Patterico's Pontifications

6/6/2005

The L.A. Times and the Golden Rule

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Immigration — Patterico @ 9:01 pm



The L.A. Times has an editorial this morning titled The Law and the Golden Rule, which argues that Mexican nationals on Death Row in the U.S. should have their sentences commuted if they were not informed of their right to consult with the Mexican consulate before trial. The editorial obfuscates the facts in classic L.A. Times style.

The editorial posits this nightmare scenario:

Imagine being arrested in a foreign country where you are unfamiliar with the language, the culture, the legal system or your rights, and never being allowed to contact a U.S. Consulate for help. That’s a nightmare that Americans overseas could face if the United States continues to be lax in respecting the rights of foreign nationals arrested in this country.

The problem with this opening paragraph is that the editorial is based on the case of Jose Medellin, whose situation doesn’t even remotely resemble that described. Let’s rewrite that opening paragraph to make it correspond with Medellin’s case:

Imagine being arrested in a foreign country where you have lived as an illegal immigrant since you were six years old — meaning you are completely familiar with the country’s language and culture. Now imagine that you are sentenced to death in that country for joining fellow gang members in the raping and killing of two young girls, aged 14 and 16.

Imagine further that, despite having been born in the U.S., you are never told of your right to contact a U.S. Consulate for help. But imagine this as well: consulting with the consulate wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to your case, because witnesses also testified at your trial that you “bragged about the assault and described using a shoelace to strangle one of the girls because [you] didn’t have a gun” and that you “put [your] foot on her throat because she would not die.”

Puts the whole “Golden Rule” in a different light, doesn’t it? In fact, the Golden Rule suggests that we are not “doing unto” Jose Medellin half of what he “did unto” those poor girls.

The editors falsely imply that the Jose Medellins of this world were “never . . . allowed” to contact their consulates — as if they had demanded to meet with someone from their embassy and were denied that right. But that was not Medellin’s claim; indeed, that is almost never the claim. In almost all cases that claim a violation of the Vienna Convention, convicted criminals complain that they weren’t told of their right to contact their consulate — not that they demanded that right, only to have it denied.

In many cases, it is completely understandable that police did not notify suspects of their consular rights — because the police often don’t even know that the suspect is a foreign national. Why do you figure so many Mexicans on Death Row weren’t given their consular rights? Often, it’s because the police had no idea that they were Mexican citizens.

That doesn’t matter. Technically, if the suspect is a foreign national, and the authorities don’t tell the suspect of his right to contact the consulate, the Convention has been violated — period.

To comply with the Convention, then, police must ask all criminal suspects whether they are foreign citizens — because you never can tell. Yet the editors of the Los Angeles Times want to carefully circumscribe the ability of police to do just that. They recently warned readers:

Beware of local cops playing federal immigration officers. That’s generally a lose-lose proposition, diminishing the ability of mistrusted police to fight crime in immigrant communities while subjecting Latinos, including American citizens, to a new type of ethnic profiling, a blanket “reasonable suspicion” for cops to stop foreign-looking individuals to ask to see their papers.

As a result, the editors called for strict limitations on police officers’ ability to inquire about a suspect’s citizenship. They argued that Police Chief Bratton “must strive to limit the practice of immigration inquiries and subject it to a battery of checks and balances” — including an approval by supervisors before a police officer can even undertake the initial inquiry.

If LAPD were foolish enough to adopt such strict limitations, some suspects would not be asked about their citizenship — and illegal immigrants are often reluctant to volunteer such information. And guess what? Even fewer Mexican citizens would be notified of their consular rights.

You can’t have it both ways, L.A. Times. You can’t make it hard for police to ask whether people are Mexican nationals, and then punish law enforcement because they failed to do that.

That is, if you care about being consistent.

2 Responses to “The L.A. Times and the Golden Rule”

  1. The LA Times mentions the awful prospect of being arrested abroad without any access to counsel, and so on. This experience is all too familiar to American visitors to Mexico who have been arrested by corrupt police extortionists. This has been the subject of many news reports, and is inevitably quite familiar to Times reporters.

    dchamil (e3140f)

  2. […] on the Times’ unique take on the Kerry records release as well as Patterico’s detailed analysis of a recent Times’ editorial.

    […]

    Independent Sources » Blog Archive » LAT’s Steve Lopez and His White Whale Named Arnold (4f7430)


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