By Robert S. Kahn
During the 1980s hundreds of thousands of refugees fled civil wars and death squads in Central America, seeking safe haven in the United States. Instead, thousands found themselves incarcerated in immigration prisons- abused by their jailors and deprived of the most basic legal and human rights. Drawing on declassified government documents and interviews with prison officials, INS staff, and more than 3,000 Central American refugees, Robert S. Kahn reveals how the Department of Justice and its dependent agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, intentionally violated federal laws and regulations to deny protection to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala who were fleeing wars financed by U. S. military aid. Kahn portrays the chilling reality of daily life in immigration prisons in Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana. Behind the razor-topped prison walls, refugees were not simply denied political asylum; they were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, and sometimes tortured by prison guards. Other People's Blood traces the ten-year legal struggle by volunteer prison workers and attorneys to stop the abuse of refugees and to force the Justice Department to concede in court that its treatment of immigrants had violated U. S. laws and the Geneva Convention for over a decade. Yet the case of American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, which overturned more judicial decisions than any other case in U. S. history, is still virtually unknown in the United States, and today the debate over illegal immigration is being carried on with little awareness of the government policies that contributed so shamefully to this country's immigration problems.
- Boulder, CO