or unethical immigration attorneys and abusive asylum applicants who file a claim despite having no evidence to back it up (there are no statutory penalties for filing an asylum claim that is denied, so many people do so as a tactical maneuver).

You say that fairness requires applying the laws equitably, and I agree, but the fact is that the laws themselves are pretty draconian as they currently stand. Conviction for a crime with a sentence longer than a year makes a person inadmissible, and even if a lot of time has gone by, it's up to the immigrant person to rectify the situation. On the other hand, there are numerous exceptions to the rules specifically for people who were brought to the US as minor children. Now, I don't think these laws are very well written or well-implemented. I agree that the immigration bureaucracy which results yields many results that are unfair or offend notions of justice - but ultimately the responsibility for this lies with Congress, not with the agencies. The powers of the executive branch in matters of immigration are extremely limited.

I can't understand the last remark above, unless you mean that people who grew up here should not be deportable at all. There's a good argument for that, but the immediate question that springs to mind is where you draw the line. If it's anyone who has lived in the US as a minor, then you get lots of people coming just before they turn 18. If it's presence after the age of 12, say, then you are being unfair to 13 year olds, and also there will be many 11-year olds smuggled into the country, possibly at risk to their lives. I mention this not to say we shouldn't be more accommodating, but to point out that almost any policy can yield unexpected negative outcomes. Every attempt at a simple fix tends to end badly.

Xenophobia is the primary problem, but xenophobia is not the same as racism, nor is it even fully focused on immigrants themselves (although that is how it most visibly manifests). Racism does play a large part, but so does economics; until fairly recently the labor movement was also unwelcoming of too much immigration, and indeed you only have to drop the magic words 'haitch one bee' into polite conversation to effect an abrupt change in the temperature. It doesn't matter how painstakingly one explains the issues, the general public is not going to yield a universally rational response.

After over a decade of thinking about this issue (and by now, seriously considering building a career around it), I've come to the conclusion that regular theories of political change are doomed to failure. As you say, the inefficiency of the immigration system is outside the experience of most voters. The potential future voting benefits of reform (ie lots of grateful new citizens voting for the politicians who passed it) are much less predictable than supporters hope or detractors fear: they will tend to accrue to parties rather than individual politicians, and will probably not manifest until after several election cycles have gone by - by which time objectors will have had ample opportunity to inflict punishments at the ballot box. So except for individual members of Congress or Senators whose constituencies are strongly supportive of reform, the political risks substantially outweigh the benefits whereas opposition to reform is the political equivalent of a perpetual motion machine - there are so many different ways to make short-term political capital out of it that almost no politician can resist using the strategy, and the issue is so complex that being on the wrong side of history really isn't going to matter: by the time a consensus emerges about that, you'll be long dead.

The economic, legal, and ethical arguments in favor of liberalizing reform are strong, but unfortunately most people are not interested in that - if they were we would have paid off the deficit years ago and solved a bunch of other social problems too. The arguments against liberalization are simplistic yet seductive, and a key aspect of why they work so well is that they don't need to be winning arguments. Although in every honest poll, a solid majority of people favor a comprehensive, moderate, and humane approach to reform, opponents only need to prevent the emergence of a supermajority in the Senate, which is not all that hard to do. Most voters are more concerned with the details of their own lives and vote with either the personality or the message they find most persuasive in the near term, rather than wanting to do detailed policy analysis. Supporters of liberalization still want to go about it cautiously, which doesn't bring people rushing out to the polling booth, but it's easy to get people to vote/protest against the idea. So a small contingent of people who are mean-spirited xenophobes, and a slightly larger contingent who are gullible and easily frightened are more than enough to derail most attempts at reform. If any initiative is gathering too much pace, just ratchet up the fear factor and sprinkle in protests about 'the tyranny of the majority' and passionate but content-free appeals to the Constitution and what-all else.

The states with the highest populations of immigrants and city-dwellers (CA, NY, FL, IL, and sometimes TX depending on which way the wind is blowing) dominate in the house but they still only have 2 senators each, and no matter how sensible the policy arguments are, supporting a major reform typically requires far more political capital than opposing it. Some senators are ultraconservative by nature and would oppose it no matter what, maybe 10-12 and mostly on the GOP side. Another 20 or so will vote with party over policy, so unless there's a benefit to the GOP that's clearly greater than that to the Democrats they'll vote against reform. So that's 30 votes against, and getting another 10-12 'No' votes does not require convincing a large segment of the population. About 20 states have less than 1% of the US population each, and wavering senators can be threatened with a primary challenge rather than at the polls; as long as about 5% of the electorate can be kept noisily pissed off about the issue, they can keep up a barrage of political pressure.

The media enables this to a large extent: the status quo provides an endless supply of bad news, which is easy to sell, but enough variation that it's not the same story over and over. Doesn't matter what the political views of your readers are - given the scale of the problem, there are enough negative stories to feed any viewpoint, and the complexity of the issues involved requires so much explanation that it looks like Serious Reporting - but it's not. Easily 50% of every immigration story is just rewritten press releases, of which lobbyists provide a steady flow. The same few lobbying organizations on the right are quoted in every single story - even pro-immigrant stories. They will cheerfully give quotes and all the data a journalist can handle, because being quoted and referenced multiple times reinforces their brand, and keeps the donations flowing. Many journalists are lazy about checking sources and will cheerfully reprint blatant falsehoods or exaggeration as if they were fact, which further reinforces them. All the anti-illegal-immigration 'think tanks' originate with the same guy, back in the 1980s and with roots in the white power movement. One lobbying group may be dismissed if it can't build critical mass, but two or three looks like a movement - and there are some very dedicated foot soldiers. If you read a lot of immigration stories in the media then after a while you notice the same commenters (and frequently the same comments) popping up on newspaper and TV websites across the country irrespective of scale. They work hard at making the opposition to reform seem more widespread and active than it actually is, and in the process push a lot of traffic to small and medium news websites, providing much-needed advertising income, which encourages editors to print more immigration stories. It's basically a permanent propaganda campaign.

I do have some theories about how best to effect reform at the political level, but they're all risky in one way or another.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:22 PM on January 6, 2011


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