Friday, April 23, 2010


No, not the school kind! This quarter I'm lucky enough to do a research project with Professor Ev Meade in the history department and a great group of undergrads on human rights issues. The group is split up into 3 tracks: immigration and detention policies, immigration and reproductive rights, and finally, the death penalty. My interest is in the first of these tracks, and each week I'm given an assignment to research a few specific cases and particularly their press coverage (local, domestic, international).

It's all very new to me - the methods of conducting newspaper archival research, using new tools and new programs, and realllyyy learning a lot that I had just never touched before.

This week, I was assigned to find newspaper coverage of two related cases: Kim Ho Ma and Kestius Zadvydas. Ma and Zadvydas were connected by a Supreme Court ruling in 2001 regarding INS detainees commonly referred to as "Lifers." Some 4,000 immigrants fell into this category by 2001 - they are stateless; ordered for deportation from the States, BUT their countries of origin refused to accept them. (Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Lithuania are the most common national groups represented by the Lifers).

Ma's mother escaped from the killing fields of Khmer Rouge, while 8 months pregnant, first through the minefields of Cambodia, then tot the Philippines and finally to the States. She settled in Seattle and filed for asylum. But 20 years later her son became heavily involved in gang violence and was then sentenced for deportation. The 2001 Supreme Court ruling was in favor of Ma and similar cases like Zadvydas: decreeing that the government could NOT hold deportees indefinitely just because their countries wouldn't take them.

In response, Ashcroft and Bush leaned on Cambodia (by threatening to withdraw all visa privileges for Cambodian diplomats to the States) to accept Ma. He was deported in 2003.

Well anyways that's the gist of the story. I don't know exactly where it's all going (the larger research project), but it's pretty interesting to hear about all the different kinds of stories woven into immigration law.

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