Former Administration official Roxie Bacon, on Mar. 11, 2011

Roxie Bacon’s column on immigration reform, published in the February Arizona Attorney Magazine, continues to get response. (I wrote about Roxie and her column here and here. You can read her column here.)

In our upcoming issue, we will publish a few letters on the topic, almost all of which praise her insights. But I share with you now a letter that I received yesterday afternoon that goes in a decidedly different direction. It is from the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Here is a PDF of the letter, followed by its text below.

Department of Homeland Security Letter to the Editor, 3-15-11

To the Editor:

It was disappointing to read Roxie Bacon’s essay about her year as a senior-level appointee at the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS General Counsel Ivan Fong

As both President Obama and Secretary Napolitano have repeatedly emphasized, comprehensive immigration reform is critical to both the long-term security and prosperity of this Nation. I empathize with Ms. Bacon’s sense of frustration with the process last year, but as she knows, fundamental legislative change requires hard work, perseverance, and bipartisan support from congress. There has been no “lack of visionary thinking and incisive analysis grounded on economic truths” in this Administration’s efforts to advance sensible immigration policy.

Similarly, this Administration remains committed to the DREAM Act. From President Obama and Secretary Napolitano’s extensive engagement on Capitol Hill, to the outreach efforts conducted by our Department leadership, every resource was employed to seek passage of this legislation that is important to our Nation’s future and emblematic of our ideals. In short, notwithstanding Congress’s failure to act, we remain committed to a sustained effort on both overall immigration reform and the DREAM Act.

Finally, as Ms. Bacon notes, after the earthquake in Haiti last year, DHS suspended all removals to Haiti. A year later, however, DHS was required, in light of binding Supreme Court precedent, to either release these aliens into U.S. communities or lift the moratorium as it applied to criminal aliens. Given the alternative of releasing violent offenders onto our streets or returning them to their country of origin, DHS chose to lift the moratorium on removals of certain Haitian nationals convicted of criminal offenses. The resumption of these removals, based on the need to protect public safety, can hardly be characterized as an abandonment of our efforts to assist Haiti. This is especially true in light of our ongoing commitment to the people of Haiti, as evidenced by the grant of temporary protected status to Haitians, the grant of humanitarian parole to orphans in Haiti, and other significant relief.

In the meantime, we will continue our work here in Washington, mindful that the important and difficult issues posed by immigration law and policy will not be solved overnight or even in one year.

Ivan K. Fong

General Counsel

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC

I mentioned this in a previous post today, but I may have buried it so that only dedicated readers would ever excavate it. So here’s the news.

Roxie Bacon’s February column in Arizona Attorney Magazine was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post last week. The story by Andrew Becker is here.

It includes a response by the Department of Homeland Security.

Roxie’s column is here.

Retweet at will.

Roxie Bacon at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

It’s funny how news can start locally, wing its way around the country (or the world), and land right here back at home.

We saw this happen at least partially a few months ago, in regard to judges visiting Arizona from Turkey. They stopped by to chat, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine covered their innocuous (we thought) comments, and government opposition in Ankara got their paprika up.

For the record, we were not part of any cabal. That’s the story, and we’re sticking with it.

It got all déjà vu-ey recently, after we published a great piece on immigration by our own columnist Roxie Bacon. Let me explain.

Roxie is Roxana Bacon, accomplished immigration lawyer, former President of the State Bar of Arizona, and, most recently, an Administration official with the Customs & Immigration Service (inside the Department of Homeland Security). In fact, she had come out of retirement to take the top counsel job there. As she headed east, she had high hopes that the Executive Branch would do some serious good on the immigration front.

About a year later, she and her husband happily drove their Penske rental truck (no joke) back to Arizona, older and wiser.

When I asked her whether she was ready to get back into “column rotation” with our other writers, she agreed—and asked if I’d like something about her time in Washington.

Well, as they say, I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid. So it took me the time to draft an e-mail response to say, “Send it our way.”

Roxie did not disappoint. Professional yet passionate, she explained the sorry state of affairs. (You can read her column here.)

As they say in the trade, the story had legs. It was picked up in stories and blogs nationwide, and even was the subject of a news story in the Huffington Post on March 4. As that story indicated, there even was a response from the Department of Homeland Security, which had been none too pleased by Roxie’s candor. Risk-averse, thy name is DC.

Laura Rundlet at Human Trafficking conference, Mar. 11, 2011

This past week, more of that risk-aversion was on display. And that’s what brings the story full circle back to Arizona.

On this past Friday, ASU Law School hosted a daylong conference on human trafficking. (I previewed it for you here.) It put together terrific panels who explained the problem and explored solutions. (I’ll have more on the panels soon.) The schedule and speakers list are here.

The topic is tragic, and the expert brain power on display promised to be huge. But I was especially interested in the opening keynote address, to be delivered by our own friend and writer Roxie Bacon.

She was marvelous and her comments spot-on (again, more in a future post). She managed to be dire and uplifting in the same speech—not easy, that.

So she was great, but that was no surprise. The aha moment came at the end of the first morning panel. Moderated by law professor Daniel Rothenberg, its speakers gave an “Overview of Trafficking.” The speakers were a helpful combination of prosecutors, professors and policy experts.

The last of those to speak was a woman from the U.S. State Department. Laura Rundlet is the Coordinator of the Senior Policy Working Group on Trafficking in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

From all of that, we understood her position: Trafficking = Bad.

It is worth pointing out that that position was not controversial, either in the room—packed with what appeared to be like-minded people—or in Washington. Speaker after speaker had already told us that trafficking was a non-partisan issue, one that horrified legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Which made an exchange during the Q&A portion so odd.

