No room at the inn: hotels used to house illegal immigrants

Immigrants awaiting deportation may find themselves in a hotel – provided they are not violent and don’t have any sort of criminal history. The check-in program is intended to cut the cost of holding immigrants before they are deported. Last year, the United States spent $2 billion on sheltering immigrants that would eventually be sent out of the country.

So, will it work?

The cost to detain illegal immigrants in “alternative” facilities (hotels and nursing homes, which are also included in the plan) is estimated to be $14 a day – compared to more than $100 a day to detain them in jails and prisons.

What’s not clear is how this will affect the occupancy rates in hotels near the border. If all goes well, this could be exactly what an ailing hotel industry needs.

A peek inside the North Korean courts

There’s something chilling about journalists being detained and tried in a foreign country … a prospect made all the more uncomfortable when you throw the “Dear Leader” into the mix. But, do we really know what’s about to happen? Well, aside from the fact that they’re going to be tried “according to the indictment of the competent organ“?

Frankly, there’s little information about what Laura Ling and Euna Lee are about to experience, unsurprising considering the state of information flow to and from the reclusive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – also known as North Korea). Based on the nuggets available, the DPRK has never held an official trial for a foreigner. Evan Hunziker, a missionary who swam from China to North Korea in 1996 – now that’s determination! – was detained for a few months and then released only to commit suicide a little later. Hunziker did not have the benefit of legal proceedings.

Here’s what is known:

Ling and Lee will be tried in the Central Court, the top court in the DPRK. Typically, this is an appellate court, but for cases considered to be extreme – and against the country itself – it has initial jurisdiction. In a sense, this would be like to alleged criminals being tried by the Supreme Court in the United States. So, it looks like the DPRK is trying to make a point.

The judges are elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly – the North Korea’s legislative body. The trial itself will have one judge and two “people’s assessors.” The latter are essentially “lay judges.” Appeals usually warrant a panel with three actual judges.


Now, this next point is interesting. You do not have to have any legal education or experience to become a judge. Before going on a tirade about the injustice of it all, consider the requirements for becoming a Supreme Court justice. There is no education or experience requirement in the U.S. Constitution. And, the justice has to be confirmed by the legislative body – which sounds strangely like a legislative body’s voting to select judges. In some states, such as New York, the electorate votes for judges, many of whom not only have no legal education or experience but routinely screw up trials because their rulings are contrary to law.

On paper, at least, the two systems aren’t all that different.

The Central Court’s rulings can’t be appealed. If I remember correctly (and it’s been a while since high school civics class), you can’t appeal a Supreme Court ruling. To whom would you appeal it?

Here’s where it get’s a little creepy.

In North Korea, the accused does not have the right to defend herself (or, of course, himself) and does not have the right to be represented by a lawyer. A defense attorney can be selected, according to DPRK law, by the defendant, the defendant’s family or her “organizational representatives” – probably Current TV, in this case. Neither Ling nor Lee has had any legal access, so it seems unlikely that they’ll get to pick a lawyer. I doubt Current TV or the families will have much of a say.

Even if they could choose lawyers, pickings are slim. The U.S. State Department states that there is “no indication that independent, nongovernmental defense lawyers [are available].”

The trial will be conducted in Korean, but the defendants will be able to use their own languages during the trial – a trial that is open to the public, unless there is concern that state secrets may be exposed. Defector testimony suggests that trials are usually closed.

Depending on the exact nature of the charges, the two journalists could spend more than a decade each in a labor camp. Death is not on the table, as this punishment has been reserved for four crimes since 2004: trying to overthrow the government, terrorism (though I don’t think it counts if it’s terrorism against a capitalist devil), treason and “suppressing the people’s movement for national liberation [huh?].” Yep, nice and broad … and you don’t even need to go to court to be executed.

Gadling previews Locked Up Abroad, Season 3

Just last year, Gadling brought you a first look at a new show on the National Geographic Channel called Locked Up Abroad. The show profiles the harrowing true stories of foreigners who have been arrested or kidnapped while abroad, telling the stories with first person interviews with the victims.

A new season of Locked Up Abroad kicks off on April 1st at 10pm, and Gadling recently had a chance to preview the first episode of the new season. Much like seasons past, it makes for some of the most intense, high-drama television you’ll find anywhere on the dial. The inaugural episode kicks off in Peru, with Locked Up Abroad Cuzco.

Sarah and Simon are fast friends from the UK, agreeing to head to Peru for week of fun and relaxation. But little does Simon know that he’s being conned by his friend Sarah. Sarah is in deep with a loan shark and has agreed to smuggle cocaine back to Europe in exchange for the payoff of her debts. In one of the more callous displays of human deceit ever on television, she invites her friend Simon to come along without telling him anything about the drugs. Things get ugly when the two are apprehended at the airport. Despite total innocence to the whole smuggling plan Simon spent over a year in a horrific Peruvian prison trying to clear his name.

Don’t get me wrong, Locked Up Abroad can be tough to watch. These are certainly emotionally charged stories of individuals forced into bad situations. But much like a train wreck, it can be hard to turn away. You simply want to know how things turn out.

Definitely tune in for the first episode next Wednesday and keep watching Gadling for the latest Locked Up Abroad news.

Free flight ploy ends in jail

Some people will do anything for a free flight. Instead of waiting for the airline to screw up, Arthur David Proskin used a bump by the beverage cart as his ticket to glory … and hopefully anywhere in the continental United States. He used what was probably an accident to shout obscenities at the flight attendant who so egregiously wronged him (hint for the tone-deaf, this is sarcasm) and other passengers.

Well, Proskin has learned that wishes do come true. And you better be careful what you … blah, blah, blah.

The guy’s headed to jail. He hatched his plan on a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Palm Springs, CA and caused it to be diverted to Midland International Airport. On the ground , the gump was arrested.

“Free” won’t be in this 44-year-old’s vocabulary for another 2 ½ years. A guilty plea back in October made sure of that.

What’s the moral of the story? Since a lot of jails actually charge for room and board (at least here in New York), there’s no such thing as a free lunch.


Obama’s closure of Guantanamo already in sight

The Castro brothers in Cuba extended a warm welcome to Obama into the political limelight. This message was relayed through Argentina‘s President, Cristina Kirchner, who recently returned to Buenos Aires after a brief visit to Havana.

Within 24 hours, Obama has already halted proceedings involving two Guantanamo detainees and intended to close Guantanamo by the end of the year — and likely much earlier.
While most would like to see Gitmo gone as soon as possible, it appears there is a slew of red tape that could slow this process:

  • the decision must be made at the Cabinet level, and Clinton has been reluctant to conform to Obama’s views of Guantanamo in particular
  • the prisoners will be displaced and moved to several other prisons around the world, which still remains a logistical question mark
  • legal actions on all 200+ detainees must first be issued before official closure can occur

Amid the increased attention on Obama, Fidel and Raúl Castro, and Guantanamo, there still remains an awkward silent treatment among all parties. Obama has yet to open talks with Castro (or vice versa) and Gitmo prisoners are showing their displeasure through hunger strikes and complaints of harsh mistreatment.

Right now, Gitmo and relations between America and Cuba as a whole remains a “wait-and-see” endeavor, but with Obama comes a dramatic changing of the guard that could soften the strained emotions all are feeling right now.

[via the New York Times and AFP]