El Paso – A number of asylum seekers detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso field office, including dozens from India, were force-fed by the ICE agents as many went on hunger strikes to protest their lengthy detention and alleged inhumane treatment. Democrat Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, representing Texas’ 16th Congressional District visited the facility and tweeted that the situation is “unacceptable.” IAT reached out to Attorney Ravi Batra in New York and here is his response:
The “El Paso 9” are presenting a unique problem: wanting to seek asylum in America at their own terms. The law is ill equipped to handle protestors, without it beginning to act like it’s a part of criminal justice system. What is most striking in this manufactured tragedy – manufactured by asylum seekers refusing to eat and trying to die in ICE’s custody – if a detention facility didn’t have heat in winter and a detainee died of frost-bite, the relatives of the decedent could rightfully sue ICE and our Federal Government. But what if, as with El Paso 9, the Detainees cut off the heat so as to freeze to death – is ICE and our Government liable? The nuanced answer would be a loud and clear “no.” Here, ICE even went to federal court and an Article III federal judge ordered forced-feeding after full due process that includes Detainees’ counsel participating. Detainees had the right to re-argue or appeal, or better yet, get really competent lawyers who would tell them: you don’t have a leg to stand on.
Here, the Asylum Seekers are essentially in contempt of court (and ICE protocols). All they need to do to alleviate all their suffering is to “just eat and drink” like all human beings do. This grandstanding isn’t even remotely like “civil disobedience” of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Nelson Mandela. Each of them wanted to change the British Empire, eliminate our Original Sin, and end Apartheid, respectively. These Asylum Seekers love America – as we are – so much so that they want to live here and be free; they want to change nothing about our “Shining City on the Hill.” They just want the right to crash in and get asylum, because they say so.
Well, that, unfortunately is not how due process works. Folks in contempt of court even in a civil case, such as refusing to sit for a deposition, can be thrown in jail – indefinitely – as they hold the key to freedom: honor the court order and get out of jail. Here, they violate and contempt ICE – who is trying to give them enough heat in winter to avoid frostbite, and food and drink to be well nourished (and that is no sin.) They have a choice eat and drink or leave these United States – but dictate they cannot.
Any attempt by any United Nations’ organ or any reference to the Convention against torture to these facts is the product of an unworthy anti-American bias and a mind so incapable of proper diagnosis – that they ought be terminated from gainful employment.
The plight of El Paso 9, albeit self-inflicted, pulls on one’s heart strings – for their original desire to live in the “Shining City on the Hill” is a most reasonable one. After all, everyone wants to live in America; which is why we need sensible immigration laws. How best to handle their case – without offending our ally India and to make sure their petition gets a full and fair hearing requires real lawyers, not flamethrowers, who would prevent this macabre and tragic situation to arise in the first place. (IAT)