By now everyone probably has heard that Juan Williams, an NPR and FOX commentator, was fired by NPR because of comments he made on the Bill O’Reilly show. His comments concerned how he is afraid when he sees people in Muslim garb on airplanes. The question of whether his firing was justified is now a source of debate. On the one side are those that say he is not fit to be a commentator if he shows such a bias. On the other side are those that say he was just being honest and that the “confession” about being afraid was a preface to a point about how we should not do racist things because we have prejudices. Fear not for Mr. Williams. He landed on his feet and got a lucrative contract from Fox News.
ICE’s Office of Chief Counsel seems to have the same fear of Muslim people as Juan Williams. It has become apparent to me that for certain Muslims placed in removal proceedings, which are prosecuted by the ICE Office of Chief Counsel, the Office of Chief Counsel has special prosecutors. I have personally observed these specially designated prosecutors in a case against a Somali, a Pakistani, and a Palestinian. I have also seen s USCIS get on the anti-Muslim bandwagon by using naturalization interviews as a pretext to conduct interviews and find reasons to prosecute Muslims for omissions on their naturalization forms or because of things that are said at the interview. This happens elsewhere in the United States, as was publicized in the case of Luis Posada Carriles. I have not explored in any detail with ICE why they have special prosecutors for Muslim respondents. I would suspect ICE would say that the special prosecutors are not targeting Muslims, but rather, potential terrorists, who just happen to be overwhelmingly Muslims. They would say that this is evident from the fact the some non-Muslims are dealt with in special ways, such as Mr. Posadas Carriles, who is Cuban, as were some Tamils in removal proceedings. However, by and large, special prosecutors and special treatment is reserved for Muslims. None I am aware of has ever been convicted of terrorism or deported for terrorism. Some have been prosecuted for omissions on forms or apparent contradictions, without the person being given the opportunity to correct mistakes or explain contradictions, as officers are supposed to do according to their manuals and training. For example, the USCIS adjudicator’s manual states:
If any information in the form conflicts with the interviewee’s oral testimony, or if there are any inconsistencies within the interviewee’s testimony, the officer must give him or her an opportunity to explain the discrepancies. The officer must make corrections on the form when necessary, advising the interviewee of the corrections.
A few questions by an officer about a problem in the application, such as a discrepancy over the number of children the person has could be clarified by an explanation that a child was born since the form was filed, rather than a perjury prosecution. Omissions on the form about conduct USCIS knows about, disclosed in detail in other contexts and in the file from these other contexts, such as earlier applications, could simply be added to the form a the interview instead of prosecuting the alien for material misrepresentations.
It is hard to say whether it is absolutely wrong that there are special prosecutors that deal with Muslim cases – when it is clear they have no relation to terrorism. It does seem rather suspect. It is quite obvious in the courtroom that the person is being singled out and has every appearance of being singled out by religion. One wonders if it affects the judges – seeing that ICE considers the alien a particularly bad guy who requires the attention of a special prosecutorial unit. Remember, most immigration judges are former ICE prosecutors and also, remember, who wants to be seen as soft on terrorism? One wonders why criminal court judges accept guilty pleas from aliens for mistakes and omissions on forms that we all make and that could easily be explored and rectified using the techniques required by USCIS’s own manual for conducting interviews.
It is one thing for a person to have personal prejudices and it is quite another to act irrationally about them as a result. That was Juan William’s point. Posted October 24, 2010.