Immigration Footnotes to Non-Immigration Stories, Like that of Strauss-Kahn

By David North on July 2, 2011

The question is: will the Department of Homeland Security admit its mistakes in the asylum case of the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape, as the New York District Attorney's Office admitted its mistakes – a painful and honorable decision?

The DA's Office in Manhattan, perhaps too quickly, had relied on the hotel maid's story, which brought down the head of the International Monetary Fund (who presumably travels in the U.S. on a G-1 visa). In state court on Friday an Assistant District Attorney told the judge that credibility of the witness was in "serious question" according to a New York Times report.

The Frenchman was quickly freed from house arrest, and his million-dollar bail was returned to him.

In another Times article it was revealed that among other things the woman, who was not named in either the Times or the Washington Post stories, had lied on her (apparently successful) asylum application. She is from Guinea, a former French colony, and had told USCIS staff that she had been gang-raped in that country.

The newspaper also reported that she spoke by (wiretapped) telephone to her boyfriend in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Arizona, telling him, in effect, "Don't worry this guy has a lot of money. I know what I am doing."

It is not clear why he was in the facility, but presumably he is facing deportation proceedings. Other parts of the news stories spoke of his drug dealings and her receipts of thousands of dollars from various unknown sources.

The conversation was in Fulani, one of Guinea's languages, and it took a few days to get it translated.

If she, in fact, lied on her asylum application, DHS has the option of revoking her status and deporting her. I have seen nothing in the press about this possibility, but it is there.

Let's pause for a moment and think about what the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has done after they found out about the hotel maid's recent past.

The case was a worldwide sensation, with Strauss-Kahn, among other things, being regarded as a potential candidate for presidency of France; he would have been running against the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, who apparently is in serious political trouble. Had the case come to a successful conclusion, Cyrus Vance Jr., the recently elected District Attorney, would have had a major feather in his cap.

Add to this the near-legendary reputation of the office, which is widely regarded as competent and full of integrity. It has been led, over the last 70 years, by only four people: Tom Dewey, later the GOP governor of New York, Frank Hogan, one-time Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Robert Morgenthau, son of FDR's Secretary of the Treasury, and now Vance, son of Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State.

Note that neither some enterprising reporter, nor Strauss-Kahn's expensive legal team found out about the hotel maid's past; it was the DA's Office. To go public with a near mea culpa, as the DA's Office did, must have been the result of a truly wrenching decision.

The question now is, what will DHS do with the same information? We will learn as time passes, and we may also learn why her boyfriend is in trouble with ICE.

Meanwhile, another story about a politician in trouble, a Republican in this case, has emerged with a bit of an immigration overtone.

Today's Times also carries a short account of an investigation by the House of Representatives Ethics Committee; one of the two House members being investigated is Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and the charge against her is that she accepted free legal advice (presumably not reporting it as income) from a Turkish-American group.

The latter is, according to other sources, the Gulen Charter Schools, whose widespread and controversial use of the H-1B program was discussed in a CIS Memorandum on the relationship between that program and K-12 education. The connection between the congresswoman and immigration issues is a little less pressing than in the Strauss-Kahn matter.