News and views from the award-winning author of the Class H Trilogy: AMERICA LIBRE, HOUSE DIVIDED and PANCHO LAND

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sexual abuse by U.S. immigration officials rising

Over the last three years, a number of U.S. immigration officials have been charged with using their power to abuse women, according to a March 21 New York Times article. In the most recent case, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicator from Garden City, New York demanded sexual favors from the 22-year-old Columbian wife of a U.S. citizen applying for her green card. Isaac R. Baichu, a naturalized citizen from Guyana, was arrested and plead not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges after the woman recorded his demands on a cell phone in her purse. Baichu was suspended with pay by the USCIS pending the outcome of his trial.

In a disturbing pattern, immigration officials in California, Florida, Georgia and Maryland have also been charged with similar crimes since 2005, according to the New York Times. This raises a troubling question. If this many women have come forward after being coerced by immigration officials, how many more have suffered in silence? The sad irony of these cases is that many of the women involved have likely come to this country fleeing corruption and abuse only to find the same type of coercion in this land of freedom and equal rights.

At a time when our nation is experiencing the greatest influx of immigrants since the Ellis Island era, this abuse is perhaps not surprising. That, however, is no reason to tolerate it. Abetting the corruption is the immigration service’s legendary inefficiency. These sexual predators thrive in a USCIS jungle of red tape. The time has come for our elected representatives in Congress and the White House to clean up the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is a national disgrace.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez