Bella immigrated from Ukraine and has been a legal resident of the USA for 30 years, but her status suddenly became precarious when she was arrested more than a month ago, apparently for walking into an immigration office to renew her green card papers. Since then she has been detained without charge, without even so much as a hearing -- until today.
Being held indefinitely without charge used to be verboten in the American legal system, but unfortunately it's become too commonplace over the past five years, and now it's this far away from being made the law of the land. So these illegal detentions are even more frightening than they might otherwise be.
In a moment, the most recent news on this alarming story. But first, the background:
RAW STORY | September 28:
'Operation Return to Sender' stumbles
Operation supposedly designed to round up illegal aliens appears to be targeting legal residents.
September 29: One Day Forward, 900 Years Back : Democracy Murdered In Broad Daylight
The Senate approves a bill that takes the American legal system back to the Dark Ages. The House has already approved the same bill and it now it awaits presidential signature.
October 1: Think It Can't Happen Here? Think Again! It's Already Happening!!
Authorities threaten to move Bella Maryanovsky to Krome.
October 2: 'Please Call Everyone, Before She Dies In That Hell Hole'
But they dont! (This is a common tactic. Authorities threaten to move people and sometimes they do move them, apparently in order to keep the "detainees" off-guard.) Then, after citizens (like us!) apply a bit of pressure, authorities grant Bella a hearing.
October 6: Hearing Scheduled For Bella Maryanovsky
There are many more like Bella who also need our help.
October 10: Legal Residents, Illegally Detained, Need Help -- and You Can Help Them!!
Then the authorities announce they are moving Bella to an undisclosed location -- to effectively "disappear" her within the "New Amerikan Gulag".
October 11: Plucked! Now Nobody Even Knows Where Bella Maryanovsky Is
And now... here's a two-part update, from Larisa Alexandrovna (Bella's cousin and the Managing Editor of RAW STORY), as posted at Democratic Underground dot com [slightly edited and with links added]
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Okay, so at some point last night, the attorneys for all of the women being moved to Atlanta (it was Atlanta it turns out) this round, filed an emergency injunction/stay. Apparently members of Congress also joined in, but I cannot get any confirmation on who it was yet. The women were returned to Monroe. Ha!!!!!
They are having an emergency hearing, the lawyers as a group (if you can believe that) on Friday in front of a judge. They are demanding that ICE officials either charge their clients or release them.
I also found out that many women have already been transported out of state. I presume, although I do not know, that they are the ones who either don't have good attorneys or fell through the cracks. I don't know. According to Bella, there are women she is being held with who were never convicted of a crime, ever. They are simply legal residents.
Here is the kicker... ICE did not adequately prepare (because no one could have imagined) for facilities while rounding up all of these people, which they continue to do. The argument they are using to move the detainees is that there is overcrowding, which is true. But there is overcrowding because they are warehousing people in large numbers, some of whom committed a crime in the past, not even a felony, some of whom committed a felony in the past (like 40 years ago even), and some who committed no crime at all. But Bella tells me that there are no illegal aliens in her "program," which leads to ask the obvious, why not?
Anyway, these people being held, especially the women have had their children taken by the state. They have lost their jobs because they have either been detained far too long or because their employers did not want the controversy. When one loses a job, one loses the ability to pay bills, which then causes one to lose property. In other words, you have legal permanent residents being denied their freedom, their children, and their property.
I will have more on Friday, after the attorneys have their hearing. I am praying that the judge will release these women.
In fighting for Bella, we have helped those in her group because of the attention we have drawn to her. Members of Congress got involved in Bella's case, but I don't know the specifics yet because I would not be able to call them as a journalist on this case. But you see, dear citizens, we have the power to stop this nightmare without ever having to lift a weapon, by simply using our voices to demand justice and shame those abusing power into doing right by our fellow Americans.
Let's keep the pressure on for the women of "Company Bella" (my term) which includes the other women in her group. Let's demand to know who they are, where their children have been taken, why they are being held, and how we can help them. We have a small window between now and Friday to make it clear that we will not stand for people being disappeared, smuggled across state lines, warehoused like cattle in private detention facilities, and especially stand silent while children lose their mothers and their own freedom in essence.
