Chapter 43: Base
"Yes, my name is Clayton Abernathy, I'm trying to find out if a friend of mine is being held there."
It was eight thirty Monday morning; Clayton figured that was a good time to call the ICE office in Manhattan. He'd barely been able to sleep that night, wondering where Cam was. Was she safe? She'd just come out of surgery, what was happening to her now? He'd gotten up after barely a few hours rest and went online, looking for ICE offices in New York.
Now he was starting at the top of the list and going down, and across the table from him, Allie and Shana were doing the same. They'd decided to try calling as concerned friends first; Alex reasoning that if Broadview actually had been the one to tip ICE off that Cam could possibly be illegal, any queries from someone claiming to be military might spur ICE into moving Cam across the country. And they wanted to prevent that at all costs.
"Name?" the bored voice on the other end of the phone asked.
"Cameron Arlington. She was being picked up at Staten Island University Hospital on Sunday after undergoing reconstructive surgery the day before when she and her ride were accosted by DHS and she was detained for being illegal. I'm trying to find her now."
"All right. Let me have your name and a contact number and you'll know when we find something."
"I'm not getting off this phone until someone tells me something. She had surgery Saturday afternoon, she was released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon and right now she needs to be in bed resting somewhere. When they arrested her she didn't even have the prescriptions she needs. I need you to tell me which hospital she's in."
The voice on the other end of the phone snorted. "We don't move that fast. Especially not for another illegal Mexican immigrant mooching off our free healthcare on my tax dollars."
"Hey. She's not Mexican, she's Native American and Asian. And she was not illegal. She just doesn't have the paper proving she was adopted."
"Ah. An illegal chink mooching off our healthcare."
Clayton was so pissed he didn't even think about what he was saying. "She is not illegal, and she is not a chink. I resent that. And she's not mooching off anyone's tax dollars, her surgery is going to be properly vouchered and paid for! And I've had it with your rudeness. I want to speak to your supervisor." The voice took a breath to say something, but Clayton cut him off. "No. Now. Yes, I'll hold. All day, if I have to. Now get me someone civil to talk to!"
Despite his assertions that he would hold all day if he had, to Clayton was starting to fear that would indeed be the case when another voice finally came on the line. "I heard you wanted to speak to a supervisor?"
"Yes, I did." The voice was female, brisk and businesslike, and Clayton forced himself to rein in his irritation and his anger. Neither would be productive here. "I'm looking for a friend of mine, Cameron Arlington. She was released from Staten Island University Hospital yesterday after undergoing some delicate reconstructive surgery, and the friend who went out there to pick her up said they were stopped in the parking lot by Homeland Security and Cameron was arrested for being illegal."
"I'm sorry to hear that, could you tell me what race Ms. Arlington was?"
"She's part Native American and part Asian."
"Some Native Americans can look like Mexicans. Is she dark-complected?"
"Cameron Arlington looks Asian except for the color of her skin. Her father was a member of the Iroquois tribe and her skin color reflects that. Her mother, however was Asian. Her father was an Air Force Captain." He could hear the sound of computer keys clicking on the other end of the phone, and Scarlett, Allie, Alex and Olivia had gone silent as they listened to his conversation.
"Well, I'm sorry to say I can't find her in the system."
"You have to be kidding. Could someone have posed as Homeland Security and taken her away? The friend who went to pick her up said she was never read her rights."
The voice on the other end went stiff. "That's because she doesn't have any rights. She's illegal."
"She is not illegal. She's Native American, for Christ's sake, she's got more right to be here than most of the rest of us! Why does everyone keep saying she is? In America, you're innocent until proven guilty."
"American citizens are innocent until proven guilty. Illegal immigrants are not American citizens, so therefore that rule does not apply."
"You're kidding." Clayton felt like someone had hit him over the head. "That's unconstitutional."
"No. That's the law. She is illegal until she proves to us she isn't."
"Fine. Then let her go on bond until she proves it."
"Sir, I keep telling you she is not an American citizen so those rights do not apply. Do you want me to lay it out for you? Okay. Because she is illegal, she cannot be freed on bond, nor can anyone post it for her. She is not entitled to a free lawyer; if you're that concerned you can pay for one for her. She is not entitled to free phone calls; once she is settled into a holding facility a certain amount of money can be deposited into her prison fund so she can make calls or she can perform work around the deportation camp to pay for any phone calls she wishes to make, letters she wants to write, or extra food items she may wish to have. If you write any letters to her they will be opened and checked for contraband prior to her receiving them. She will have to perform work at whatever camp she may happen to be in order to acquire money to purchase paper, envelopes and writing utensils from the prison commissary, and stamps will only be issued when she has completed the requisite amount of work and her letters have been duly checked for factuality and relevance. Any mail she attempts to send that is in violation of those rules will be confiscated and privileges will be withheld until she can earn them back."
