November 2, 2008

Another day, another gimmick. Republicans are digging out every possible turd they can find to fling and seeing what will stick on Barack Obama's wall -- and so far, no luck. Earlier this weekend they were peddling a dumb smear about Barack Obama's aunt being an illegal immigrant who had been ordered deported.

But there's one little problem with that tale: As the Washington Post reports, the release of that information was a violation of confidentiality laws for immigrants seeking asylum:

Federal privacy law restricts U.S. immigration agencies from disclosing information about citizens and permanent residents, and DHS policy similarly limits disclosures about the status of legal and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers are granted greater protection, because of the sensitive nature of their claims and the risks of retaliation.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the matter has been referred to the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility and its parent department's inspector general.

"They are looking into whether there was a violation of policy in publicly disclosing individual case information," ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. "We can't comment on individual cases."

As Kyledeb at Citizen Orange observes:

There are very specific confidentiality laws around asylum cases. Why? Because it could be dangerous to disclose information about potential asylee. It could result in their further persecution. This is true, of course, even after an asylum case is closed because then there would be a huge disincentive not to apply for asylum.

... In other words, while nativists are screaming "ILLEGAL" at the top of their lungs and "progressives" are refusing to defend unauthorized migrants, it appears that everyone's lost sight of who the real "ILLEGAL" is. That "federal law enforcement agent" broke U.S. immigration law. Perhaps the anonymous source should be deported?

Of course, at this point, the GOP seems to believe it has nothing to lose; after all, any investigation will be too late to do anything about it.

And the intent is obvious: Scare those white suburbanite undecideds with the notion that Obama is going to open the floodgates to Scary Brown People. In a related vein, the GOP hopes to revive the wingnut conspiracy theory that Obama's being elected with a foreign donor base.

But talk about deja vu all over again. Back in 1992, GHW Bush's operatives were caught illegally riffling through Bill Clinton's passport files and disclosing the information therein. Of course, the Republican operative -- Joe DiGenova -- appointed as "independent counsel" to investigate the matter rather predictably found no serious lawbreaking had occurred.

This time, they shouldn't be permitted to get away with it.

[H/t to Heather for the video.]

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