Keep the pressure on the media! Keep the pressure on local authorities! Keep the pressure on ICE! Keep the pressure on Congress (yes, your votes have real consequences, not just political gotcha tricks)!And let us hope that in working to free Company Bella, others, in other states will work to stop "Operation Return To Sender"... let's call our efforts "Operation Return To The Constitution".
I will update on this on Friday or sooner, should something change. Thanks for all of your work on this. Keep it going.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Bella had her hearing today with an immigration judge. There was no debate. The prosecutor had nothing to say and no charges were presented. It was quick and to the point. Bella was released on a $5,000 bond. She will have to appear in court at some point later, but most everyone agrees that will be routine. So over a month, major legal bills and a $5k bond later, Bella is released from detention without ever having been charged. She is released after having been denied her heart medication, after having been moved in shackles face down on the floor of a van for several hours, after sleeping on a piss stained floor, and finally, after nearly being moved without reason to Atlanta, GA. She has lost nearly a month of salary. Mostly, she has been made to feel a target in this country for doing nothing.Why am I telling you this? Because we need your help.
My mother and her mother are on their way to Krome to pay the fee and then they have to drive to Monroe to get her. Sometime late this evening, Bella will be home.
She does not know the work that we all did on her behalf, but she will. In the end, it was our efforts in contacting local authorities, and members of Congress that put pressure on the immigration office to give her a hearing, even as others waited. It was our efforts and the efforts of Congressman Wexler and Congresswoman Deb Wasserman-Shultz that got Bella in front of a judge.
So my family and I thank you all for everything. I would like to thank all of you for your moral support as well. There were a few days I nearly lost my mind. I managed to work even with this going on, which was no easy task. But it was largely do to your moral support and kind words that gave me energy.
But, we are not done. Bella is free, but company Bella is not nor is any other person being held in America's latest fad of detention camps. "Operation Return to Sender" must be stopped, Habeas Corpus must be reinstated, and those detained must be either charged with a crime and allowed a speedy trial or let go. Until such point as this President declares the Constitution is formally null and void, his signing statements mean nothing. His Congressional fluffers and their bills are unconstitutional and must be challenged.
If we do not continue to fight for these people, then in the end, there will be no one to fight for us, because in the end, we will all suffer the consequences of a society that functions on the Stalinist doctrine.
We all have day jobs. We all have other responsibilities, but we must organize a grass roots effort to find out who these people are, men, women, and children... what their names are, why they are being held, and if they have legal representation. This is going on all over the country. I am alarmed that people have not noticed their neighbors disappear. I am alarmed that I have not noticed. But this is real and it is serious. Google "Operation Return To Sender" and after you have regained emotional footing, help stop what can only be described as un-American, 1930's Germany-like, illegal detainment of innocent people, most legal residents, and many who have never broken the law at all, not even to steal a ham sandwich.
Can you spend a few minutes -- make a few phone calls, or send a few emails, on behalf of the people who are still in prison -- people just like Bella who aren't lucky enough to have a cousin running a prominent news service? According to RAW STORY, the officer who arrested Bella Maryanovsky told her attorney:
“We got orders to arrest everybody.”And The Miami Herald reported that Krome is suddenly extremely crowded.
So please do this for all the legal US residents who are being illegally detained. If you won't speak up for them, who will speak up for you?
Who can you contact? Here are some good places to start. But don't be afraid to be creative.
(ICE) Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Find your local office and get in touch with them! Here's the Office of Detention and RemovalI thank you for your assistance. And I urge you to remember, always: If you take action on behalf of others, you'll feel better about yourself.
Contact Members of Congress, especially those in Florida (such as Robert Wexler and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or find contact info for your Senator or Representative here.)
Put pressure on major media outlets: There's plenty of good contact information here. Get in touch with local media and ask them to cover this story.
Don't forget Human Rights Organizations, such as the ACLU. I imagine you can think of some others.