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May 13, 2008





The Washington Post is in the midst of a four-part series that details the sub-standard health care being provided to those in immigration detention centers in the US.  This comes on the heels of a New York Times story last week (“Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in Custody,” 5/5/08) that focused on the high number of unexplained deaths among immigration detainees, some of which were caused by similar deficiencies in the system.


Some post-9/11 laws made it easier to detain and deport some immigrants even though almost none have any ties to terrorism.  At the time, some peopled warned that there would be injustices because of these new laws.  These warnings were not heeded.


What have these laws wrought?  What does the situation say about our immigration policies?  What does it say about us?


Yesterday’s piece from the Post, In Custody, In Pain” has been the best article on this issue that I’ve seen so far.  In it, the story of Yong Harvill, a South Korean woman who has been a legal resident of America for over three decades is featured.


Her story is a window into the agony, hardship and separation from family that is experienced by just about all working class immigrants.  However, in her case it is much, much worse.  Ms. Harvill, who has had cancer before, currently suffers from a series of apparent pre-cancerous growths in her body.  Cut off from the rest of the world in the bottomless pit of immigration detention in the US she gets virtually no health care.  The “system” is revealed to be both heartless and mismanaged.


Her crime?  Before being turned over to immigration she had been in prison for about a year on a drug conviction.  But what may cause her to be deported is a conviction from over a decade ago.  In that case, she pled guilty to attempting to receive stolen jewelry.  She says she didn’t know that the jewelry was stolen and took the plea deal because it offered her probation. 


She is hardly a security threat.  One of the saddest parts of this is that as a free woman she would have access to her welder husband’s union health insurance.  But, in detention her merry-go-round of an ordeal has led to a maze of under-staffed medical facilities, cancelled off-site appointments, and the run around in Washington where nurses make complex medical decisions that limit treatment.  The government’s goal is merely to keep the detainees alive long enough to deport them.


That a woman like this, with her strong ties to the US, is made to suffer so is a grave sin and beyond human comprehension.  The people who allow this to continue and those who take part have no decency.


This woman's treatment is inhumane.  An animal would receive better.  I don't understand why the judge in her case, if they are a godly man or woman, doesn't just release her.  Have mercy on her and accept the consequences!


Our system has legally adopted guidelines that characterizes "uncontrolled suffering" as acceptable.  How do these people look at themselves in the mirror?  How can such a policy be righteous and just?  I pray that the Lord will judge them for these crimes.


In cases like these, people want to blame God. 


For instance, the story describes a conversation between Harvill and her husband as follows: "He had gone to an evening service at the Church on the Rock, the first time he had been in months. He hadn't felt much like reading the Bible lately. 'I just don't understand it right now,' he said. 'I just can't understand things that are going on that are hard to believe. Her medical care -- I just can't understand that.'  Of course, you can’t really blame him.  What would we say in a similar situation?


But, it is people that the Lord expects to obediently carry out His will.  In this case, the people in this country who advocate for and carry out our immoral immigration detention policies have let Harvill down not the Lord.


Here, we as a society have clearly failed in doing the Lord’s will.


Also troubling to me is the related smaller picture.  The Congress oversees the administration of the nation's capital and they have been particularly hard in criticizing the way  our local government has been managed over the years.  Some of this criticism was well earned.  However, I've noticed that they made these criticisms while passing laws themselves that created the types of injustices described above and mismanaged the federal government to the tune of $9 trillion in debt.


How dare these patronizing, condescending fools.  How can our leaders tell Washington, DC, the rest of the nation or the rest of the world to manage their affairs effectively, humanely and justly when they don't?



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