Send the Children Home

Multi-cultural New York City, through governmental and non-profit immigrant service agencies, is working to find shelter and other needed resources for the tide of unaccompanied children pouring over the southwest border of the U.S. from Central America. Since last October, according to the N.Y. Times, federal officials have sent 3,200 of these minors into New York State alone. One potential source of housing for them is a former convent in Syracuse.

Some attribute the influx of these hapless children to immigration policies that are more lenient to children than to adults. The Obama Administration blames the poor state of the economies of Central America. As for what is to be done now, some say turn the kids back immediately, others say they should be allowed to stay.

For myself, I am going with the opinion of my friend Milly, who has a life history of being pro-immigrant. A U.S. citizen since birth, she has done social work in Mexico, worked with immigrants arriving on these shores, and now teaches English to newcomers from all nations in New York City. She insists that the children must be sent back to their homes immediately. She has seen first-hand the horrors – robbery, rape and murder as well as exposure to the elements – that such children face on their journey from Honduras to the southwest border. Milly insists that any such travel must be blocked and discouraged. Certainly, it should not be rewarded.

I am left with two questions: First, did NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, deliver as promised? It seems not to have engendered the “certain” boost to the Mexican economy that would keep its people thriving at home. In the U.S., even factoring in automation, it deprived U.S. workers without college degrees of needed work, forcing them on social support at taxpayer expense. It was good for shareholders and intellectual property rights. It also dealt a big blow to unions. Learn about other outcomes here and see one of NAFTA’s proponents make a case for her work here.

Second question: How fast can we de-criminalize drug use and regulate and tax the sales of substances from marijuana to heroin? You can bet the drug lords of Mexico and the gangs they sub-contract to don’t want this to happen. Neither do those who live off the tax-funded U.S. prison system, which is supported by drug convictions and is, statistically speaking, the destination of many of today’s scarred and unaccompanied immigrant children.

Federal Decision Lends Hope to The Ramarley Graham Case

Police officer Richard Haste, who gunned down unarmed Ramarley Graham by his grandmother’s toilet in the Bronx nearly two years ago, may yet be indicted. U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel cleared the federal civil suit against him to proceed. Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the New York Police Department are also named as defendants.

On Feb. 2, 2012, Haste and his partner pursued Martin from the street because they thought he was acting suspiciously. Without calling for back-up, the officers charged after him and onto private property without a search warrant. When the three stood before the toilet, Haste’s partner called out that the kid has a gun, so the Haste shot him down. Oops! Look, in fairness the police were onto something — frightened Graham was  flushing away marijuana when he died– maybe a plastic bag in his shaking hand gleamed like a gun.

This case deserves far more media attention than it has received, particularly by the major print media. However, the fact that this horrific incident has been so under-reported makes it more likely that many in New York have no opinion about the incident and could sit on a jury. The death of this young man is as worthy of nation attention and prolonged discussion as the Trayvon Martin case in Florida in which a black youth was killed by a neighborhood watch coordinator. [Enter “Ramarley Graham” on this blog’s search box to find two previous presentinthecity posts on the death]

A brief history of the policeman’s days in court thus far: Officer Haste pled not guilty to first and second degree manslaughter charges in June, 2012. In May 2013, the case was dismissed on a technicality when State Supreme Court Judge Steven Barrett ruled that the prosecution had not given proper instructions to a grand jury. Last August, a second grand jury decided not to indict, which led Graham’s family to ask the federal government to intervene. In a pending review, the U.S. Attorney’s office is considering whether Graham’s civil rights were violated.

As Jeff Mays of DNA Info reports in detail, Paulet Minzie, the owner of the building where Graham lived, has also filed suit against the police. She alleges that Haste and other officers terrorized and humiliated her and her family members when they banged on her door to gain admittance. Minzie says that she jumped out of the shower and grabbed a towel when she heard the pounding on her door. In the terror of the moment she says  she exposed herself to the officers and in fear urinated on herself.

In a full story on the latest developments, Khouri A. Atkinson of The Amsterdam News reports that Judge Castel asked the parties to consider whether they want the case decided by a mediator. They have until Jan. 14 to decide. The next court hearing for both lawsuits—filed by Graham’s family and Minzie—is Aug. 1.

I hope there will be a full trial with a detailed record. I want to know how Haste and his partner were trained — how did they come to be on our streets with loaded weapons making judgement calls? It is proper that Kelly is a defendant, because police are unlikely to be better, or even worse, than police policies.

I want to know Haste’s background — was he born and raised in New York City or is he a suburbanite come here to give multi-cultured city people what for? Am I far off the mark when the suburbanite police force, roaming this city where they can’t afford to live, make me think of Hessian soldiers hired by the British around 1776 to subdue unruly colonists? I honor the fact that the police are first responders — even though former Mayor Bloomberg did tell an audience at MIT that the police were his own army. Let us hope that the federal courts will help us sort this out.

Let There Be Peace on Earth — Decriminalize Pot Now

White people of all ages have long been able to use marijuana legally, at least if they were careful. Outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg regrets that he quipped that he had enjoyed pot, yet his frank flippancy did offer a beacon of truth about enforcement of anti-drug laws. White people, even before they become billionaires, usually get off fairly easily for drug use, if they are detained at all. Cases in point are celebrities and their offspring. Google Lindsay Lohan and Cameron Douglas, who got into serious trouble only after their flouting of laws became too egregious and too well documented to ignore.

If Ramarley Graham, whom police shot dead by his grandmother’s toilet early in 2012, had been Bloomberg’s white child, he would have known he had little to fear from New York City police, who probably would not have charged into his dwelling without a warrant and slaughtered him because, once they found themselves inside the house, they decided he was armed. Turns out, the reason the 18-year old fled was because he did have a small amount of marijuana, but no gun. In a note worthy of a Dickens novel, the officer who shot him was named Haste.  A Bronx grand jury declined to bring charges again the officers.

In this Yuletide season, there come a ray of hope that this will be less likely to happen in future. State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) has introduced legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana under state law along lines similar to the state’s current system regulating alcohol. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared her move a “non-starter”  but many legislators are working to see it pass. The fact that this is politically risky is clear enough to cut through any smoky haze, as is the fact that the war on drugs has been as constructive as the one Vietnam. Among the benefits of decriminalization are these: it would keep youth out of prison crime schools (this admittedly would not help upstate communities that depend upon prisoners from downstate); it would spare the lives of police who can be injured or slain in drug busts; it would preserve the characters of those corrupted by drug lords; and it would help taxpayers, if the $1.7 billion New York City pot industry were taxed. Recognizing the disaster of the drug war,  Uruguay just took a innovative step. Alarmed that drug-related murders accounted for a third of total homicides in 2012, its legislators passed a bill to legalize marijuana and put its production and sale under government control and President Jose Mujica will sign it, a brave move since two-thirds of Uruguayans say they oppose it.

Organized crime around the globe is surely hiring lobbyists to fight Kruger’s bill right now.