Welcome to America!!

If you weren’t already having a bad day, let me be the first to introduce you to today’s depressing Times story. This is just an excerpt of a story about the mistreatment of detainees at the hands of U.S. officials. It gets worse from here, so if you’re a sucker for punishment, read on. The story begins with this fact “Born in China, he entered the United States legally on a tourist visa.”

Meanwhile, his sister said, Mr. Ng (pronounced Eng), who was known as Jason, graduated from high school in Long Island City, Queens, worked his way through community technical college, passed Microsoft training courses and won a contract to provide computer services to a company with offices in the Empire State Building.

In 2001, a notice ordering him to appear in immigration court was mistakenly sent to a nonexistent address, records show. When Mr. Ng did not show up at the hearing, the judge ordered him deported. By then, however, he was getting married, and on a separate track, his wife petitioned Citizenship and Immigration Services for a green card for him — a process that took more than five years. Heeding bad legal advice, the couple showed up for his green card interview on July 19, 2007, only to find enforcement agents waiting to arrest Mr. Ng on the old deportation order.

Over the next year, while his family struggled to pay for new lawyers to wage a complicated and expensive legal battle, Mr. Ng was held in jails under contract to the federal immigration authorities: Wyatt; the House of Correction in Greenfield, Mass.; and the Franklin County Jail in St. Albans, Vt.

Mr. Ng seemed healthy until April, his sister said, when he began to complain of severe back pain and skin so itchy he could not sleep. He was then in the Vermont jail, a 20-bed detention center with no medical staff run by the county sheriff’s office. Seeking care, he asked to be transferred back to Wyatt, a 700-bed center with its own medical staff, owned and operated by a municipal corporation.

In a letter to his sister, Mr. Ng recounted arriving there on July 3, spending the first three days in pain in a dark isolation cell. Later he was assigned an upper bunk and required to climb up and down at least three times a day for head counts, causing terrible pain. His brother-in-law B. Zhao appealed for help in e-mail messages to the warden, Wayne Salisbury, on July 11 and 16.

“I was really heartbroken when I first saw him,” Mr. Zhao wrote Mr. Salisbury after a visit. “After almost two weeks of suffering with unbearable back pain and unable to get any sleep, he was so weak and looked horrible.”

The nursing director replied that Mr. Ng had been granted a bottom bunk and was receiving painkillers and muscle relaxants prescribed by a detention center doctor.

But his condition continued to deteriorate. Once a robust man who stood nearly six feet and weighed 200 pounds, his relatives said, Mr. Ng looked like a shrunken and jaundiced 80-year-old.

“He said, ‘I told the nursing department, I’m in pain, but they don’t believe me,’ ” his sister recalled. “ ‘They tell me, stop faking.’ ”

Soon, according to court papers, he had to rely on other detainees to help him reach the toilet, bring him food and call his family; he no longer received painkillers, because he could not stand in line to collect them. On July 26, Andy Wong, a lawyer associated with Mr. Cox, came to see the detainee, but had to leave without talking to him, he said, because Mr. Ng was too weak to walk to the visiting area, and a wheelchair was denied.

On July 30, according to an affidavit by Mr. Wong, he was contacted by Larry Smith, a deportation officer in Hartford, who told him on a speakerphone, with Mr. Ng present, that he wanted to resolve the case, either by deporting Mr. Ng, or “releasing him to the streets.” Officer Smith said that no exam by an outside doctor would be allowed, and that Mr. Ng would not be given a wheelchair.

Mr. Ng told his lawyer he was ready to give up, the affidavit said, “because he could no longer withstand the suffering inside the facility,” but Officer Smith insisted that Mr. Ng would first have to withdraw all his appeals.

The account of his treatment clearly disturbed the federal judge, William E. Smith of United States District Court in Providence, who instructed the government’s lawyer the next day to have the warden get Mr. Ng to the hospital for an M.R.I.

