Latitude News brings you a round-up of articles from local media outlets around the U.S. that connect us to the rest of the globe. In today’s interconnected world, news doesn’t stop at the border.
The dangers of Chinese drywall
Between 2001 and 2009 — the height of America’s disastrous housing boom — contractors installed toxic Chinese drywall in nearly 4,000 American homes. The material exuded a metal-corroding gas, destroying fire alarms and other household essentials, and sickening those who lived with it in their walls.
Now, according to an editorial in The Virginian-Pilot, a pair of legislators from Virginia have sponsored successful legislation in Congress that will make defective drywall easier to track and limit the amount of sulfur that can be used in it.
“This bill ensures that preventative standards are in place so no American family is faced with the hardship and heartache from contaminated drywall ever again,” says Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), a co-sponsor of the legislation.
But the bill provides no compensation to people who suffered after the contaminated drywall was installed in their homes, and Virginia’s Supreme Court has said homeowners cannot ask their insurance companies to cover any damages associated with the faulty Chinese product.
Even so, the Pilot writes:
The bill, while important to everyone whose lives were damaged by the defective drywall, may serve another purpose: Showing what lawmakers, even in a broken Congress, can accomplish with dedication and hard work.
A secret system of little justice
A year-long investigation by The Boston Globe paints a chilling picture of our nation’s immigration system.
Last year, the Globe reports, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained a record 429,247 foreigners — double the number from 2001 — and deported 396,906. At least 180,000 had no criminal records. But ICE has released 8,500 criminals back onto American soil over the last four years, including 201 murderers, instead of deporting them. Why? Because their countries of origin refused to take them back.
Part I of the series looks at the case of Huang Chen, an undocumented immigrant from China who was arrested in 2006 after attacking another Chinese immigrant. Authorities tried to send Chen back to his homeland, but China didn’t want him and Chen became a free man after three years in and out of Texas prisons. Within three weeks, he had tracked down his original victim — who hadn’t been warned of Chen’s release — and killed her with a hammer, fleeing the scene with her heart and one of her lungs.
Once detained, undocumented immigrants have “fewer rights than criminals and little access to the outside world,” according to the Globe. Denied their constitutional rights, immigrants can suffer harsh treatment and poor conditions.
Part II tells the story of Irene Bamenga, an undocumented immigrant with an American husband and a serious heart condition. Bamenga was arrested in 2011 while trying to return to France, where she planned to wait out her application for permanent residence in the U.S. Instead, immigrations officials shuffled her around a series of prisons in New York, and denied her the six medicines she needed to live. Despite filing a written request for medical treatment, Bamenga’s deteriorating condition was ignored. Within twelve days, she was dead.
The Globe writes that the deportation process as a whole is shrouded in secrecy. The U.S.’s 58 immigrations courts have little accountability or transparency. Judges are underpaid and overworked. Few of their decisions are ever made public, or even written down. Half of the immigrants are not represented by a lawyer.
Part III focuses on the immigration court deep inside the Stewart Detention Center in tiny Lumpkin, Georgia. The court has a reputation as a one-way ticket out of the country. As the Globe reports:
The immigration judges at Stewart issued a deportation order to almost every immigrant who came before them last year, with many of the detainees giving up before they got a chance to fully make their case to stay. They are on an assembly line that often ends when immigrants, exhausted by incarceration, beg to be deported.
The whole series is worth a lengthy read. Now that their predecessors have tackled drywall, immigration reform should be first on the agenda for the 113th Congress.