succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I've had this article open in a tab in my browser for over a month. I keep thinking that maybe if I just keep looking at it I'll figure out what to say. Turns out we don't know how many people die in America's immigration jails. According to the Times, "[f]or years, they went uncounted and unnamed in the public record." That's the sort of sentence I often write about other countries. It's my job to count dead and missing people in the kinds of countries where we aren't surprised that such information is concealed or manipulated. I know I shouldn't be surprised that the same thing happens in this country, but I keep expecting, hoping for, a higher standard.

I know immigration is a contentious topic, and we can all argue about how best to handle the 'immigration problem' another day. Today, let's all agree that, here legally or not, they're human beings. They are human beings, and as such deserve better treatment. We're better than this.

But behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.
...the documents show how officials — some still in key positions — used their role as overseers to cover up evidence of mistreatment, deflect scrutiny by the news media or prepare exculpatory public statements after gathering facts that pointed to substandard care or abuse.
While [52 year old Boubacar Bah] lay in the hospital in a coma after emergency brain surgery, 10 agency managers in Washington and Newark conferred by telephone and e-mail about how to avoid the cost of his care and the likelihood of “increased scrutiny and/or media exposure,” according to a memo summarizing the discussion.