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Monday, March 10, 2008

9 and 10 Year Olds Held In U.S. Prison


A small boy named Kevin Yourdkhani wrote this letter. A Canadian citizen, he and his parents, refugees from Iran, were held at the Hutto detention facility in Texas for over a month and a half. Another woman and her ten and twelve year old daughters spent almost a year at the facility.

(How did a Canadian citizen and his Iranian parents end up in a Texas detention facility? Majid and Masomeh, Kevin's parents, fled Iran and applied for asylum in Canada; the Canadian government eventually denied the application, but it took quite a long time, during which Kevin was born as a Canadian citizen. Canada shipped the family back to Iran, where Majid was imprisoned and tortured, and then he tried to smuggle the family back in to Canada. Bad luck got them caught by U.S. immigration officials in Puerto Rico, and they applied for asylum in the U.S. They were then sent to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. )

Hutto is a privately run prison that houses illegal immigrants and their families (not those from Mexico, who are not detained but  immediately shipped home.) In this recent article from the New Yorker, Margaret Talbot describes the typical conditions for Hutto detainees:

"Each cell had a twin bed or a bunk bed with a thin mattress, a small metal or porcelain sink, and an exposed toilet. Generally, mothers and very young children stayed together in one cell, fathers in a separate cell, and older children in another. Husbands and wives were not allowed to visit each other’s cells. Masomeh told me, “For three days, Majid had a fever, and I wasn’t allowed to go to in and ask, ‘How are you?’


Griselda Ponce testified before the U.S. District Court in Austin about conditions at Hutto, and told of an occasion when the five- or six-year-old daughter of a woman she was interviewing had to go to the rest room. The captain on duty told the girl that she could not do so during a head count. Ponce said that the girl made “six or seven requests,” and was rebuffed each time; after about fifteen minutes, the girl “smelled of urine."
Children were regularly woken up at night by guards shining lights into their cells. They were roused each morning at five-thirty. Kids were not allowed to have stuffed animals, crayons, pencils, or pens in their cells. And they were not allowed to take the pictures they had made back to their cells and hang them up.
Detainees said that when parents or children broke rules guards threatened them with separation from their children.  “I was in my bed and my dad came to fix my bed,” [Kevin] wrote. “When the police came and saw my dad in the room, he said, ‘If He comes and see my dad again in my room His going to put my mom in a siprate jail and my dad in a sipate jail and me a foster kid.’ ""

Due in large part to the effort of the ACLU, conditions inside Hutto have improved. Before the ACLU's intervention, children and adults alike were forced to wear prison garb. Now they can at least sometimes wear their own clothes. The toilets now have curtains around them. That's not a bad start.

As for the Yourdkhanis, they've apparently settled in Toronto. According to Talbot, when she visited the family:

'[Kevin] had taken the bus home after school, grabbed an ice-cream bar out of the freezer, and was sprawled on the couch in shorts and a Darth Vader T-shirt, answering his parents’ questions about a field trip that his class had taken that day. He told me that he tried not to think about Hutto, but said, “It was horrible in there. People should be free, especially kids.”'

By the way, the New Yorker article references a You Tube clip that reveals (albeit, in blurry detail) some aspects of life inside the Hotto facility. I dug up the clip and posted it below:

Posted by Terrence Watson on March 10, 2008 | Permalink


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I have Iranian, Turkish and Palestinian close relatives. I am also multi-generational Canadian. I wish the family good luck and hope they can get to Canada.

Posted by: dewp | 2008-03-10 10:59:54 PM

Break out the violin. The problem is Iran not Texas or Canada.

If monkeys weren't in charge of Iran those people would have been able to stay home and have a life without laying guilt trips on us.

This is the way in the wonderful world of Islam.

Posted by: John West | 2008-03-10 11:19:35 PM

Not my problem. Iranians are savages.

