Rights and Liberties This Week: Fleeing To Canada

Perhaps we were all hoping Canada would be our last resort when things got bad here. The Pakistani Daily News confirms that hundreds of Pakistani immigrants in the U.S., frightened by the mass arrests in Los Angeles of Iranian immigrants and other new Homeland Security restrictions, have been attempting to cross over into Canada as political refugees seeking asylum. Don’t get any ideas, though, Canada and the U.S. have signed what they call a "Smart Border" agreement where any immigrant seeking to cross Canada from the U.S. will automatically be turned back and subject to the U.S.’s stricter border controls.

And those seeking to flee have even more reason to be afraid. A new ruling this week from a federal appeals court decided that the government can properly detain an American-born man captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan without an attorney and legally declare him an enemy combatant. I suppose the government could argue that it is giving equal access to torture and detention, especially for non-white citizens.

Yes, it’s a wonder we’re not all running off to Canada before the "Smart Border" rules take effect this spring. Especially citizens of color. A new University of Maryland study released this week proves what many have suspected. Maryland, it appears, cares a great deal more about the deaths of white people, particularly when killed by black people, than it does about the deaths of blacks. All thirteen people on death row in Maryland are there for the killing of white people, while similar crimes against African-Americans, under similar circumstances, are given lesser convictions.

The study adds to growing evidence (and here is our small weekly ray of hope) that the death penalty is so flawed as to be indefensible. The Death Penalty Information Center year end report 2002, recently released, is optimistic. This is the year, they say, when the death penalty became even more isolated. It lists some key decisions, as well as the exoneration of the nation’s 100th death row inmate, as reasons to be hopeful. We shall see. We are all for, and always looking for, reasons for hope.

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