Across the table Allie and Shana both looked shocked. Alex was listening with narrowed eyes, and Olivia looked like she was on the verge of tears. "If she doesn't have rights, then what do you consider privileges?" Clayton couldn't believe what he was hearing; how could a country whose constitution listed 'inalienable human rights' suddenly turn into…this? How could the government he worked for, fought for, and supported, countenance this kind of massive violation of civil rights?
"Privileges that can and will be taken away for infractions on any of these rules include being forbidden to work around the detainee camp, corrective confinement, reduced or no visitation hours."
He felt defeated. "Cameron had just been released from the hospital after reconstructive surgery. Please tell me she will at least receive adequate medical care to prevent infection and other possible consequences."
"She will receive medical care. We aren't barbarians, Mr. Abernathy."
"All right. Can you at least tell me where she is so I can let her know we're working on getting her out of wherever she is?"
"I told you. I cannot find her in the system."
"What do you mean you can't find her? Do you have her or don't you?" his temper was rising again and he wasn't sure he could keep it under control this time…or that he even wanted to. It would be such a relief, if only short term, for him to be able to yell at this little government toad on the other end of the phone.
"Look, Mr. Abernathy, you have to understand something. The ICE currently detains almost half a million illegals currently within our system, which was never designed to hold this many people, and our budget is woefully inadequate. We do not have a real-time database for tracking the placement of every illegal picked up by DHS and ICE. When this office fields a request, we take the name of the person being looked for—that would be this Arlington you mentioned; the name of the person doing the looking, that would be you; and a phone number where you can be reached. This will be circulated to all two hundred and sixty of the facilities where we are currently holding detainees, from local prisons within whose walls we rent cell space to detainee centers to private prisons. The officials there will check Arlington's name against the list of detainees and new arrivals. When her name is located she will be informed that you are looking for her and she will be asked if she has money to call you back. If she does you will hear from her. If she does not someone will call you and let you know what center she is in."
"She doesn't need money. She can call me collect."
"No, Mr. Abernathy, she cannot. The rules say she must have money in her prison fund in order to make a call."
"But…she was arrested as she was leaving the hospital. She has no money on her."
"Then she'll have to work around the prison or the detainee camp in order to earn enough for a call. The standard rate is $10 for a five minute call."
"That's exorbitant!" Clayton was sputtering. "How long will it take to earn that much? Two days?"
"Work performed around the deportation camp is paid for at the rate of a dollar a day."
His jaw dropped. "Ten days! She has to work for ten days just to make a phone call? She is injured, she just had surgery, she risks tearing the stitches if she spends too much time standing or overdoes it on the physical activity!"
"Then she will have to wait until she is well enough to work before she can call you. In the meantime, however, you will be informed of where she is."
"Will I be able to visit?"
"She will need to fill out a visitors request form and this will have to be approved by the head of the facility she is held in, and then approved again by the head of the nearest ICE office. Once that is given you will be allowed to visit. But you are not allowed to bring any items to give her, you must be dressed correctly according to prison rules and you will be subjected to a pat down upon entering and upon leaving to be sure that you are not smuggling anything in or out."
"You're treating her like a criminal. She hasn't done anything wrong, she just has a missing piece of paper!"
"Without having her file in front of me, Mr. Abernathy, I cannot be sure why she has been detained. I will not have her file until she has been registered into a detention facility and we know what facility she is in. Once I have that I will be able to tell you exactly why she has been determined to be illegal. It is then up to her to prove she is not by providing paperwork that substantiates her claim to legality—or she can sign a deportation agreement acknowledging she is illegal and accept a default judgment of deportation without option of reentry."
"When is her hearing? Her arraignment? Her trial? Have you set that yet?"
"Once again, Mr. Abernathy, she does not have the right to a hearing, arraignment, or trial. She will remain in ICE custody until she proves her claims to legality or until she signs the paper saying she knows she is illegal and accepts deportation without possibility of re-entry. Once she acknowledges guilt she will have the privilege of eventually appearing in front of an immigration judge and make a case for why she should still be allowed to remain in the country, either through her home country being a war zone and she asks for asylum or irreparable hardship if she has a husband or young children who are here legally and would demonstrably suffer if she is not with them."