Posted by: philanthropist | 2008-03-10 11:23:28 PM

John West: You conveniently forget that the little boy is as much a Canadian as you are.

philanthropist: And you are disgusting scum. The Iranians are a highly civilized and cultured people who have fallen under the boot of a bunch of religious nuts - just as the pre-WWII Germans fell under the boot of the Nazis. By your yardstick, Germans too must be savages. Is that the way you feel?

Posted by: Zog | 2008-03-10 11:41:36 PM

"You conveniently forget that the little boy is as much a Canadian as you are."

If he was born in Hong Kong would that make him Chinese?

Just because "The Iranians are a highly civilized and cultured people..." does not mean Canada has any obligation to them.

It is the same for Israel and Darfur refugees.

"Israel took in many of the early arrivals, providing shelter and even arranging menial jobs in hotels and on kibbutz collective farms. It recently granted temporary residency status to 600 refugees from Darfur, and gave work permits to about 2,000 other infiltrators from Eritrea whose lives would be endangered if sent home.

But Israel has vowed the rest would be deported, claiming they are in the country purely for economic opportunities. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday directed authorities to expel the 4,500 Africans considered to be illegal immigrants, including people from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria, by the end of the week."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-03-11 12:10:06 AM

Not my problem. Iranians are savages.

How lovely. Related: http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/city/story.html?id=f5813228-d441-405f-b315-53d0f7916117

Posted by: Lurker | 2008-03-11 6:13:00 AM

Problems with countries like Syria or Iran will continue as long as those who flee them, attain citizenship in the West and risk going back to those places for whatever reasons. That's the way the world is today,we know why and it's legitimate. Our trust has been lost.
We cannot protect people from brutal Islamic theocracies if they choose to go to or return to them.

Posted by: Liz J | 2008-03-11 7:09:05 AM

Sorry, now I'm totally confused. Are the ACLU the good guys or the bad guys her at the WS? Seems like there's mixed signals when I put this string into Google... aclu site:westernstandard.blogs.com

And yes, DJ, if he's born here he's a citizen. You know that even if you don't like it. In the US it's been law since 1787, and I found references to similar laws over the British Empire dated to 1765. You'll have a tough go of it if you want to overturn 200+ year old common law just to shut up one Canadian kid with some crayons.

As for phil's assertion that Iranians are savages, I wonder where the zero is on your sliding scale? If inventing things like algebra, jackts, mattresses, coffee, algorithms, asepsis, contagion isolation, and the modern clock makes you a "savage", where does that leave the average poor white guy? A "beast"?

Here's the thing. It seems to me the Iranians may have crappy leaders right now, and they may have had a bad run of luck with leadership in the past too, but to declare them all savages and presumably mind-clones of their leaders is kind of simple-minded isn't it?

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 8:47:05 AM


When ever did Iran have good leaders???? Name it, I will wait ......

Re the brains of the ME .... You may be referring the earlier feats of the Arabic world, but remember this a lot of the greatness cam from Egypt/Alexandria which was pretty much controlled and ruled by Greeks. Most of the real brainy stuff in the ancient times came from Greeks not Arabs.

Our society is based on Greek Culture
The wonderful world of Islam is based on Arab culture.

Finally, just because you slip into a foreign country, drop a couple of babies then split, doesn't mean that we now owe that family anything.

Kids belong with their parents and where the parents wind up for whatever reasons, the kid belong with them. When they are old enough to travel on their own, they can claim their birthright and come here. Then they can petition to bring their parents here too.

Any other way means we will have what the US has with it's illegal Mex population.

Take you pick.

Note: Iranians are Persians not Arabs. They look down on Arabs as lesser beings.

The Ancient Greeks kicked Persian ass in more ways than one.

Posted by: John West | 2008-03-11 9:29:52 AM

Bottom line: Their request for asylum was denied, they then broke the law. That they dragged their children into it is regrettable but irrelevant, and at least the families were kept together instead of the children being sent to a separate facility. At least their children have hopefully learned that breaking the law has consequences.

