August 7th, 2008

The Northwest Detention Center Detainee Handbook

The Northwest Detention Center, located in Tacoma, is the regional facility used to detain people who are awaiting either an immigration hearing or repatriation. It has been in the news lately, because of one unfortunate incident where a U.S. citizen (and Army veteran in fact) was erroneously held there for nine months and almost shipped out of the country, and because of the highly critical report on the facility which Seattle University and OneAmerica just released.

This morning I read the handbook which the Northwest Detention Center provides to all new detainees. Page 23 of this handbook contains the following remarkable passage:

Remember that a SITUATION doesn't make you FEEL any certain way. It is your THOUGHTS that make you feel the way you do. The fact that you are in detention does not mean you MUST feel anxious, worried, or depressed. It is your negative THOUGHTS about your situation that make you feel bad.

Ummm, wow. Thanks for the life lesson, Department of Homeland Security :)

Something that stood out in the Northwest Detention Center report...

According to the report there are only four attorney-client meeting rooms for a thousand detainees. Once you arrive to see a client you commonly end up waiting 1-2 hours for a room, and you can't schedule the rooms in advance. Or, you might arrive only to find that your client has been transferred without you being informed. Meanwhile (as a separate government report confirmed) consultations by phone are problematic due to the fact that there aren't enough phones in the facility, many are broken, they can't dial 1-800 numbers, and charges for calls are unnaturally high (i.e. $20 for fifteen minutes). Furthermore, I'm given to understand that these four attorney-client meeting rooms are sometimes used for other things, such as consular visits.

As a result of all the resulting wasted time and scheduling aggravation, apparently many attorneys don't want to take NWDC detainee cases even when the client can pay.

Lou Dobbs

I'd heard rumors about how bad this CNN news show is, but hadn't actually watched an episode from beginning to end until tonight.

In a nutshell, this show presents itself as being a general news broadcast, when in fact it's almost exclusively about illegal immigration: even when halfway through they switch to other (often related) topics, they continue with the "viewer mail" and "polls," which continue to be about illegal immigration.

I'm not an expert, by any means, but even I could recognize some of the fear-mongering as complete fabrication. For example, the "NAFTA Superhighway" (in the sense of a separate highway running through the United States from Mexico to Canada) is a complete myth, as is the "North American Union" (in the sense of America giving up its sovereignty to the point of even having a different currency). However, even though there is no truth to either of those rumors, that doesn't stop Lou Dobbs from reporting that "people are outraged" about them.

I guess using the "people are outraged" strategy you can promote any rumor you want, even if you KNOW that rumor to be false: after all, you're merely reporting that other people are saying it.

This may just be the single worst news show I've seen in my life.

If you have further interest, here is a report critiquing some of the more questionable claims this show (and related ones) makes about immigration.