Psychoterror in INS Detention

Hendrik Möbus has been living in solitary confinement since September 2000: a situation he did not choose voluntarily. A few days after Hendrik's transfer to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, NY, he was supposed to live among the general population of the facility. This population is 95% non-White. Hendrik spoke to a lieutenant of the INS detention and deportation staff to point out that trouble might occur if his identity became known to the other inmates. Hendrik was assured, however, that his case was virtually unknown in upstate NY and there would be no problems for him because of his nationality and beliefs.

But, after just a few hours in the general population, Hendrik knew better. He was immediately recognized as "the German Nazi," and subjected to threats of bodily harm and death. Ultimately, Hendrik was returned to administrative segregation or "protective custody." The INS "excused" the incident with the harebrained explanation that the inmates observed "racist tattoos" on Hendrik's body and thus figured out "who he is." However: (1) Hendrik has no tattoos of this sort, and (2) it was virtually impossible for anyone to observe him before he entered the general population. The suspicion of misconduct on part of the INS was confirmed by what other detainees said. They said that it was the authorities who told them that the new German inmate was a "Nazi."

In solitary confinement, Hendrik knows no daylight, no fresh air, no exercise, and no recreation. Solitary confinement in effect is a form of torture known as "sensory depravation" which causes both physical and psychological damage. Hendrik already has to take a sedative because he suffers from insomnia.

Even worse, though, is the behavior of the INS staff, who from time to time come and ask Hendrik whether or not he wants to return to the general population of the facility. They know very well what the attitude of non-Whites is towards "Nazis," and they admit that they can't guarantee Hendrik's safety in the general population. However, by making it Hendrik's "choice," the INS will appear blameless either way. If he remains in solitary confinement and suffers the effects of sensory depravation, it's his fault. If he returns to the general population and gets beaten up or killed, it also is his fault.

It stands to reason that solitary confinement is employed to "soften up" Hendrik's resolution not to return to the FRG. The longer he is locked up, the more he suffers, and the sooner they hope he might give up. Even though he is in solitary confinement, Hendrik is continuously harassed by other inmates in the same dormitory. These inmates are in disciplinary segregation. They call him names like "racist bitch" and "Nazi mother fucker" and threaten him all day and all night long.

Now, imagine the commotion it would cause if Hendrik was not a German nationalist but rather an Israeli Zionist, and the other inmates were anti-Zionist, Islamic Arabs. You could bet the White House and Congress would be falling all over themselves to get Hendrik out of there, and that they would castigate the INS for their dangerous misconduct. But in the case of Hendrik, no one really cares whether he suffers due to misconduct on part of the authorities. It is seemingly alright to break his arm, then to deny him medical care for about a month, to put his life at risk, to keep him in solitary confinement, and to generally not give a damn about him!

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It is possible to take a second, more penetrating, look at people who have the reputation for villainy and evil, and sometimes the second look makes for a reappraisal of the naughty ones. - John O'Hara

Copyright © 2001 Committee to Free Hendrik Möbus
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