Annual Weber Lecture Highlights Immigration Reform

By Graham Key, Staff Writer

             Stepping to the podium, author and political activist Jacqueline Stevens read aloud from an email she had received that morning from a colleague in Texas “The Dallas CBP at Dallas Airport is still illegally detaining my US citizen client at the airport,’” she read.

Stevens’ recounting of the real-time Dallas conflict opened the annual Weber Lecture in Government and Society on Oct. 28 in Kalamazoo College’s Olmstead Room.  Stevens, a professor of political science and a member of the Legal Studies Advisory Board at Northwestern University, spoke for an hour Monday night to K students and faculty on the injustices of American immigration policy.

Of the US government agencies with immigration and customs authority, Stevens focused primarily on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known colloquially as ICE.

“ICE has no authority over US citizens,” Stevens said.  “One of the deep flaws of rule of law is the compromising of deportation proceedings.”

Through her directing role at the Deportation Research Clinic, Stevens has come into contact with a multitude of US citizens erroneously deported by ICE, detailing specific personal accounts in her lecture.

Stevens’ primary personal account was the story of Mark Lyttle, a US citizen.

“In one of the encounters when he [Lyttle] was in North Carolina after he was picked up at a mental institution, Cherry Hospital, which is across the street from a correctional center, he was ordered deported,” Stevens said.

According to Stevens, what followed for Lyttle was a series of events on the interstate and ultimately international scale.  Falsely classified as Mexican by ICE, Mark, who speaks no Spanish, was deported to Mexico.  It didn’t stop there.

“Mark went from the ICE detention facility to Mexico and ultimately wound up in Honduras,” Stevens said.

Stevens ultimately tracked Mark down to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa where he ultimately secured an American passport.

According to Stevens, the illegal detainment and deportation of American citizens by the federal government in alien immigration situations is caused, is largely due to the lobbying efforts of private incarceration facilities.  Stevens attributes Congressional legislation, which mandates 34,000, beds be filled at these facilities, to the $20 billion spent by Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group, which house the ICE detainees.

In concluding her lecture, Stevens shed light on what she considers positive steps towards immigration reform.  These highlights include the Dayton Project, a safe haven for those of questionable citizen status, and the protesting of new detainment facilities in Illinois.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to reverse the current trend of detainment and deportment, but these measures are a good step,” Stevens said.