That said, there is no excuse for inhumane treatment of (presumably) non-violent prisoners. Had I been the father of the daughter who had to go potty, I would say to her, "Take of your pants and do it in the corner." Then to the guard, "Either she goes in the potty or on your rug. Choose."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-03-11 9:41:28 AM


There is no set opinion on the ACLU at the Western Standard. Some of us think they're the good guys (more or less); others, probably not. Does this difference of opinion surprise you?


Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-03-11 9:53:58 AM

My points were that:
a) There seems to be an inconsistent take on whether the ACLU is a good thing or a bad thing.
b) The kids are Canadian citizens, whether we like it or not, and that complicates the case whether we like it or not.
c) Its childish to call Iranians savages, and even more childish to excuse yourself form caring about kids in prison because they're the children of so-called savages.

If I'm wrong about Al-Khwarizmi vs. Diophantus and exactly who invented the sofa, or if I overlooked how that Zack Snyder film proved that white men in leather thongs can kick Persian butt any day, that doesn't change the fact that there's an inconsistency in how the ACLU is characterized on this blog, or that the kids are legally Canadian citizens, or that it's childish to call an entire nation savages as an excuse to overlook Canadian kids in a U.S. prison, does it?

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 9:57:10 AM

PR is making the same old ridiculous claim that someone in the muslim world actually invented something. Talk about stretching something to the breaking point. Every one of these so-called products of Islam happened centuries before the Islamic movement. How many times does this fact have to be pounded into people?

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 9:59:03 AM

Disallowing refugee status to a family means nothing. Deport them and they'll just try to sneak back into the country. That seems a fairly good indication of their respect for Canadian law. Should we reward these people for trying an end run around our immigration policies, such as they are?

Posted by: Rick Arbogast | 2008-03-11 10:00:12 AM

DP, scroll up a whole two inches and read what I had to say there.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 10:03:52 AM

PR, I agree that "savages" is not an accurate description. I've met a few Iranian immigrants, and what struck me is their ability to be evasive about their beliefs. I assume this comes from years of practise in surviving under a brutal regime. The problem I see is trusting anything they say.

This also applies to the immigrants from Eastern Europe. These people spent their entire lives trying to keep up appearances. I don't think they understand the concept of honesty. Working with Czechs, Ukranians, Serbs for a few years taught me to watch my back, and believe half what I saw and nothing I heard.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 10:30:51 AM


I am still waiting for you to tell me when Iran ever had good leaders ....

Waiting .....

Waiting .....

Waiting .....

Posted by: John West | 2008-03-11 10:41:47 AM

Actually, Pattern, the children being Canadian citizens complicates matters only for the parents, not for us. Our duty to these citizens does not extend to their parents, who were irresponsible enough to have children before their status was decided. Maybe they even had these children with the hope of leveraging the government into letting them stay. In any case, we can deport the parents without complication. The children can stay or go, as the family decides.

None of this is binding on the Americans, of course; in the U.S., every member of that family is an illegal alien.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-03-11 10:52:20 AM

North american kids raised under oppressive parents will develop a kind of invisibility defense mechanism. Shallow conversations. A token social life. Lying to be agreeable. Whatever. Imagine that multiplied so severely for people coming from countries with totalitarian regimes. They've never been shown honesty or trustworthiness their entire lives, so it's as alien to them as a zen koan is to us.

You and I basically learned under a give-and-take model. Be nice, and people be nice back. They lived under a give-and-suffer model. Be nice, and be abused. They're conditioned to survive under the only thing they've ever known, and now they're in a weird place where we all say we're trustworthy. They end up having the same guarded reaction my cat has at the vet even though the vet is gentle and means well.

Anyway, knowing that helps me cut people from Messed Up Places a lot of slack.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 10:54:08 AM

John West, perhaps the former Shah of Iran said it best when he was asked why he wasn't more like the King of Sweden: "When people of Iran can think like Swedish people, I will rule like the Swedish king."

