A very different Bill Clinton—not the former president, but an 18-year-old Honduran whose full legal name is Bill Clinton Granados-Benitez—was due to appear via video conferencing in immigration court on Tuesday.
As millions of voters were lined up at polling places across the country to cast their ballots in a midterm election that our present president sought to steer by rousing unreasoning fear of illegal immigrants, the younger Bill Clinton was scheduled to have a hearing from the Hudson County jail in northern New Jersey.
But instead of Bill Clinton or one of the other detainees, the screen in the 11th floor courtroom on Varick Street filled with a federal deportation officer named Maldonado. He informed Immigration Judge Mimi Tsankov that two of the jail’s three video links were down.
“These are old machines,” Maldonado noted.
Maldonado then said that his supervisor, Thomas Flynn, had declared the surviving link to belong to the New Jersey ICE office. Any New York cases such as Bill Clinton’s would have to wait until the New Jersey ones were done even though all immigration cases are brought and adjudicated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“What you're telling me is you will not be presenting respondents to the court because this machine belongs to New Jersey,” the incredulous judge said.
“I’m just following orders from my superiors,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado said New Jersey only had one case and promised to call back once that was done. But the judge in New York had too crowded a calendar just to wait. She rescheduled the Bill Clinton case because she could not proceed without his presence. But his lawyer. Eduardo Villacorta, agreed to go ahead with a bond hearing.
The case file included a laudatory letter from a Long Island landscaping company that employed Bill Clinton. The file also noted that he had been caught crossing the border from Mexico to the United States as an unaccompanied minor when he was just 14. He had been released, but had subsequently failed to appear in court and had been deported in absentia.
His attorney would manage to get that charge dismissed because the court in Texas had failed to notify him of his expected appearance date. He had settled in Selden, Long Island, where he worked for a landscaper
In March, Bill Clinton had been arrested for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident that involved property damage. He had been declared a youthful offender, but had nevertheless been sentenced to four months in jail. He had then passed directly into the custody of federal immigration authorities.
While in detention in August, Bill Clinton became the father of a baby boy. He and the mother named the child Dylan.
“Like Bob Dylan,” his lawyer told The Daily Beast.
Among the detention facilities contracted by federal immigration authorities is the Hudson County jail. And there Bill Clinton remained on Tuesday, unable to reach the courtroom even by video as the judge pondered what, if any bond to set.
Earlier, the judge had set $13,000 bond for a man who had punched his stepdaughter and refused to comply with the responding cops, calling for them to kill him.
She had set $15,000 bond for a man who drove while intoxicated with his 1-year-old son in the car. Court documents note that the man had also been charged with “using a stun gun on a female.”
“I have not seen people subjected to 1,800K volts with an SD-800 stun gun,” the judge noted after reading an offense summary.
But for reasons she she did not detail and were not immediately clear to the attorney Villacorta, the judge took a sterner line with Bill Clinton.
“I’m going to deny the release on bond,” the judge said.
Tsankov continued into a typical day, which is to say one case after another for her and the two other judges who labor tirelessly and diligently in the New York courts.
The criminal courts in New York have quieted remarkably as New York has become the safest big city in America. But the immigration court is busier than ever. Nearly all the respondents are people of color, the great majority Hispanic, like the father of a 6-year-old named Nicole who sat in the waiting room, drawing.
“Do you have skin color?” she asked a volunteer who held markers of several hues.
The volunteer hesitated. The girl selected a blue marker.
“For blue people,” the volunteer remarked.
Nicole then took other markers and ended up drawing a fantastic, multicolored creature such as a child of any hue might imagine.
“A rainbow cat!” she announced.
Most of the respondents had ended up in immigration custody after being nabbed on unrelated charges. The majority of the arrests appeared to involve drunk driving. The most serious violence heard by by Tsankov involved a few punches and that stun gun.
None of the cases approached the violence of the native-born American maniac from New Jersey who in 2015 shot to death a documented immigrant from Ivory Coast who was working as a security guard in the same federal building that houses immigration court in New York.
Yes, there have been cop killers and rapists among the undocumented immigrants. But the threat is not of the magnitude that Trump have us believe. The proof is in the record low crime in the streets of his hometown of New York, which also has a record high number of undocumented immigrants.
The people of Trump’s native city know this and that partly explains the big lines at the city’s polling places on Tuesday. There were few contentious races. The question was not who you were voting for, but whether you were voting. To vote was to affirm your faith in democracy in the face of those who seek to cheapen and weaken it.
Five floors below the immigration courtrooms is an office whose polished wood double doors bear the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives. The gold lettering reads:
JERROLD L. NADLER
MEMBER OF CONGRESS
NEW YORK - 10th DISTRICT
A sheet of white paper taped to the left announced that the office would be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“We will reopen on Friday, November 8th,” it added.
No doubt the notice went up with the hope that the Democratic Party would regain the majority in the House of Representatives. One result would be that Nadler would almost certainly become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. A rule established by the Republicans toward the end of the Obama administration allows a chairman to issue subpoenas without taking a vote from the committee. Nadler would not likely be shy in that regard.
However it goes, the hearings scheduled for Dec. 21 in Tsankov’s courtroom include one for Honduran teenager who was named after Bill Clinton and has named his own son Dylan as in Bob.