I hope you will excuse a departure from my BI-focused blogs to a more personal one, but on this Thanksgiving eve, I find myself thinking more about freedom and how fragile it is right now. If you are one of the many foreign-born BI product managers, software developers, or BI specialists I have met over the years, then you will want to read this story.
Paul Clements, or Clem as we call him, is a 58 year-old British citizen, as is my husband. His wife of 36 years Robin is American. I credit her with the photo on this website. Their 16-year-old daughter Mackenzie babysits my children while I write these BI articles and blogs.
Clem and his family have lived in the U.S. for nearly 40 years. As a green card holder, he works legally and pays his taxes. Clem, like most of us, is not perfect. Seven years ago he was charged for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, less than .8 grams, a single joint. Seven years ago he was punished for his crime and had his driver’s license suspended. If you are a regular blog reader, you know that I am conservative. So while possession of marijuana is a felony offense, I keep thinking that our country has at times contemplated legalizing it. I’d also suggest it is somewhat an occupational hazard in the music industry in which Clem worked, having been on the road with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. But still, this incident labels Clem as a felon according to Customs.
Since his 2002 arrest, Clem has been a law-abiding resident. He cheers at his daughter’s swim meets and has put his two sons through college. He is active in his small town of Sparta, NJ, playing every Sunday for the Sparta men’s soccer team. As a production manager, we can thank him for the acoustics, lights, and video at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows block party launch in New York last summer, along with numerous NY city fashion shows and events at Radio City Music Hall.
Where Clem went wrong and why he will not be with his family this Thanksgiving is because he recently traveled abroad for work. And while he has routinely visited his family in England over the years, those visits were before ICE adopted a zero tolerance for past transgressions. Those visits were before ICE faced increased pressure to crack down on all immigrants, whether legal or illegal. Upon his return to the U.S., Clem was interrogated at customs. He was initially allowed to re-enter the U.S. but ordered to report later for a hearing to determine if he would be deported or not. When he went to file the necessary paperwork for this hearing, he was declared a “flight risk” and incarcerated on November 12th. ICE "detainees" are jailed as criminals, chained in shackles, refused visitors, and housed in deplorable conditions. Clem will remain in jail for at least the next five months until he can get a hearing. His 16-year old daughter MacKenzie cannot visit her father as she is a minor. In addition to the emotional trauma of this madness, the family now faces financial ruin while Clem, the main earner clearly will not be earning an income.
As U.S. citizens, we want our country to be safe, and we don’t want it to be a haven for terrorists or other criminals. And yet in our fear, we are unjustly imprisoning citizens and residents without any due process and without any of the protections allotted U.S. citizens. In September, NJ Senator Robert Menendez and MA Senator Edward Kennedy introduced legislation to prevent ICE from illegally detaining people. In a lame duck Congress, it’s not expected to provide any immediate relief.
That won’t help Clem who is bound in chains as if he were a murderer. He was punished for his crime seven years ago. His current incarceration is because ICE doesn’t want him disappearing while they contemplate deporting him after calling the U.S. home for 40 years. Because ICE has failed to stop illegal immigrants, they are now increasingly targeting legal residents, easier targets, husbands and fathers who provide for and protect their American families. ICE has to stop abusing the innocent victims-- the legal residents and U.S. citizens. What kind of country do we live in where an agency can abuse its powers and so utterly destroy an American family in the process?
As part of our Thanksgiving, we would like to visit Clem, but we can’t. There is no visitation on Thursday. We’d like to bring him a turkey sandwich, but we can’t. He’s held in a jail with common criminals where no gifts are allowed. When we do get to visit him, perhaps on Friday, we will chat through a glass window for 20 minutes only. Friends and family are routinely turned away after the three-hour trip because the prison has too many visitors. So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my freedom but am distressed for Clem and his family and fearful for all the other legal foreigners in this country.
If you would like to help free Clem (Paul Clements) and stop ICE Abuses, please write to Senator Mendendez and the ACLU of NJ:
One Gateway Center,
Newark, New Jersey 07102