P.J. Crowley, formerly of the U.S. State Department

After all the speakers were done, and moments before a well-deserved coffee break, an audience member rose and tossed Ms. Rundlet the softest of softballs.

A key piece of effective federal legislation that fought trafficking—the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act—was due to be taken up for renewal by Congress, he said. What could she say to encourage attendees to contact their Congressional representatives to urge them to vote for this non-partisan law?

I was not videotaping, but I detected a deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes.

“I’m not sure whether I can speak to that exactly,” she responded. “It is something that we will be working on diligently this year, and working with other agencies.”

The questioner look surprised.

“At this time, I don’t have any prepared remarks on the reauthorization,” she added less than helpfully.

“Just reauthorize it!” the speaker insisted, clearly thinking she had not understood his question.

In response, he got a wan smile. And then it was time for coffee.

I scratched my head at that one, but this weekend, we got another detailed lesson on the minefield that is Washington and the U.S. State Department. And that made me sympathetic to her hesitation to add a helpful comment—however true it could have been.

In the breaking story, a State Department spokesman was forced out after he made remarks that the White House apparently didn’t cotton to.

P.J. Crowley, in response to a question at a speaking engagement (on social media, of all things) criticized the U.S. Army’s treatment of a private Bradley Manning, “who is currently detained over suspicion he was complicit in leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.”

Read the complete story here (why not – let’s make it a HuffPost day).

The story—and his sort-of firing—came about because he had called “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” the Army’s detention tactics with the private, including having him sleep for multiple nights naked and with no blanket (the Army had claimed security concerns).

Putting to rest the notion that intelligent minds may disagree (even on what constitutes humane treatment), Crowley found his presence at Foggy Bottom was less than welcome. And so, three adjectives later, he was a part of State Department history.

Coincidence or not, l’affaire Crowley was coming to a boil just as panelists sat down for Friday’s Tempe conference. Any State Department official—and any Administration official—would have to have been aware of the object lesson unfolding back East, where talking without talking points—however safe it may appear—may not be safe at all.

And so at an ASU conference committed to eradicating human trafficking, hesitation crept in among the ardor. And that may say volumes about the atmosphere that pervades the United States Capitol—and the states that depend on its leadership.

From the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law:

Daniel Rothenberg

A lack of awareness, communication and understanding of the multiple levels of law related to human trafficking, the world’s fastest growing criminal industry, have stymied efforts to combat it by law enforcement, the judiciary, policy-makers, academics and social service and community groups.

The need for improved integration of these laws is the focus of a national conference, to be held on Friday, March 11, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. “Combating Human Trafficking: How Coordinating International, Federal and State Law can Prevent and Punish Exploitation While Protecting Victims,” will be from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus.

For a conference schedule and list of speakers, and to register, visit here.

The interdisciplinary conference is presented by the College of Law’s Center for Law and Global Affairs and the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, and by the American Society of International Law. The event is being convened by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor (ret.), Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at the College of Law. It will mark the debut of the College of Law’s Project on Federalism and Separation of Powers in a Global Era.

“It is clear that the same old paradigms won’t work to combat the complex, global problem of human trafficking,” said Paul Schiff Berman, Dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “This conference is therefore a pioneering effort that seeks new models for cooperation and coordination among local, national, and international actors.”

Sarah Buel

“Combating Human Trafficking” will bring together scholars and practitioners from around the world to address the need for enhanced coordination of laws in defining the crime of trafficking, prosecuting perpetrators, developing promising interventions and preventing trafficking.

“There’s a lot of interest in this, and we’re trying to coalesce that interest, and focus our efforts and energy so that Arizona becomes a case study for how to properly address human trafficking,” said Daniel Rothenberg, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs. “We want to become the national example of how to bring together diverse interests and players, even though not everyone agrees on the elements – the research, law enforcement and the assistance to victims — of this problem, for a serious, thoughtful discussion,”

Sarah Buel, Faculty Director of the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, said the issue of human trafficking is especially crucial in Arizona because the state is a hub for trafficking crimes. But the state also is home to concerned faculty, scholars, students and alumni at ASU, community partners, law enforcement and interested parties determined to eradicate trafficking through strategic regional, national and international planning.

“We have tenacious, passionate, multidisciplinary advocates seeking to strengthen, reinvigorate and broaden existing networks,” Buel said. “And we are confident that this conference will dramatically increase victim safety by developing more effective law, policy and practice.

“For the 13-year-old girl now forced into sex trafficking on the streets of Phoenix, this conference can engender new hope.”

In addition to Justices O’Connor and McGregor, the program features an impressive list of participants, anchored by Roxana Bacon, former Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, delivering the morning keynote, “Why Trafficking Matters,” and Alice Chamberlayne Hill, Senior Counselor to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who will give the afternoon keynote address.

The panels are:

  • Overview of Trafficking
  • Trafficking Prosecution at Different Levels of Governance and Jurisdiction
  • Trafficking Prevention and Protection at Different Levels of Governance and Jurisdiction
    Successful Programs
  • What Can be Done to Confront Trafficking in a More Coordinated Fashion?

Rothenberg said the conference is aimed at a broad audience, both individuals who work to prevent human trafficking, punish exploiters and protect victims, and people who are interested in human trafficking as a social issue.

“We hope this conference will help educate people about the fundamental problems of trafficking,” he said, “but also suggest there’s an array of complex, serious programs at multiple levels of jurisdictions, to compare them, and to suggest that one of the ways these programs are likely to be even more successful is through greater integration of these different levels of law.”

Read more about the conference here.

Register here.