In an open letter for the Huffington Post rapper Slick Rick (real name Rick Walters), a British born American citizen, writes about the hardships he endured as a prisoner of the U.S. immigration detention system.
After completing a 5-year sentence for a self-defense shooting of his cousin in 1991, Slick Rick had his permanent resident status reinstated, but immigration authorities appealed the ruling and lost. They continued to appeal even after Slick Rick was pardoned by the New York State Governor David Paterson in 2008. While the appeals continued Walters was detained in a Florida jail. After over two decades the original order was reaffirmed and Walters was allowed to become a U.S Citizen early this year. Now he is speaking out for others who suffered as he did.
“My extended saga underscores everything that’s wrong with America’s immigration system,” he writes. “Prior to 1990, immigration judges had the authority to balance a person’s qualities against the government’s interest in deporting that person. My original immigration judge did just that. He concluded I should remain in America. But vindictive prosecutors, federal bureaucrats and a damaged system perpetuated my ill treatment for decades.”
The timing of the letter couldn’t be more significant with the UK referendum to leave the European Union dominating headlines and sending the stock market tumbling. Many point to anti-immigrant sentiment amongst the leave party as a motivator (among other economic factors) in their vote. But before Americans point fingers we have to take a realistic look at our misdeeds at home.
“Many immigrants die in prison, some by suicide. All are treated like prisoners, when their only crime is their desire to live in the U.S. These excessive and harmful detentions check in at a taxpayer expense of almost one billion (yes billion!) dollars per year. We could easily return to the old system of allowing immigrants to remain free on bond while monitoring their activities. However, such humane action won’t satisfy the prisons-for-profit mentality that now pervades.”
Read Slick Rick’s full letter HERE.