Oppression is usually not the idle distraction of a sadistic prince; more often it's a tool of necessity, whether perceived or real. Oppression takes time, money, and effort, and any ruler with a brain larger than a garbanzo bean would rather be loved than feared (which by no means includes all of them).

Iranian leaders may not make the grade as far as we are concerned; that is, we would not care to live under them. But what matters is whether the Iranians care to live under them, as they are the ones being ruled, correct?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-03-11 11:02:42 AM

Took a little speed reading John, but from what I've read I couldn't find any huge non-partisan complaints against Reza Shah Pahlavi or Mohammed Mosaddeq, other than that Mosaddeq seems to have had a thing for skinny ties.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 11:08:01 AM

At what point do you suppose the US administration realized that Saddam had the right approach to controlling the people of Iraq?

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 11:08:09 AM

"When people of Iran can think like Swedish people, I will rule like the Swedish king."

Must… resist… temptation to make… "Ishi'a" furniture store… jokes.

Nübwåt bookshelf — $49. (Beech, birch, white or black veneer)
Køran bent pine easy chair — $129.
Øpek kitchen starter kit — $79. (Metric or imperial.)

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 11:17:38 AM

I guess what I'm getting at with my comments on distrust of some immigrants is that I don't automatically believe this note was written by a ten year old.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 11:24:38 AM

Still not my problem.

And any evidence of Iran being highly 'civilised and cultured' is thrown out the window when they stone girls to death for being raped, or when they beat photographers to death, or when they provide IED's to terrorists who kill Canadians, or when they threaten to use nuclear weapons, or when they....

Posted by: philanthropist | 2008-03-11 11:25:56 AM

Philanthropist, who are "they"? The thugs in charge? Or the ones being stoned to death by the thugs in charge?

And dp, I can appreciate caution, as long as there's compassionate caution.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-11 11:43:38 AM

Exploding the Myth of Islamic "Science" and Islamic Contributions to Human Architecture and Literature:

The "Anchor Baby Laws" were enacted to pave the way for slaves and the children of slaves to transition from the status of chattels to full citizenship.
These "Anchor Baby Laws" have no place in our modern Western society and should be retroactively abolished, particularly because of their abuse by aliens as an end-run around immigration law, and in light of such perverted abuse, these laws carry no moral imperative by which Canadians or other Westerners should feel to be bound by.
(the only reason these laws haven't been abolished is because our politicians are WHORES who are betting on votes cast by illegal aliens and their supporters and Canadians, in general, are ignorant of the political dynamic)

Posted by: Speller | 2008-03-11 12:01:58 PM

Popping out babies has always been an easy fix for people who want to cash in on public sympathy. My older sister once told me she was conceived to keep my dad from being drafted into WW2. Not one of my prouder moments.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 12:09:43 PM

This is not a good indication for Canadians, as it shows how low we have sunk into the world of feelings and mushy sentiment as opposed to reason and what used to be common sense.

That these illegals were allowed to remain here long enough for the wife to give birth gives us a failing mark in secure borders and national security. Of course nothing has changed in that area since then. Canada has no obligation to take in every person wanting to come here.

What I do find disgusting is all the sentiment expressed over this family with no true or real connection to Canada, when innocent Canadians who were held in Saudi jails while being abused and raped were ignored by our government and the masses. I do wonder in the present case if some of those crying injustice are not motivated by anti-Americanism.

Sorry no tears from me. We have more than enough domestic problems at hand, and as the saying goes charity begins at home.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-03-11 12:43:20 PM


If you're still around, I wanted to say that with the number of people who contribute to the Shotgun, it's likely you'll find different takes on the ACLU. I haven't gotten a memo telling me what my opinion on the organization should be one way or the other.

Most of the time, I find myself in support of their goals, if not their methods. But others -- even other libertarians -- will disagree.

