Thursday, May 13, 2004

The agency formerly known as the INS

The word "Kafkaesque" comes to mind upon reading this Dahlia Lithwick piece in Slate about the arbitrary tyranny of U.S. immigration officials. Reading about this kind of thing makes me feel angry and powerless. I'm just glad I'm not subjected to it myself. Excerpt:
[A]t least 15 journalists from friendly countries being forcibly detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and held in cells overnight, with most denied access to phones, pens, lawyers, or their consular officials. Their friendly welcome at the detention center included lights that shone all night long and video surveillance of the entire cell, often including toilets. David James Smith of the Times of London described being denied a blanket, coffee, or a pen during his overnight detention last March...
The INS (now known as Citizenship and Immigration Services) has a long, proud tradition of marrying limitless government discretion to obscure Byzantine rules that cannot be understood through ordinary inquiry. Virtually anyone in this country on a visa is in violation of some regulation, although any attempt to understand or clarify one's status is systematically thwarted by an agency that cannot be reached by telephone and cannot be visited in under seven hours. The INS has for years contributed to widespread ignorance and punished it after the fact.


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