A little over a month ago an astute employee of Customs and Border Protection (CPB) saved the United States from an Austrian ski coach entering the US in Seattle in order to (gasp!) train impressionable American children in the finer points of downhill skiing. It is well known that Austria is a hotbed of terrrorist activity and that hordes of Austrians are entering the country illegally in order to take the volunteer ski coaching jobs that Americans won't do.
A picture of the secret tyrollean madrassa after the fold.
Here is a picture of the enemy training children at a secret madrassa in the Tyrol:
In a column on 02/01/08 ( Heavy-handed tactics by immigration officials reflect poorly on our country) the Fairbanks News-Miner columnist Dermot Cole reported that
He was interrogated off and on for four hours, facing the same questions over and over. He said they told him that if he withdrew his tourist visa application, they would put him on a plane back to Europe.
About midnight he was taken in a police car to a detention facility about 20 minutes from the airport and forced to strip in front of an officer and put on an inmate’s clothes.
He said he was taken to different cells, all with the lights on, about every half hour. The next morning he was handcuffed and taken back to the airport by 10 a.m. for a 6 p.m. flight to Austria. He was told he had to buy a new ticket, contrary to what he had been told the night before.
Preparing to get on the airplane, he said the immigration officer told him that if he had just lied and said he was just coming to the U.S. as a tourist, they would never have denied him entry into the U.S.
In a follow-up column After visa mix-up, guards lock up and strip-search UA graduate from Austriathere is a more detailed description of the friendly services provided by the well-trained agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security(DHS):
“I was not told where I would be brought or what I have to expect,” Neuhauser said. “An officer laughs when I ask him and tells me, ‘You will get some good night sleep, in a nice bed.’”
He said after about 20 minutes the police car arrived at a high-security jail with 1,200 inmates.
“After stripping down naked in front of an officer and putting on the inmate uniform I am ordered to lean forward, put my hands on the wall and spread my legs. An officer does a touch-down exam on every part of my body.
“Then I was thrown in a single cell again with a concrete block to sit or sleep on and the lights on all night to stay up. Every half-hour an officer wakes you up, moves you into a different cell or asks you questions again,” he said.
“I never fall asleep for longer than a few minutes. They bring me to a separate area and a different cell again. They run medical tests and an X-ray of my chest until 4 a.m.”
The next stop was a small cell with iron bunk beds and no mattresses.
“I am very tired and I can not believe what is happening and why,” he wrote. “It all seems like a bad movie, but unfortunately it is not.”
At about 8 a.m., he was handcuffed and taken out of that cell. At 10 a.m., he was returned to the airport to wait for a 6 p.m. flight.
While waiting for the plane, the officers at the airport “laughingly ask me how I like the facility and how my ‘inmate colleagues’ have been treating me and if I have gotten a ‘good’ rest in there.
He said at 4 p.m. he was told that he had to buy a new ticket to Austria, although the night before the officer said he wouldn’t have to pay. He said the officer yelled that either he would buy a ticket or “We will keep you out for five years.”
The convenient policies of the DHS, DBP, ICE prevent them from giving out any information on individual cases so getting any information has been a struggle:
From the previous column:
FEDERAL RESPONSE: Mike Milne, the Seattle spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, said Friday the agency will not talk about specific cases.
He said it was “normal procedure” for people who are denied entry to the U.S. or have their visas “voluntarily withdrawn,” as was the case with Neuhauser, to be taken to a detention facility, placed in inmate clothing and strip-searched.
He also said he had “no indication” that Neuhauser was mistreated or that a complaint had been filed, though Milne was away from his Seattle office and couldn’t say for sure.
I've looked on the DHS, CBP & ICE websites and the complaint procedure is a joke. So where can we go for oversight for this agency run amok?
I asked Sens. Stevens and Murkowski if they think it’s right to strip-search and jail people who find themselves in the kind of trouble Neuhauser did. I will let you know how they respond.
Followup on 02/05/08 (See paragraph "Visa Charges" after main story)
Stevens described the treatment of Neuhauser, who has lived in Alaska for six years, as “abominable” and pledged that his office would aggressively investigate. On Monday, he said he had contacted the immigration headquarters in Washington, D.C. and was waiting for an explanation.