"Charlie's suffering now without her," Allie muttered. Shana gave her a hard elbow in the ribs.
"Are there any other questions Mr. Abernathy? None? Good. I have a few for you. Who are you in relation to Arlington?"
"I'm her…employer." Close enough.
"Were you aware that she was illegal?"
"She's not illegal." How many times did he have to repeat himself?
"Mr. Abernathy. You are starting to sound like a broken record."
"I'll keep repeating it as many times as I have to until someone gets it through their thick head. She. Is. Not. Illegal. She is a Native American registered with the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois nation and as such has more right to be here than the rest of us. Including me."
"Are you legal?"
Clayton stared hard at the phone, as if glaring hard enough at it could fry the ignorant little idiot on the other end. "My family has been well established in a little US city called Denver for more than a century and a half. We are American born to at least the last five generations and I graduated West Point at the top of my class. I trust that is sufficient."
The voice refused to sound cowed. Probably too stupid to know they'd pissed him off. "Are you aware that you, and the company you work for, can face sanctions from the US government, up to and including fines and possible jail time for your CEO for hiring an illegal? We can sue you for hiring Arlington."
The very thought of the ICE suing the US Army and jailing the Commander In Chief of the US Armed Forces, also known as the President of the United States, made Hawk laugh, albeit bitterly. "You're dreaming. It's not going to happen. My company has far more money and power than you. And a lot more people." Yeah. Thousands of troops. "Don't even try it. You're not going to like what happens. Now. I will be informed when she is located?"
"I will await that call." And he slammed his finger down on the speaker button.
Shana and Allie were sitting there shaking their heads. "We thought we're fighting the enemy outside our borders. What happens when our own government is victimizing the American people worse?"
"Why isn't anyone complaining about this? Why are people continuing to push more and more legislation through that allows this kind of infringement and trampling on legal and civil rights? Why isn't anyone doing anything about this?"
Alex sighed. "Because right now the economy sucks. People are losing jobs, and as a result they are losing housing and so forth. They're scared about recession and the economy and 9-11 didn't help. And when people are scared they lash out, and in this case, since the country does indeed have a huge problem with undocumented people and illegals, they become the scapegoats, the target of hatred and anger. The train of thought here is that there are millions of undocumented people here collecting food stamps and assistance and getting healthcare and sending their kids to public schools on taxpayer dollars while they themselves are committing robbery, larceny, fraud, gang activity, drugs, murder, assault, and other violent crimes, and not working or paying taxes. Unfortunately there are criminal illegals who are doing that, but the majority of the undocumented people in this country at this moment are working individuals who have obtained jobs."
"But they aren't paying taxes. I heard something about that."
Alex blew out her breath. "Clayton, think about that, will you? Of course they're paying taxes. Whenever they buy a loaf of bread in the store, they're paying taxes on that. Milk, eggs, all the stuff they need to live, they pay taxes on. Beer, clothing for the kids so they can go to school, no matter how cheap you buy you're still paying taxes on that. Electricity for their residences, phone, water and trash removal and sanitation fees…they're paying taxes on those. One o f the biggest items for these, let's use Hispanics and Latinos as an example—are phone cards with which to call home; Mexico and Central and South American countries like that. Their income may not be taxed going in if they've found an employer to pay them under the table but it is going out. So of course they're paying taxes."
"Why don't they just pay for the papers to become legal then?" Shana asked.
"Have you looked at the prices ICE is charging for the requisite paperwork? Let's use Latinos as our base population here. The average person who lives in Mexico earns $6,000 US dollars a year. Keep that in mind.
"Now, the ICE charges $1,130 to file the paperwork for a temporary resident application. And then they have to pay the ICE an extra $85 to have their fingerprints taken. Once they have that they can come in, but once they're over the border they have ten days to adjust their status from a temporary to a permanent resident. ICE charges $1,020 plus another $85 for fingerprints to do that. An employment authorization costs $380, and the list goes on. So all told, just to get the paperwork filed and fingerprints done will cost the average person over $5,200 US dollars. Then you look at how long ti takes for ICE to process paperwork—in 2010, they were just getting to applications from people in Mexico filed in 1994. That's a wait of 16 years. The paperwork expires, but they can't go anywhere because they're still waiting for a decision—until ICE comes to deport them for being illegal even though they have paperwork in process—that's where the term 'undocumented' comes from. They're basically being deported because it took USCIS too long to look at their applications."
Hawk shook his head. "The whole thing stinks."
Alex nodded. "Yes it does. So let's concentrate on getting Cam out of it."