Thursday, August 14, 2008

How's Business?

Our nation's economic growth has been reduced to the Three I's: Interest, Invasion, and Incarceration; and we don't do any of them very well.

We've destroyed the lucrative mortgage industry by deregulating the financial industry and allowing financial institutions to sell mortgages and loans that no person could ever hope to repay. This used to be called loan-sharking, now it's called a free market.

We have gutted our military's capabilities to such a degree that we no longer have cooks, armed guards, or mechanics that our own generals deem capable of running a war, so we contract those jobs to private corporations who charge us a fortune and deliver shoddy product.

And then we have incarceration, imprisonment. We in the home of the brave and the land of the free imprison more of our citizens than any other civilized nation in the world.

Add to our penchant for profiteering from incarceration our inability to control immigration and we have created a boom market for those interested in owning a prison.

Most of our prisons are over-crowded with people of color who have been convicted of drug charges (often relatively low-level drug charges). The new target demographic, however, is the immigrant of color who may or may not be here illegally. If you are an immigrant with brown skin, it may not matter that you are a naturalized citizen. There are myriad reports of legal immigrants being rounded-up, imprisoned and sometimes shipped off-shore (allegedly deported), irrespective of their residential status.

The only media covering this story with any verve and elan is The Nation, but now and then the mainstream media manage to take their heads out of their asses and carry a story about failures and abuses in the incarceration industry.

The New York Times recently published a story about Hiu Lui "Jason" Ng, a man who came here from China, sought political asylum as many from China do, was in the process of trying to get permanent status as he married an American citizen, and got entangled in the inefficiencies and drive for profits that define our current incarceration and immigration systems.

Born in China, he entered the United States legally on a tourist visa. Mr. Ng stayed on after it expired and applied for political asylum. He was granted a work permit while his application was pending, and though asylum was eventually denied, immigration authorities did not seek his deportation for many years.

Meanwhile, his sister said, Mr. Ng (pronounced Eng), who was known as Jason, graduated from high school in Long Island City, Queens, worked his way through community technical college, passed Microsoft training courses and won a contract to provide computer services to a company with offices in the Empire State Building.

In 2001, a notice ordering him to appear in immigration court was mistakenly sent to a nonexistent address, records show. When Mr. Ng did not show up at the hearing, the judge ordered him deported. By then, however, he was getting married, and on a separate track, his wife petitioned Citizenship and Immigration Services for a green card for him — a process that took more than five years. Heeding bad legal advice, the couple showed up for his green card interview on July 19, 2007, only to find enforcement agents waiting to arrest Mr. Ng on the old deportation order.

Over the next year, while his family struggled to pay for new lawyers to wage a complicated and expensive legal battle, Mr. Ng was held in jails under contract to the federal immigration authorities: Wyatt; the House of Correction in Greenfield, Mass.; and the Franklin County Jail in St. Albans, Vt.

Read more Ill and in Pain, Detainee Dies in U.S. Hands

It is easy to say that Ng was here illegally and should be deported, and I might agree with you. Where we fail as a nation, however, is that we have turned our governmental agencies away from providing services that build and protect our society and toward privatized industries focused not on making our nation great, but on generating profits for often unknown and usually invisible shareholders.

Is this any way to run a country? Is it even any way to run a business?

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