Friday, April 15, 2005

The Guinean Girl's Mother Speaks Out

Today's Friday edition of The New York Times contains an interview with the mother of A. - the 16-year-old Guinean girl - "Mother Defends Girl Swept Up in an Immigration Raid, Amid Terror Claims" written by Nina Bernstein (her fourth article concerning this story in the last week):

"She's a good girl, she's a family girl," her mother, 38, said, speaking in Fula through a translator on Wednesday evening as she struggled to serve customers and tend to her 6-month-old son."

This article seems to be at odds with the Reuters article written two days ago: "Muslims Keep Eye on Case of Detained NY Girls." Wednesday's article quoted two officials who went on the record:

There's below on direct link

""We're detaining them on immigration violations, and that is it," said ICE spokesman Manny Van Pelt."

"The girls do not face criminal charges, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in New York. "It's an immigration case. It's not a case that we're prosecuting, and to my knowledge it's not with any prosecutor's office at this point," Nardoza said. "It's strictly an immigration matter.""

Although the Reuters article referred to The New York Times, the Times completely ignores the former and contains no new quotes from officials on or off the record and refers again to the government document which they claim to have been shown by someone in the government. The Reuters article which had been published with no byline even seemed to discredit the Times account by stating that "initially the charges seemed dire."

There may be a legitimate reason for this, but - for now - I'll just excerpt the new news that appears in the Times article:

""She was 18 months old when she came to America, and she was here, too, during 9/11," said Natasha Pierre, who was hired by Guinean immigrants two weeks after the girl's arrest to represent her. "She's just as concerned and scared of terrorists as the rest of us are.""

"Of her parents, who have been here for 15 years, Ms. Pierre added, "These are just hard-working, simple immigrants who are trying to make it in this country." Even their immigration troubles could be resolved, she maintained. Though neither the lawyer nor officials gave details, the Guinean girl's mother said that the father had been granted political asylum and that he might have missed an appointment as he was awaiting his green card. An immigration official acknowledged that if he had inadvertently missed an appointment, his case would have been closed as abandoned, and a deportation order eventually issued."

"Representative Charles B. Rangel, a Democrat whose district includes Harlem, is demanding more information about the girl's case from Michael J. Garcia, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement, within the Department of Homeland Security. "No evidence has been given to justify her removal from the community," Mr. Rangel wrote in a letter to Mr. Garcia this week."

"But the Bangladeshi girl was allowed to see her mother only twice for less than 20 minutes, Mr. Mattes said. He said the girl told him that three F.B.I. agents had questioned her repeatedly for as long as two and a half hours at a time in the first week of her detention, insisting that an essay they had found among her school papers showed that she must be depressed, because it discussed suicide, and that she would be to blame if her family were deported."

"Her bond hearing is May 11."

"The Guinean girl's mother said that except for a brief telephone call soon after the arrest, she has not heard from her daughter. With her English limited to "May I help you?" and the sales vocabulary of color, size and price, she said she did not even understand the men who identified themselves as "police" when they banged on the apartment door. "I had just finished breast-feeding the baby," she said. "They sat down and waited for my husband."

"When he returned from morning prayers at the East 96th Street Mosque, she said, the agents handcuffed him and then her daughter, too. The last time she saw her, the mother said, her daughter was being led away in tears."

There's some more information about the detention center where the girls are being held in The New York Times article, including references to newspaper articles and an Amnesty International report which "criticized the conditions as too punitive for young asylum-seekers who entered the United States without parents."

Hopefully, there's an explanation for the difference in the two articles written two days apart, and we'll try to find out more about this later today.

No comments: