Revolution #229, April 15, 2011
From a Reader:
Victor Toro denied asylum; ordered deported to Chile
A Very Bad Decision
On March 2, a U.S. Immigration Court judge in New York ruled in the case of well-known immigrants' rights activist and Chilean exile Victor Toro, denying his request for political asylum in the U.S. and ordering him deported to Chile.
As readers of Revolution may recall (Revolution #96, revcom.us/a/096/ice-raid-en.html), Victor Toro's case began on July 6, 2007 when Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) agents went down the aisles of an Amtrak train near Rochester, N.Y., demanding to see immigration documents from those that they profiled as immigrants, and 35 people were detained. That this prominent immigrants' rights activist was among the detained made it a major news story at the time. This incident put a spotlight on an increasingly common outrage—ICE agents profiling and detaining people who "look" like immigrants on trains and in bus stations. [The racial profiling involved in this has been further shown by the targeting of another well-known person, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Ph.D., formerly director of the Dominican Studies Institute at the City University of New York and now director of the Latino-Latin American Studies Program at Syracuse University. Dr. Torres-Saillant has reported being stopped by ICE agents three times at upstate bus stations as he began bus trips back to New York City.]
The decision in Victor Toro's case was outrageous on many levels. In powerful testimony, Toro, his family and expert witnesses presented a picture of massive crimes including torture committed against Toro and others in Chile. Toro was among the many thousands of Chileans arrested and tortured by the government of Augusto Pinochet, which seized power through a U.S.-backed coup in September 1973. Secret documents leaked over the years have clearly established that the U.S. government, through U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, played a key role in planning and carrying out this coup.
Testimony presented in Toro's case recounted three torture chambers in Chile where Toro was brutally tortured. Documentation was made of how Toro was declared officially dead by the Chilean military junta government and expelled from the country. Evidence documented how in "Operation Condor," the Chilean security forces, DINA, hunted down and assassinated opponents of the Pinochet regime in different parts of Latin America, the attempted assassination of ex-vice president Bernardo Leighton in Italy in 1975 and the car bomb assassination of former minister [during the presidency of Salvador Allende] Orlando Letelier and his American secretary Ronni Moffitt in the streets of Washington in 1976. Evidence was presented on how DINA was trailing Toro in several countries after he left Chile. Yet the court refused to recognize that Toro would have had very good reason not to have applied for asylum within a year of his entry into the U.S. in 1984, fearing that providing his whereabouts to the U.S. government that worked so closely with the Chilean secret police would give them this information, fearing that such information could get to DINA.
But that wasn't the worst of it. This prosecution, which began during the Bush regime and continued on the same course under Obama, submitted sensational CIA and CIA "think tank" reports attempting to paint Toro and those he worked with in Chile, as "terroristas." A 1970 Time magazine article was submitted by Homeland Security about a land takeover involving several thousand people outside of Santiago, which named Victor Toro as a leader.
The judge upheld the Homeland Security prosecutors' claim that "there has been a fundamental change in circumstances in Chile" and Toro would have no reason to fear returning to Chile now, despite the fact that most of those who tortured him and others still freely roam in Chile, including some still in positions of authority.
Doctors testified about Toro's disability, back problems and emotional distress stemming from the aftermath of his torture, continuing up to now. Witnesses documented the important work done by the cultural/political center "Vamos a La Peña" in the South Bronx that Toro co-founded. Supporters packed the courtroom every day showing how precious Toro is for many people. Yet the judge has now ordered him to be expelled to Chile, separated from his family, child and grandchild, and friends of 25 years in the South Bronx.
The cruelty and heartless nature of this decision and the legal framework that the judge followed is an indictment of this system. What kind of system is it that orders and assists in the murder of foreign country presidents, the killing and torture of thousands, the driving of thousands to the U.S. and then forces those immigrants who come here into decades of lives of fear—hounded by the authorities and subject to targeting and detention by ICE agents?
Lest any think this was an isolated incident—take a look at what Obama said on his visit to Chile, just 10 days after Toro was denied asylum. At a news conference in Chile, a Chilean reporter asked Obama whether "the United States is willing to ask for forgiveness for what it did in those very difficult years in the '70s in Chile." Obama simply answered firmly that no such apology would be forthcoming, and said that the U.S. and Chile could not be "trapped by our history" and insisted that he could not "speak to all of the policies of the past."
This outrageous decision is being appealed and the struggle against this attack is continuing and should be supported. Victor has declared that every day he remains here he will "fight for the rights of immigrants in the United States" and to expose and shut down the U.S. torture chambers at Guantánamo and elsewhere around the world.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.