from the every-deportation-justifies-the-lie dept
We're used to our government's security and intelligence agencies telling lies in order to justify their actions. The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has achieved a sort of infamy for his "least untruthful answer" in response to questioning. (Not that this infamy has cost him his job…) Others have performed linguistic aerobics ("not under this program," "relevant to…") to stretch the truth just enough to give their activities a thin veneer of legitimacy.
The DHS does it, too. However, when it lies, it goes big, and it plays a long, long con.
For more than two decades, Sigifredo Saldana Iracheta insisted he was a U.S. citizen, repeatedly explaining to immigration officials that he was born to an American father and a Mexican mother in a city just south of the Texas border.NPR calls it an "error." Jeff Gamso, public defender and former criminal defense lawyer, calls it something else.
Year after year, the federal government rejected his claims, deporting him at least four times and at one point detaining him for nearly two years as he sought permission to join his wife and three children in South Texas.
In rejecting Saldana's bid for citizenship, the government sought to apply an old law that cited Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution, which supposedly dealt with legitimizing out-of-wedlock births. But there was a problem: The Mexican Constitution has no such article.
Our government's been lying to the courts about this since at least 1978 when the Immigration and Naturalization Service first invented Article 314 of the Mexican Constitution as a convenient way to deny citizenship to and thus deport American citizens.The opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals isn't as generous as NPR, either.
DHS officers and the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) within DHS have relied on provisions of the Mexican Constitution that either never existed or do not say what DHS claims they say.The DHS, however, was very generous towards its previously uninterrupted 35-year exploitation of a non-existent constitutional article.
Saldana's case was finally resolved earlier this month, when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government's explanation of a "typo" and ruled that he had been a citizen since birth.A "typo." That sounds familiar. The NSA used the same excuse for its collection of tons of domestic data when it claimed analysts accidentally entered US area codes rather than codes tied to foreign countries. It was a "typo," and the DHS never bothered to correct it for 35 years and then only because it was called out by a federal court.
And this isn't the only lie/error in the DHS' case. It also pointed to another article of the Mexican Constitution to deny Saldana's claims of citizenship -- Article 130. Fortunately, for the DHS, this article actually exists. Unfortunately for its hopes of barring Saldana from the country for the fifth time, what it says isn't anywhere near what is claimed.
The AAO also cited Article 130 of the Constitution of Mexico for the same proposition that the Constitution requires that parents be married in order for children to be legitimated. However, Article 130 provides only that marriage is a civil contract, as opposed to a religious one, and says nothing about legitimation or children.Why would the government repeatedly lie in order to prosecute and deport legal US citizens? Gamso answers this question very succinctly.
Because it can.It got away with this one for 35 years. Why should it stop? Three-and-a-half decades of reliance on a wholly fabricated article of a constitution it (correctly) assumed no one would actually bother looking up. In retrospect, it seems audacious. But the reality of the situation is that the government got away with a lie for more than three decades and that fact alone is enough to encourage it to deploy useful lies in any situation where it thinks misstating the facts will give it an edge or help it achieve its aims.