By the way, I've really appreciated your comments in this thread. Thanks for your participation.


Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-03-11 1:42:13 PM

You know, I've looked carefully at this little note. I'd bet a week's pay it wasn't written by a nine year old. The letters are very well formed and neat, and the lines appear to be intentionally skewed. None of the commonly mis-spelled words are actually mis-spelled, but the Prime Minister's name is so obviously goofy. It looks like an attempt to get a reaction.

Just compare the grammar to a typical letter to Santa Claus. This was probably written by the producers of the video.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 2:04:09 PM


You might be right. There are other letters on the ACLU website that are a little less articulate. But maybe cunning ACLU lawyers wrote all these letters to make us feel sorry for the children being held in the Hutto prison. Those tricky liberal bleeding-hearts are always trying to play on our emotions like that.

I for one am ashamed that I EVER felt any sympathy for these kids.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-03-11 2:22:05 PM

Go ahead, ridicule me. Maybe post some pictures of hungry Africans. Try to make me feel like a heartless bastard.

I have kids. I volunteer at least 15 hours a week helping kids. I spend about $10,000 a year out of my own pocket helping kids. How does that stack up to your contributions?

The fact that I see through a complete hoax doesn't make me any less sympathetic than you my friend.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 2:47:53 PM

Okay Iran needs a leader with a skinny tie and all will be well.

Posted by: John West | 2008-03-11 2:52:44 PM

The onus of shame is on the parents of these children and Iranians in general.

I have on numerous occasions debated people on this Blog who assert on the one hand, that we should feel sympathy for the Iranian people, and on the other hand, that America is responsible for the Ayatollahs gaining power in Iran when the people voted for a Communist and the Americans put the Shah into power instead.

Forget that the Communists installed Khomeini or were backing Mohammad Mossadegh and are still backing the current regime and giving them nuclear technology.

Forget that overthrowing the Shah was a popular revolution.

Forget that Iranian or other Muslim parents would kill their own children for some twisted version of family honor.

Let's instead focus on American efforts to keep territorial integrity by making their lockups less than Holiday Inns.

Let's focus on shaming Canadians because they don't bleed with sympathy over events which they cannot control.

Boo-freakin'-hoo, poor little anchor babies.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-03-11 3:14:49 PM

I'd be willing to sponsor one of these kids, on one condition. His parents have to give up custody and go home where they belong. If they really want what's best for the children, they should jump at the opportunity.

My guess is they'd say "cut the baby in half".

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 3:23:38 PM

DP, Saddam wasn't toppled because of what he was doing to Iraqis. He was toppled because of what he was doing to people OTHER than Iraqis, and what the U.S. feared he might do in the future. There was also the fact that Iraq is fairly secular (as Islamic nations go) and thus one of the better prospects for democracy to take root--an immediately fatal development for any theocrat. The oil was a factor too.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-03-11 3:36:12 PM

Shane- True enough. I was just wondering if they've had second thoughts about expecting democracy to work in such a culture.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-11 3:46:16 PM

Screw it, and all the angst over this kid. He was born in Canada, so what? His parents were kicked out. The kid is a minor so his parents are in control of him until he reaches the age of majority. His parents are just using this as a wedge to get to Canada. That crayon letter is a dead givaway as well. The kid didn't write it on his own. This whole situation stinks and the government should wash their hands of the whole mess and just let the the family sink or swim.
I'm sick of being used as a doormat for these A-Holes.

Posted by: atric | 2008-03-11 4:05:32 PM

If Iran were run by "monkeys" and "savages" then surely it would be less than virtuous of us to deny people escape from such a place. Notice that I don't say that we ought to provide them anything, only that we ought not to stand in their way of seeking a better life away from tyranny for themselves and their families.

