“Law office can I help you?” “My husband has been detained by immigration, what do I do, how can I find him, what will happen?” “Why was he detained?” “He was just shopping at the flea market.”
At this point I don’t even have to ask which flea market. I know it was right across the Massachusetts border in Salem, New Hampshire. ICE usually picks up those in criminal court after an ICE hold has been issued. Driving While Intoxicated, Assault and Battery, Shoplifting, Trespassing, even driving without a license these days.
While I may not agree that a stealing a pair of sneakers merits throwing someone in immigration detention for an unknown period of time and ultimately maybe getting that person deported, at least my legal mind accepts the detention of that individual.
What my legal mind (or any other part of my mind, for that matter) cannot accept is that individuals minding their own business, shopping at a flea market, and spending their dollars in our plummeting economy can be interrogated based on looking a certain way and arrested without any probable cause! This really, for lack of a better term, absolutely just blows my mind. The first time I heard it I didn’t believe my caller. No, I thought. Your husband MUST have a criminal record and they must have been looking for him. Maybe he didn’t tell you about it? I’ll have to do a background check on this one… And the background check comes back, time and time again, spotless.
While in criminal court this arrest would quickly be thrown out as baseless, it is not so easy in immigration court. In New York, an arrest of a family was in fact thrown out when ICE climbed through the window to gain entrance into the home. Is this what we are coming to in this country? Arrests while shopping at flea markets and officers crawling through windows with no warrant?
I hear the other side of this debate – that this person is here illegally and that in itself is a crime. While I have many arguments against that mentality, they aren’t relevant to my complaint in this instance. In America you are innocent until proven guilty. In America, police officers need reasonable cause to detain you. In America, police need reasonable cause to stop you. In America, we just don’t stop people on the street and ask them what their immigration status is or what they are doing at a calm gathering.
Can you imagine if a police officer approached you at a picnic and asked you to show him proof that you are a US Citizen? Or asked you what you were doing at a flea market? (uh, officer, what do you think I am doing at a flea market???!!!???!?). But then again, I don’t have to imagine such a scenario. I speak fluent English and I look the right way. I’ll end with a quote we all probably know by a rather famous immigrant who visited the United States in 1933 and just never returned to his homeland, Albert Einstein, “the world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.”
New Hampshire's slogan only adds irony to the frustration here. Live Free or Die. Hmmmmm.