The results were grim: cancer in his liver, lungs and bones, and a fractured spine. “ ‘I don’t have much time to live,’ ” his sister said he told her in a call from Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

The rest of the article is here.

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4 responses to “Welcome to America!!

  1. polisciafterparty

    unbelievable…there should be a major investigation as to why he was not given the proper testing, let alone treatment, for his case…

    -trader

  2. polisciafterparty

    I am not arguing against the Eagle and I am not saying I don’t feel bad for the guy, but I do have some points that direct how I feel the situation should be looked at. The three phrases I take issue with are “depressing,” “U.S. Officials,” and “detainees.”

    First, I argue with the whole sob story with his initial arrest because this man did not come into the country like so many on rafts or those crossing the border, he came here on a temporary visa, overstayed his visit as the article even admits and a warrant for his arrest was placed. He broke the law. The arrest is justified.

    The bigger issue is the “US Officials” part. In the same article, we see that the appointed/voted upon judge, which I feel the media is more often inclined to point at as the big nasty evil US Official, ends up being the nice guy. The problem, and I do admit it is a problem and the reason for this man’s troubles, are all of the civil servants in the picture. Civil servants are not rocket scientists, while many (Bcrat) are well educated, smart people, many of the law enforcement, penitentiary enforcement, and postal service workers are not. The man was probably handled by scores of poorly paid people who were just doing the job the person before told him to do. That is a problem in the system I agree, and fixing that could perhaps have helped our man. For example, if his notification of visa expiration actually got to the right address (Seinfeld dilemma) he may have been able to address these problems in time. It is probably the fault really of either a data entry person at INS/ICE or a mailman with the US Postal Service.

    The “detainees” issue is not arguing with whether or not he is a detainee, because the word prisoner and detainee I’m sure have the same definition, but the implication that it is immigration detainees that have it so hard. (Legal, surprisingly, I may go a little bit more liberal than yourself on this issue, not reverse your comment.) I think the real problem is that our entire penitentiary system is broke and full of gaps, holes, inconsistencies, failures, and poor conditions. I am sure that many other prisoners face similar problems around the country. I would bet that we still have a much better prison system than most of the world and do treat our prisoners much better than other countries; however, the prison system has inherent flaws that end up mistreating people. The coincidence that the man had cancer does not mean harsh conditions killed him, it just means that if the system were better, it could have been treated and dealt with earlier. It is a bunch of patsies who want to go to work, do their job, not care about what is going on around them, make their salary, and go home that killed him.

    Overall, because the system causes many people to die in situations created by bureaucracy and civil servants with no sense of responsibility, the legal reason for the arrest, and the totality of so many other things that suck, I feel no more depressed after reading the article than when I woke up this morning.

    Also like to note that every single member of my entire family has been a civil servant at one point or for their entire careers, spanning local, state, and federal positions and I don’t want to hear anyone complain.

    -Beltway Bob

  3. polisciafterparty

    Though I am inclined to agree that most of the U.S. officials that can be blamed for his death were low-level, likely poorly paid individuals, they are nonetheless U.S. officials. Their lack of interest, or even qualification, is a result of a general de-emphasis on the importance of government jobs through stagnating pay and an overall suspicion of the “specter of big government” (see: Grover Norquist, Ronald Reagan, et al). If we were to value government services, we’d pay higher and attract the ambitious and talented into the ranks of public servants. Or, at worst, competent individuals who see a man who is in so much pain that he can’t even stand up to get his, well, pain killers and do something about it.

    And sure, the hero of our story accomplished a lot- you know, letting him see his family before he died. Granted it is not that judge’s fault that the situation became so grim- rather, it is just pathetic that in the richest country on earth, each government official whose hands touched this case did not seem to think there was anything wrong. It may be the “system” that is broken, but it is, after all, the American System.

    – Legal Eagle

  4. It’s hard to believe that this is the United States of America we’re talking about.

    I must be a “sucker for punishment”, as the post says, because I read on, and I am disgusted.

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