from yesterday’s NY Times
is a sickening harbinger of a horror show that may soon come to Nashville.
It’s the tale of Hiu Lui Ng, an immigrant who came to the U.S. legally fifteen years ago, got married, and built a family and a business while trying to get citizenship. Last summer, a broken immigration system ended up throwing Ng — pronounced Eng — into deportation proceedings and eventually into a series of jails. As Ng was shuttled from jail to jail, he began to feel pain in his back. When he complained to his captors, they thought he was faking it and did nothing, even though he couldn't stand to go to the bathroom or walk to the visitation room to meet his family.
His requests to see an outside doctor were denied until, finally, authorities relented. But the pain had come from undiagnosed cancer, which had eaten his body alive and shattered his spine. He died two days after his 34th birthday.
There are details in the Times story that, believe it or not, make this story worse than the brief summary above. Not the least is that while Ng was on his deathbed, immigration authorities pressured him to withdraw his appeals and accept voluntary deportation.
So what does this mean for Nashville?
This could have easily happened here.
According to The Times
, at least 66 people have died while in custody of the immigration bureaucracy. With Daron Hall’s 287(g) program in full swing, the number of offenders being detained in Nashville has skyrocketed. While death is a very real part of any prison, the nature of immigration detention, with its colliding cultures, makes it all the more perilous. Prisoners are moved from facility to facility — often across state lines — without family or attorneys being notified. In one case
, a week passed before the family of a man from Guinea was notified that he was in the hospital with a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.
In Tennessee, most immigrants have to go to Memphis for a hearing before a judge, or get shipped to Louisiana, where they are put in a federal pen. Immigration attorneys will tell you that a lot can get lost in transition.
Our jailers are going to make mistakes. They are humans operating within a large bureaucracy that wields the total power of incarceration. Unfortunately, these mistakes, as in Ng’s case, can be for keeps. Are we willing to roll the dice with the lives of non-violent offenders?
Perhaps Juana Villegas
is as bad as it will get for us. I sure hope it doesn’t get any worse than arresting a pregnant woman, shackling her to a hospital bed and separating her from her newborn baby. It would be tragic for someone to die before we realize the path of folly our elected officials now walk.