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"Operation Return to Sender"

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Message Jayne Stahl
In South Florida, not far from where Rep. Foley sent those notorious e-mails, a 30 year old Ukranian woman, Bella Maryanovsky, was arrested, two weeks ago, when she showed up at a local immigration office to update her green card papers. Ms. Maryanovsky, a legal alien resident of Florida, is scheduled to be transferred soon to Krome Detention Center, outside Miami, and possibly deported back to her native Ukraine. Her arrest comes under a new immigration program called "Operation Return to Sender," and in the wake of new legislation passed, last week, by the Bush administration all but suspending habeas corpus for "enemy combatants. The fact that this administration is using a pernicious new program to revoke the right to due process of those on our shores legally is egregious, and egregiously ignored by our legislators and media.

As first reported by "the Raw Story," In a press release recently, Homeland Defense Secretary Michael Chertoff described "Operation Return to Sender" as a "tough interior enforcement strategy that seeks to catch and deport criminal aliens, increase worksite enforcement, and crack down hard on the criminal infrastructure that perpetuates illegal immigration." Chertoff further contends that the "fugitives captured in this operation threatened public safety in hundreds of neighborhoods and communities around the country." Notably, Bella Maryanovsky currently works as a recruiter placing engineers in positions nationwide with salaries averaging $150,000.

To suggest that an executive recruiter poses a threat to "public safety" is ludicrous. Equally absurd, and menacing to public safety in the largest possible sense, is news that the Ukranian woman has yet to be told the charges for which she is being held, not given notice that she was expected to appear before the Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers, nor told that she was subject to arrest and detention under this new "Return to Sender" program. Had Bella Maryanovosky not gone to her local immigration office for a routine green card update, it's entirely possible that she wouldn't be facing imminent detention in a holding cell outside Miami.

It appears that the most likely cause for flagging her file is that, back in 1989, Maryanovsky was convicted of a crime which was then not punishable by deportation. Laws passed in the 1990's that have been applied retroactively make her crime a deportable offense, according to Michael Keegan, a spokesman for the I.C.E. in Washington, D.C. However, immigration expert, and attorney, Mark Levey, argues that "she is nonetheless eligible for bond and for relief from removal based on her good character." ("Raw Story") We understand that the concept of "good character" is one that increasingly becomes more and more alien to members of the current administration, but when he was asked why she is only being arrested, detained, and on her way to being deported now, two decades later, I.C.E. spokesman Keegan responded by boasting about how much more effective I.C.E. is than its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Indeed, and the Gestapo would be even more efficient.

Many of us were appalled, last week, by Congress' passage of new laws dealing with torture, treatment of detainees, and the implied suspension of habeas corpus. Forget "enemy combatants" being deprived of due process, according to Gino Sedikov, Maryanovsky's attorney, thousands of immigrants now currently sit in jails and detention centers, throughout the United States, with no hope for a review of the charges that brought them there.

Larisa Alexandrovna, managing news editor of "Raw Story," who is personally acquained with Ms. Maryanovsky, and her case, thinks it strange that in South Florida "where immigration targets are usually Cuban, South American, and Haitian" that a Ukranian Jew would be "arrested, held without charge, and her file goes missing," but she also finds it "odd that thousands of people are being swept up in these raids, we don't know their actual citizenship status, they are disappeared and held in detention facilities, and no one notices." Arguably, it's even stranger that the mainstream press, and media, in this country have paid little, or no attention at all to Bella Maryanovsky's story, and that of the many thousands who are currently being held without charge, and without legal recourse, as well as deported.

We must not stand by and watch the wanton, and arbitrary suspension of due process in our own backyards, and members of our community, many of whom are legal aliens, have their constitutional rights suspended. This is not about "enemy combatants" anymore, it is about anyone this administration opts to target in its "Operation Return to Sender." One can say something glib here like "let's return to sender, in November, all those who have compromised our national security in the name of protecting it, but sad to say, it may take more than one or two elections, more like one or two generations, to reverse the damage this administration's toxic legislation has done to our international credibility, and our moral fabric.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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