Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No more Italians in America, thank you

AOG, Madrid

I have just read an article in the New York Times which I find amazing.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency detained an Italian citizen for 10 days and sent him back afterwards.

Apparently he, who spoke little English, and the Agency's agents, who obviously had no education, appeared to be asking for political asylum in the US.

Italy is a country in the EU and very much rooted in what today we call the "First World". A democracy and a member of the G-9. So, why would an Italian citizen be asking for asylum in the US? Boggles the mind.

It appears that Domenico Salerno, a lawyer by the way, has an American girlfriend and is fond of visiting her and her well-to-do and well-connected family. From the NYT's article, it appears that : "Ten days after he landed in Washington, Mr. Salerno was still incarcerated, despite efforts by Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and two former immigration prosecutors hired by the Coopers".

That is what I call well connected.

The photograph depicts Mr. Domenico Salerno and Ms. Caitlin Cooper, his girlfriend, who wrote an email to the New York Times detailing the situation.

Senator Warner has a big bad battleship on his website's front page. So he cannot be accused of not loving America. Furthermore, the Senator is a Republican and a war veteran.

I am truly baffled by the fact that a Senator cannot hold enough sway with a Governmental agency to hurry the release of an obviously innocent man. Thus far, according to all involved, he has not committed a crime and was, in fact, spending a lot of his free time volunteering in the US. This is how the current Administration thanks him for his troubles.

What is happening in the US? Does it need to be such a Fascist regime?

There is a quote by Mr. Cooper, Ms. Cooper's father, in the article which, however, throws all goodwill out the window:

They were pretty shocked that the government could do this sort of thing, because it doesn’t happen that often, except to people you never hear about, like Haitians and Guatemalans.”

I take it in the spirit in which it was said, but it does show a lot of the arrogance which First World nations have towards other less fortunate countries. He is surprised because it happened to someone from Italy, but would have been less surprised if it had happened to someone from Guatemala or Haiti.

And this is because....?


Anonymous said...

Don't you think it's a little premature to declare him "obviously innocent" with such limited reporting on the story? Any official word from those holding Mr. Salerno? No?

Not saying you're wrong, but I've got a feeling there is more to the story than the NYT's initial report. It fits too perfectly with certain caricatures of the US.

Goriaïnoff said...

Thank you for your comment.

However, what exactly did he do that was wrong? Why has he received an official apology?

I don't think he is the first person to be manhandled in such a way at an American border.

I have friends who have been through similar questioning. They are European.

I don't think it fits with any caricature of the US. I think it fits perfectly with the current xenophobia the Bush Administration has been spurting since 9/11. Unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

From whom did he receive an apology? I didn't read that in the NY Times article you cited. I'd like to hear the other side of the story before jumping to conclusions. If turns out they were wrong in detaining him so long, then DHS owes a public apology and explanation

As for the Bush Administration's "xenophobia", I think that's an over the top characterization, but that's just my subjective opinion.

Jim Cooper said...

The point I was trying to make to the Times reporter about the situation with Haitians, Guatemalans, and other non-G9 nationals was that this does happen much more frequently with them, but does not get the coverage it deserves. However, I made that comment before the stories over this weekend in the Washington Post about the inadequate medical treatment of many Latin Americans and others in ICE detention so fortunately it is now getting some attention. It's wrong when such things happen to anyone, regardless of their national origin. In my opinion, constitutional rights should apply to anyone under U.S. government control, regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or not, particularly when they are on U.S. soil.

Also, before folks turn this into an opportunity for political bashing, keep in mind that the immigration law that made this all possible was signed into law by Bill Clinton. There's plenty of blame to go around on both sides.

Jim Cooper - Caitlin's dad

Goriaïnoff said...

Dear Mr. Cooper,

Thank you for taking the time to read, and, more importantly, reply to the post.

I agree wholeheartedly with your views. However, I still think that, although not in your case, many Americans show outrage when it happens to people from the first world, or to Americans traveling abroad (especially Brazil's ongoing tit-for-tat border expulsions and fingerprinting and photographing of US citizens) but are more inclined to ignore that it mostly happens to people from the developing world, as you well state. To many in the US, this is seen as a lesser issue. In my view because the countries they belong to are, also, perceived as being inferior to the US. I think this attitude towards other countries should change.

I do hope, on a personal level, that Ms. Cooper and Mr. Salerno can put this ugly episode behind them.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to set the record straight.

Goriaïnoff said...

To "anonymous", you are absolutely right. The article states that an apology was issued, but not to Mr. Salerno. It was issued to an individual from Iceland I believe.

My mistake.

Nevertheless, I do think the current Administration is xenophobic. There is no other word to describe America's recent behavior towards foreign nationals living in the US or those merely trying to visit there.

I do hope this changes and that it does so sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about it, the more holes I see in that NYT piece. First, since Mr. Salerno hails from a visa waiver country, why was he denied entry in the first place? That is a fundamental piece of information which the NYT does not address.

Second, you don't get sent to CPB (Customs and Border Protection) secondary interrogation without a good reason. Maybe Mr. Salerno had a criminal record that popped up, or a disease report, or maybe CPB had the wrong name and this was a case of mistaken identity. Again, the NYT story does not speak to those issues by interviewing those who detained him. CPB claims Mr. Salerno made an asylum request which, according to the NYT story, Mr. Salerno denies. Well, an asylum request would be made on tape with witnesses and requires mandatory investigation. Did the NYT reporter ask for evidence of this asylum request? The story doesn't say. Also keep in mind that if Mr. Salerno was denied entry for an embarrassing yet legitimate reason, he might be prone to say any number number of things to avoid being sent back at his own expense.. blurting out something which may have triggered the secondary investigation. Overall, an incredible number of holes in this story, yet so many are swallowing it without questioning.

And what's with Mr. Cooper trying to connect Mr. Salerno's situation with the treatment of Guatemalans, Haitians, etc.? Unlike Italy, the countries Mr. Cooper lists are not Visa Waiver Program counties. And where is the specific evidence that Guatemalans and Haitians are so "frequently" mistreated under US custody, and what does that have to do with Mr. Salerno's case? I would venture to guess that Guatemalans and those from other politically unstable countries trying to enter into the US, are far more likely to try and enter our country illegally and/or make political asylum claims as compared to say, Italians or Germans.. which explains much about why there are a disproportionate number from politically unstable countries in holding/detention.

Mr. Cooper admits that he tried to "frame" the story to the NYT reporter regarding alleged inequities in treatment between different countries which the NYT was all too willing to do without specifics. The story was fishy to begin with, and with Mr. Cooper's subsequent comments, even more so.

Timbo said...

The are abviously some details that were left out of this account. Something must have set the custom officials off like that. However, your take on the Bush administration is dead on!! There are no words to express my anger...rage...hate for this man and what he has done to this country. seem to be on a bit of an anti-American rant lately?! Perhaps I should spend a little time reviewing the harsh treatment some of the newer Easter European members of the EU are recieving from their so called "EU brothers". But then of course I am sure you will correct me on my incorrect assessment of the you always do!! ;)

Goriaïnoff said...

What do you mean anti-American? When am I ever anti-American? I am not anti-American at all, as you well know.

I am, however, very much pro Human Rights. I don't think one is a prerequisite for the other. The more in line the US gets with the rest of the world on certain issues like Human Rights, the death penalty, etc, the better for all involved.

And you are right, Western European countries do treat their Eastern neighbors harshly at times, though not always. The tolerance of the Kaczynski regime in Poland is a shame to all lovers of freedom.

Timbo said...

You are right!!