Our unsustainable welfare state is not the problem of someone who is worried about having their children lined up against a wall and shot if they're gay or caught having an "inappropriate" relationship with a member of the opposite sex, or of living in a town that is one day used to test chemical weapons. Our bad policies need to be dealt with in their own right, we shouldn't be shirking our responsibilities for them by condemning people.

I wouldn't leave, let alone trap, a child to drown in a pond and I wouldn't condemn people who are under the heel of tyrants to stay there out of convenience for myself to allow me to escape my own bad decisions.

I am downright ashamed that my tax dollars contribute to such nonsense.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-03-11 7:16:35 PM

>>I have kids. I volunteer at least 15 hours a week helping kids. I spend about $10,000 a year out of my own pocket helping kids. How does that stack up to your contributions?

Your decision to volunteer and donate to help children, while commendable, is in no way related to the policies you are advocating which, regardless of your own personal actions, condemn innocent people, including children, to die for trying to seek a better life.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-03-11 7:18:14 PM

Janet, we're not denying them escape from Iran. We're denying them permission to escape to here. Last time I checked, there were lots of other countries for them to try. They then attempted to enter illegally, which says a lot about their character. And as others here have noted, I'm not convinced this letter isn't a put-up job by the parents. Parents who use their children as political props ought to be horsewhipped in public.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-03-11 7:23:24 PM

"You'll have a tough go of it if you want to overturn 200+ year old common law just to shut up one Canadian kid with some crayons."

Lies, damn lies.

"Persons Born in Canada Prior to January 1, 1947

As stated above, prior to the Former Act, no citizenship statute existed. The Current Act provides limited recognition of citizenship for persons born in Canada prior to the coming into force of the Former Act. Section 4 of the Current Act provides that only persons who were not "aliens" on January 1, 1947 can claim citizenship through birth in Canada. Section 2 of the Former Act defined "alien" as a person who was not a Canadian citizen, Commonwealth Citizen, British subject or citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

Persons born in Canada who were "aliens" under the Former Act prior to January 1, 1947 could not claim Canadian citizenship through birth in Canada."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-03-11 11:26:54 PM

DP I was referring to the general practice in the British Empire, and using that to illustrate how the argument over whether birth=citizenship was already a settled issue and not re-openable. I'm not a lawyer, so I probably misspoke in calling it common law. It happens—I have non-designer friends who call typefaces 'fonts' all the time and it drives me batty. But you know that, so I'll drop it and say either a) good Googling or b) damn, good memory!

Regardless, it's safe to assume he was born after 1948 so he's in the clear and not an Iranian citizen even if that makes the case more annoying for some of us.

And Terence, re: "I've really appreciated your comments in this thread. Thanks for your participation.". My pleasure! I'm sure you know we'll disagree on lots, but I'll stand up where there's something to stand up for. I'm an idealist, not an ideologue. It keeps me busy.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-12 8:37:36 AM

janet- I didn't advocate any policies, you idiot. I was simply pointing out that this post was based on a phony letter. I didn't appreciate the author's assertion that my skepticism was proof of my cruel nature.

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-12 10:14:44 AM

"I didn't appreciate the author's assertion that my skepticism was proof of my cruel nature."

I agree with DP here. His skepticism isn't proof of his cruel nature. (Make sure you read that a couple of times.)

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-12 10:30:55 AM

All that and more PR

Posted by: dp | 2008-03-12 10:43:19 AM

Nature is cruel.

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law --
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Posted by: Speller | 2008-03-12 10:47:26 AM

Some would argue that technically it's only cruel at the moment, but not meant to be cruel. Paul said, "… the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

I may wind up disappointed (I doubt it), but I'm one of Those Types who believes that the bustedness we see around us isn't the original design, and that has lots of impact on how I make decisions here.

So yes, there is cruelty. But we don't have to dance to its drumbeat.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-03-12 10:56:17 AM

The lion and the calf shall lie down together. but the calf won't get much sleep.
~Woody Allen

Posted by: Speller | 2008-03-12 11:08:13 AM

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