(Note to readers: Portions of this blog were originally heard as part of my commentary series on WBLF Radio in central Pennsylvania and an abbreviated version appeared on Facebook earlier this week.)
This happened a few days ago in State College, Pennsylvania. Federal, state and local troops invaded a bunch of Asian Restaurants. Big black SUVs, command posts, cop cars. They picked up boxes of… what? Evidence? Of What?
Turns out, belatedly, that all this was to catch a few illegals who had been kicked out of the country previously and then returned. The Homeland Security mouthpiece said Tuesday they were from China, Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand and Indonesia.
That was the first peep out of the feds since the raids began. Five days.
They had hauled workers into interrogation rooms.
Homeland Security took the lead. Immigration was along for the ride.
At the time of the raids, all the law enforcement came down with a case of communal lockjaw. Not a word about what was going on.
What was going on was a showcase for your tax dollars at work. It’s like they were saying “see what we can do, and we don’t have to tell you thing one.”
There’s too much secrecy. Were we talking about plans by 20-somethings from China to overthrow the government? Terrorists? Spies? Human trafficking? Illegal immigration? What!
Turns out it was about some cooks and waitresses who shouldn’t have been here in this not-a-border state.
Slap the label Homeland Security on anything and then haul out the cliches: “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.” Some of those investigations are “ongoing” for quite awhile.
The State College invasion was surprising but not unique. It’s happened at the Gibson guitar factory in Tennessee, a private house in rural New York, Flea Markets in Massachusetts, Apartment complexes in Brooklyn… on and on.
Who is targeted? Ordinary workers. Reporters, gun collectors, accountants. Accountants?
How many actual prosecutions result from all this action? Often none. How long does it take to decide not to prosecute? Often, years.
Attention constitutional scholars: remember that part about speedy trials?
Earth to homeland security, immigration and all your co-horts: This is State College, not Colombia or the Soviet Union or the bad old days of J. Edgar Hoover, the mob and the untouchables.
Of course it’s necessary to protect the country in these days of terrorism. And, yes, there are immigration laws and some of them ought to be enforced some of the time. The “some” being when there’s a law broken, for example.
But to swoop down on take-out joints like they were Osama bin Laden’s secret hideout? And then to fall silent when everyone from ordinary people to those locked up in those interrogation rooms ask for reasons?
Local officials were out of the loop entirely. Except the police. And you try to get a word from them on anything without filing -- or even WITH filing -- a Freedom of Information Act request.
How American is THAT becoming. Anything to ease our insecurity, I guess.
The reaction from outside the area was fast in coming. My friend and colleague Dan Thomas wrote on Facebook:
In 2010 Feds didn’t catch on to the fact that Times Square illegal parker Faisal Shazad traveled to Peshawar for several months, and in 2013 they didn’t find anything odd about the Tsarnaev brothers of Massachusetts even though Russia had warned U.S. officials … BUT … the Administration’s investigators were really on the ball in small town Pennsylvania rounding up illegal rice cooks. I’m glad my friend Wes Richards brought this to our attention … it’s comforting to know Uncle Sam is keeping us safe from waiters sending money back home.
Dan later added in a note that he hoped there was “something” behind all this. Well, there was. Sort of.
Like you need an army and to spend how much on something this small when such big things are happening elsewhere.
Oh… anyone know how many “s”s in Stasi?
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014