The travesty imposed upon Ansly Damus by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s two-year lockup in the Geauga County Jail received ample news coverage regionally. But the major piece by Noah Lanard in the current issue of Mother Jones magazine took the story to another level.
The magazine’s 72-point headline is apropos: “Get in Line. Follow the Rules. Go to Jail.”
It’s a message that the natterers of “fake news” won’t read and don’t care to hear. Mother Jones, after all, earns its leftist reputation with such investigatory reports as Facebook tearing democracy apart, secret operations of private prisons and addiction-treatment profiteers.
Mr. Damus, a teacher of math, physics and ethics, fled his native Haiti after he was beaten by a gang for criticizing a corrupt politician. He further risked his life on a hazardous trek from Brazil across Central America to the legal port of entry at Calexico, California. He had no criminal past, transported no drugs and did not illegally sneak across the border.
Instead of being temporarily released during consideration of his request for asylum in the traditional American treatment of such law-abiding migrants, Mr. Damus was transported more than 2,000 miles away to Northeast Ohio. Snubbing the Statue of Liberty’s welcome to those “yearning to breathe free,” the U.S. government had him locked up in a windowless chamber at the Geauga County Jail.
As an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee, he was denied any contact with his wife or children, he could not receive any books or meet face to face with visitors, and he had no access to outdoor recreation. Even after Immigration Judge Alison M. Brow in Cleveland granted Mr. Damus asylum status twice, appeals by ICE kept him in jail. Finally, this past November, ICE was compelled by a class-action suit to abide by its own guidelines for his release.
We, the American taxpayers, are being billed about $70 a day for each of some 17,500 migrants being similarly held in more than 170 county and municipal jails across the country. That’s $447 million per year for the big spenders at ICE. If the federal government were to spend our money more wisely, it would be enough to hire nearly 9,000 more U.S. Border Patrol agents to stop actual criminals from illegally entering our country.
Upon his release, thanks to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Damus declared that he was “happy to be free and to be able to see the sky and go to church to thank God.” The ability to go to church and thank God is one of those leftist ideals that the ACLU regularly defends. Yes, religion is one of those freedoms that supposedly are guaranteed in the categorically and historically liberal First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
While the ACLU seldom takes on individual cases such as Mr. Damus’, it has a history of doing so locally. Just ask the Chardon school officials who ran up against the defenders of liberty in 2003, when they attempted to force then-high school junior Bill Noyes to remove or conceal the message on his sweatshirt that read, “Abortion is Homicide.” Or ask the Friends of the Solon Library, which encountered the ACLU in 1998, when it rejected the Consolo family’s message, “The source of wisdom is God,” from a brick fundraising project at the new library.
Mr. Damus can thank God and the ACLU for liberty and justice, at least for now. But those who would tear down the Statue of Liberty and rip apart the Bill of Rights are lurking on the dark side of their wall.
Mr. Lange is the retired editor of the Chagrin Valley Times.