Friday, September 27, 2013

Further Thoughts

Pardon me for going on about this, but the situation of the Afghani translator, aside from the tragedy that is unfolding, tells us a lot about what is going wrong just now. One has to get pretty far down into the weeds to see the legal problems he faces, but the problems are common to many immigrants and deportees. The US embassy has revoked his visa, and the US federal courts have decided that they have no jurisdiction to review such "consular" decisions. They have also held that someone outside the US who is not a US citizen has no constitutional rights. But this man served for nine years (nine years!) with our combat troops, apparently with distinction, and if he had enlisted would be eligible for citizenship. Well, he didn't and he's not. But the Constitution grants the rights of minimal due process to all "persons" (not just citizens) under US control, and if the detainees at Guantanamo can get a hearing, why should not a man like this Afghani hero? I summon the ghost of Justice Holmes to argue on his behalf.

There are a great many people, including some thousands of US citizens, who have been deported and therefore have no further access to our judicial system, one of the many defects of our archaic, dysfunctional, federal immigration and citizenship laws. Judging by the facts that have been made public, any sort of hearing conducted with even minimal fairness would exonerate the man, and most likely many thousands more who are in similar positions. But don't wait for Congress to act. The President can't do much about the broken immigration system, but this is one problem he can address. He just needs to impose some modest rationality and fairness on American consulates and embassies.