Steven Waldman

Though largely about the disturbing way much of our food is produced, the most haunting scene for me in the movie Food, Inc. shows how meat processing and poultry plants recruit illegal immigrants — and then work with law enforcement to insure that the immigrants get arrested and deported at a nice liesurely pace so as to not disrupt the assembly lines.
I thought of that today when reading The New York Times’ excellent piece about an immigrant in New York, who lived not too far away from me in Brooklyn.

Tanveer Ahmad, it turns out, was a longtime New York City cabdriver who had paid thousands of dollars in taxes and immigration application fees…. His only trouble with the law was a $200 fine for disorderly conduct in 1997: While working at a Houston gas station, he had displayed the business’s unlicensed gun to stop a robbery….
When immigration agents burst into Mr. Ahmad’s two-room Flatbush apartment on Aug. 2, 2005, they were looking for someone else, his friends say — a roommate suspected of violating his student visa by working. But they ordered Mr. Ahmad to report to immigration headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 11.
He went, and was delivered in shackles to the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold, N.J. His Texas misdemeanor had popped up in the computer as an offense involving a deadly weapon — reason enough, after 9/11, for authorities to detain him pending deportation proceedings.

At this point, he gave up on being in America and requested deportation back to Pakistan, to rejoin his wife and kids. But before that could happen, he died of a heart attack in captivity.

According to the jail’s internal investigation, Mr. Ahmad walked into the medical unit shortly after 3:50 p.m. on Sept. 9 and “was seen immediately.” But the letter scrawled by a fellow inmate contended that before he showed up there, Mr. Ahmad’s pleas for treatment had been rebuffed by a guard for an hour.

I’m not defending illegality but we should remember that many of the illegal acts committed by immigrants are minor or encouraged by American employers.

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