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Law > News Hits

Over the line

Students charge that border guards harrassed them for their political views

 

Published 8/18/2010

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Remember back in June, when 15,000 or so radical leftists descended on Detroit to raise all sorts of hell, smashing windows and looting stores and setting fires to cars as they attempted to overthrow the capitalist system as we know it?

Of course, you don't remember that, because it never happened.

But you wouldn't know that judging from the way our nation's border guards treated three college students who journeyed from New York to attend the U.S. Social Forum that was held here. It was an entirely peaceful event that, although it did attract 15,000 lefties, produced nothing more threatening than several entirely legal mass marches.

But for the trio of students, who joined a busload of others for a what was intended to be a short excursion over to Windsor, the fact they happened to be wearing the orange wristbands forum attendees were given proved to be an unexpected lesson in wrong-headed authoritarianism.

Seems our border guards need to learn that they have to protect our constitutional rights as well as keep us safe from terrorism. Otherwise, the terrorists really do win.

Last week the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union and the state chapter of the National Lawyers Guild sent a formal complaint regarding the incident to the Detroit office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

The three students, all women attending St. John's University in New York, were harassed and intimidated based on "the unfair perception that their political views and associations may have been outside the mainstream," according to the letter. "The First Amendment was intended to prevent the government from engaging in this type of scrutiny of the perceived political beliefs and associations of citizens."

Each of the women reported being subjected to "aggressive, repetitive, hostile and unnecessary interrogation and delay because of their attendance at the Social Forum."

One of the three, Christina Santiago, tells News Hits that she and her companions are graduate students in sociology and attended the event with a professor as part of an internship.

"It's ironic," she says. "We went to the Social Forum to learn about social issues, and ways to help all people be treated fairly, and then this happens. It was very distressing. We were returning to our own country, and were made to feel not welcome at all here. After it was over, we went back to our hotel rooms, shocked."

Michigan ACLU President Kary Moss and Michigan NLG President John Royal asked in their letter that the incident be thoroughly investigated and "corrective action be taken to prevent similar misconduct in the future."

As of press time News Hits was still waiting for a response from the government. We're just hoping that response doesn't involve them bursting into the MT's world headquarters and ransacking our offices. Given our contemplated format change, you never know what they might find.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.

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