Bravo!

Ben Williams

Ben Williams!

from today’s Martinsville Bulletin:

Frustration dealing with feds
Thursday, June 5, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS – Bulletin Staff Writer

Franz Kafka’s novel “The Trial” tells the tale of Josef K., a man arrested by two agents of a mysterious, inaccessible government agency.

The crime that K. committed never is revealed to either K. or the reader. He is a man at the mercy of a vast, inexplicable bureaucracy.

The term “Kafkaesque” has come to describe situations reminiscent of Kafka novels, often involving someone trapped in a disorienting bureaucratic maze.

Enrique Manriquez likely would feel a certain kinship with Josef K. The more I have tried to learn about the charges against Manriquez, the more Kafkaesque his situation has become.

Kafka the TrialFor two weeks, I have tried to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that dispatched two agents to arrest Manriquez on May 21 as he watered the flowers he and his sons had planted at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsville.

Manriquez’ younger son, Eduardo, was told by the agents that he could track his father through the ICE detainee database, located at http://www.ice.gov. He entered in his father’s name, country of origin and birth date, but to no avail. Eduardo couldn’t find his father in the system.

I also was unable to find Manriquez in the database. I’ve entered his name countless times in the last two weeks, and as of Wednesday, he had yet to be listed.

According to Father Mark White, pastor of St. Joseph, Manriquez was taken to Roanoke City Jail after his arrest, then transferred a few days later to an immigration detention facility in Farmville. White said Manriquez was told he soon would be deported to Mexico, his birth country.

Jim McGarry, an attorney and friend of the Manriquez family, said that Manriquez was arrested because of a deportation order from 1990 that “either was not complied with or was not fully complied with.”

However, McGarry said, he has yet to see any of the official documentation outlining the charges against Manriquez.

I called ICE on several of the phone numbers listed on its website. I had just one question to ask: what charges, exactly, have been issued against Enrique Manriquez?

I have yet to ask this question because I have yet to speak with a human being at ICE. I have instead been met with byzantine, looping phone menus.

The direct media contact phone number for ICE returns a busy signal, more often than not. When I’ve been able to leave voicemails, my messages have not been returned.

Many of the phone menu options on the ICE hotline do not even seem to work. After listening to menu options for five minutes, I pressed six for media inquiries, only to have a recorded voice tell me that no such extension existed.

Last week, desperate to talk to a human being, I pressed the menu option for the spell-by-name directory. I punched in the name “Smith,” assuming ICE employed at least one Smith. Mr. Smith has yet to respond to my voicemail.

A large portion of my job involves calling people. I’ve waded through many a phone menu, and I’m familiar with shortcuts to connect directly to a live speaker. I call congressmen and senators frequently, and I can almost always get them or their spokesmen on the phone.

Yet two weeks of phone calls and emails to one government agency resulted in nothing more than two weeks of wasted effort.

If I — a native English speaker whose job is talking to people — cannot reach a human being at ICE, what hope does the family of an immigrant possibly have?

There is a popular conception — I would argue a popular misconception — that undocumented immigrants do not contribute to society. Yet Enrique Manriquez, whatever his citizenship status, seems like a man who is defined by his contributions.

Manriquez worked hard to support his family, helping pay for his oldest son’s college education. He started an AA group for Spanish speakers at his church. He and his wife cooked tamales for church fundraisers.

One man has been detained, but his four family members — all of them U.S. citizens — are suffering, too. Their futures now are filled with as much uncertainty as Manriquez’ own.

Because I do not know the exact charges against Manriquez I cannot say whether or not he broke the law. If he did, that offense occurred nearly 25 years ago.

Since then, Manriquez has worked hard, raised a family, contributed to his church and helped out in his community in a multitude of ways.

What could be more American?

Click HERE for hot-link.

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