He said the federal authorities should be able to tell the difference between someone who poses a real threat and someone who doesn’t. Stevens said the Seattle office is disputing Neuhauser’s account, but he said his office will get to the bottom of it.
“There’s a lot of hue and cry about immigration these days. This is a guy who was coming here legally. I think they ought to be out there looking for people who are coming here illegally,” he said.
“There’s just too much of this lately. We’re getting a lot of complaints.
A second followup was published on 2/17/08 (last paragraph "Update" aftermain story)
UPDATE: Sen. Ted Stevens and Sen. Lisa Murkowski continue to investigate the treatment of Austrian Reinhard Neuhauser, who was refused entry in Seattle last month while trying to make his way back to Fairbanks.
Staff members of the senators have talked to various government officials and are continuing to search for answers about what happened and why. Stevens submitted a list of questions to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a hearing last week and asked for a response before Stevens speaks to the Alaska Legislature Tuesday in Juneau.
As you might expect, the staff members looking into this in Washington say no one at the consulate is admitting Neuhauser was given bad advice. Instead, the suggestion is being made that perhaps he didn’t ask the right questions or made the wrong assumptions.
If he was given bad information, I don’t expect anyone to admit it.
Yes that whooshing sound you hear is the State Department, DHS, CBP,and ICE all covering their asses.
Well things could have been worse. The ski coach could have ended up like this guy or this guy, both of whom received cash settlements. It's probably more cost effective for the government to make these little errors and then payout $$'s for the few with resources to get in touch with the ACLU.
The basic contract pays CCA approximately $2.8 million monthly, for a maximum incarceration of 512 individuals. (Minimum = $5,000+ per prisoner.) Approximately 1half the prisoners are children, many of them born in this country. No prisoner held is charged with a crime, nor are they deemed to be a danger to national security; it is simply their immigration/amnesty request status that has marked them for imprisonment. This is the first (and only other) time since the interment of Japanese during WWII that children have been imprisoned by the United States.
When I read things like this I, like Cindy McCain, am always proud of my country.
And here is another pride-inducing tale of two women in DHS contracted custody at a county jail in Minnesota :Testimony of Michele Garnett McKenzie on Immigration Detention Conditions
It appears to me that when Customs and Immigration were re-arranged under DHS valuable experience was lost as competent people fled, massive expansion have left large numbers of supervisory positions open, and new hires are not sufficiently vetted or trained before being released on the public. ICE detention centers do not have adequate oversight and third party contractors have even less. In the Republican anti-immigrant frenzy job promotions are apparently determined by mindless metrics like how many people did you incarcerate and/or deport this month. People that are flagged due to paperwork errors are now combined with those detained for criminal violations because it takes too much time/money/intelligence to tell the difference.
Whether bureaucratically detained or criminally detained, once sent to an ICE detention center a person is in a Kafka-esque nightmare where human rights are diminished. It is clear that to complain or assert any rights results in much worse treatment.
I'm upset about our friend's treatment but he is at least home with his family in Austria and safe. Our friend's treatment pales in comparison to what appears to be going on every day in every state in the name of Homeland Security. So far there is no news from Senator Stevens
Update: This story has been picked up by the Anchorage Daily News 02/24/08"Your papers are not in order"
It might help if Seattle area Kossacks could get Seattle papers interested in this story or contact their Washington State officials about the mistreatment of immigrants that appears to be going on at SeaTac.
Update: Edited for spelling & messed up html. Some clarifications: Coaching was unpaid. Mr Neuhauser was told by embassy to use this visa to enter and then apply for work which is what he told the CPB officer. I'm not sure if the embassy people assumed that he understood he was supposed to lie to the agent, but lying is not in his nature. He did "voluntarily" withdraw the visa, but I think that is when he became undocumented and the whole ICE experience was used as abuse and entertainment by people with sadistic tendencies.
Apologies for poor writing and construction, but I encourage anyone to read the links for better writing and more details than what I felt I could include in the diary.