Seriously. This is very, very serious. Please, please be aware of what's going on right now.

Immigrants: beware the end of habeas corpus

There are many reasons people have immigrated to the United States over the years.   One of the most important was a sense of security, that here one was safe and secure from bad governments and political strife that had ruined the lives of so many for centuries.

The new Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush may be making that sense of safety and security for newly arrived immigrants to America a thing of the past. While there is debate about whether the new rules apply to American citizens, we do know for sure they apply to non-citizens of any type, even legal residents.  And what are these rules?

According to the NY Times, "While the Republicans pretend that this bill will make America safer, let's be clear about its real dangers. It sets up a separate system of justice for any foreigner whom Mr. Bush chooses to designate as an "illegal enemy combatant." It raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. It does not require the government to release prisoners who are not being charged, or a prisoner who is exonerated by the tribunals.

The law does not apply to American citizens, but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening. It further damages the nation's reputation and, by repudiating key protections of the Geneva Conventions, it needlessly increases the danger to any American soldier captured in battle."

And from Glenn Greenwald:  "The so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 (.pdf)...is replete with radical provisions, but the most dangerous and disturbing is that it vests in the President the power to detain people forever by declaring them an "unlawful enemy combatant," and they then have no ability to contest the validity of their detention in any tribunal. The President now possesses a defining authoritarian power -- to detain and imprison people for life based solely on his say-so, while denying the detainee any opportunity to prove his innocence…

…the Act creates military commissions and establishes rules for those commissions in the event that the President wants a certain detainee tried, convicted and punished (almost certainly execution). Not even the Bush-led U.S. will openly execute detainees without a finding that they are guilty of terrorism. The commissions exist so that the Executive branch can impose sentence (such as the death sentence) on detainees who are found guilty of engaging in terrorism (or some other war crime).

But there is no right for detainees to be tried before a commission, and there is no obligation for the President to bring any detainee before a military commission. If the President does not want to obtain a finding of guilt and impose punishment, he has no reason to bring them before a military commission. He can just keep them detained forever without any finding of guilt and without any punishment being imposed (just as many of the Guantanamo detainees, and even U.S. citizens, have been kept in cages for years with no finding of any kind of guilt).

The Act even allows U.S. citizens to be subjected to this treatment (though the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi likely requires for U.S. citizens some opportunity to challenge the detention) because even American citizens can be declared to be "unlawful enemy combatants" under the statute (see Sec. 3(a)(1)(1))."

With this new Act, we now have the ironic and tragic circumstance that the man who has worked so hard to give millions of undocumented immigrants legal status - John McCain - has ensured that when they do come out of the shadows this new legal status will be missing one of the most treasured protections of American life; one that has made America different for a very long time. 

Not sure about you, but I think amending this Act should be a high priority for progressives in the years to come. 

 

***
you can find the actual act at this link.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s3930enr.txt.pdf

Comments

  1. "The law does not apply to American citizens" . So far so good. The Declaration of Independence sets forth the responsibilities of a government, to whit in part:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...". The important part here being "the governed" which indicates the citizens. Therefore if my government fails to secure/provide an environment in which I, as a citizen, can pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness, it (the government) has failed in its basic duty. If the imprisonment of non-citizens increases my ability to pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness then the government is only doing its proper job.

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  2. No I find this interesteding. This guy from Texas, that I've never met, has never chosen to comment on my blog, has never experessed any concern about my family, friends, food fascinations, spirituality and other aspects of my lovely blog Chooses to come and waste my time to comment and disagree with my views about habeus corpus and immigrant rights. I find it fascinating that people can be so limited in thinking that the ONLY thing of interest worth commenting on my lovely blog is disagreeing with my take that it is wrong an executive body can supercede other gov't bodies to begin the process of stripping down US Constitution. Sure, have your opinion. But not here. You have your local TX paper to share your opinions. You have political blogs, TV cameras...anywhere and anyplace you feel your opinion will be heard best. But on Harlem Mama's Blog, Mr. ADD from Texas, your comment is not welcome. And see, I keep my blog comments open because I do want to hear from people enjoying the depth of Harlem Mama's true take on her life. This is me. This is not up for opinionated criticisms. I am an immigrant of Jamaican and Cuban ancestry. I WAIT for the blessed day where chicanos mexicanos, mayans...are recognized as indigenous americanos - Cherokee, Chapaqua, Mohawk...and the list goes on. That is me. That is what I believe. I believe in teaching my offspring about why this country is amazing --because it is made up of immigrants. When you forget or never knew your roots Mr. ADD from TX who is a stranger to me, all that you can focus on in your life is what is WRONG with the Political statements of Americans like me who are proud Americans that love poor folk, gay folk, folks of color...you my friend, are unAmerican and limited. There is so much here! So much in this blog! And THIS is your choice of where to comment! Give up the charade...you're opinion will stay on this page because I do believe you want to be heard. But you need to watch your attention deficit order and put it in check. I don't know you. I don't care what you have to say and I have no respect for someone who chooses to ignore the rest of this blog in search of a place to spew their sad limited scope of America.

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