Rule of law must be applied to immigrants

Apparently, decisions made by our country’s appeals courts are no match for the intellect and supreme judgment of Attorney General John Ashcroft. On Wednesday, Ashcroft ordered the deportation of a Haitian woman who pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in 1995, overturning a 1999 Board of Immigration Appeals ruling that determined her deportation would be detrimental to her husband and five children.

Since Sept. 11, all immigrants and foreign students living in the United States have had reason to fear the Bush administration’s decisions, and this is yet another example. The frenzied fear of all things foreign has pervaded our national consciousness this year in ways reminiscent of post-WWI anti-immigrant fiascoes such as Sacco and Vanzetti. If we have learned anything from our past, such moves by Ashcroft should be abhorred by society.

Incontestably, recent events have proven the United States needs to be more aware of who is in our country and what they are doing. However, this awareness should not translate into the deportation of any immigrant convicted of a crime, and it does not give Ashcroft the justification to override decisions made by trusted and established courts. These courts have power so appointed officials such as Ashcroft cannot inflict injustices on members of our society.

The balance of power in our country’s judicial system needs to be kept intact, not despite of recent events, but rather because of them. Allowing Ashcroft to unreservedly make such moves gives him unchecked power over immigrants and foreign students. He has repeatedly proven himself unworthy of having this power through humiliating debacles such as the inept and soon-to-be-dismantled Immigration and Naturalization Service and his multiple attempts at circumventing the Constitution.

This case is particularly disturbing in light of its age; the ruling was made three years ago, and the crime was committed nearly five years ago. This sets a precedent of no statute of limitations on immigrants’ wrongdoing. Past transgressions, even those for which retribution to society has been made, can be dragged up at any time. Many immigrants came to the United States to flee just this sort of persecution. We cannot allow Ashcroft to recreate in the United States a system as skewed and unjust as that which they have fled.

The unity and government support of the post-Sept. 11 United States has been honorable, but this support cannot be blind. If we are to remain the land of the free and the haven for the oppressed we claim to be, this decision must be met with outrage. John Ashcroft has endeavored many times since Sept. 11 to capitalize on the war on terror and nationalistic sentiments to ignore existing laws and overstep his power. But if these rights violations against immigrants and other foreigners in our country are allowed to continue, there is no telling how Ashcroft will next abuse his power.