From the Does-the-Punishment-Fit-the Crime file comes news of Vista resident Hasan Saddiq Faseh Alddin's arrest last Thursday. Alddin, a 34-year-old Saudi national, got himself entangled in a wide net cast by San Diego's Joint Terrorism Task Force as the federal agency went about investigating anything and everything surrounding Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, the two men who had been based in San Diego and helped hijack the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
The task force spent three years investigating Alddin, and all it turned up is that he once roomed with a guy who had close ties to Alhazmi and al-Midhar. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency spokesperson Lauren Mack acknowledged in an interview with CityBeat that Alddin is not suspected of any terrorist activities.
However, for some reason—the feds won't say why—the government thinks it necessary to send Alddin packing back to Saudi Arabia, or any other country that will send us travel documents.
Typically, when the government is investigating potential terrorists, it'll come across an immigration violation in lieu of actual evidence of ties to terrorists. Usually, agents find that the person used fraudulent documents to enter the U.S., or they'll find that the person has overstayed a visa. Not so this time. Alddin married an American and is in this country legally. But agents combed through his history and found two misdemeanor domestic violence convictions—one in 1998 and another in 2002. For that, they believe he should be deported. Alddin is now in custody in the federal detention center at Otay Mesa, his future in an immigration judge's hands.
Is domestic violence OK? Of course not. Should wife-batterers be fully prosecuted? Absolutely. Should we ensure that Alddin's wife and children aren't in danger in their own home? Yes. But should a man be deported because he has two misdemeanors on his record?
The government won't tell us why it thinks Alddin should go. Hopefully, more information will emerge when Alddin's case goes to court. If there is no stronger evidence that he is a danger to national security than the fact that he once knew someone who once knew two terrorists, then we hope the judge considers what's best for Alddin and his family.
If he's a danger to his wife and kids (ages 2 and 6), then we should get him the help he needs. If he's worked out his anger issues and paid his debt to society, then we should avoid making two more American children fatherless.
At this point, deportation seems a bit extreme.
Trim City Council budgets
Kudos to the San Diego Union-Tribune for reporting on the office budgets of Mayor Dick Murphy and the other eight members of the San Diego City Council. Amid the gore and mayhem of ongoing city budget slashing, which has resulted in severe cutbacks in spending on libraries, parks and social assistance, and increased fees for various services, it would be negligent to ignore the money the mayor and the councilmembers are spending on their own offices.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 includes $2.69 million for the mayor's office, plus $7.27 million total for the other eight City Council offices, ranging from $862,595 for Brian Maienschein's office to $958,945 for Charles Lewis' office. As the U-T reported Monday, the mayor has managed to keep costs down-increasing his budget just 6 percent in the last five years—but the councilmembers' office budgets have risen by more than 30 percent in the same time.
No one's suggesting that the elected officials' budgets are absurdly high, but with the city's finances in such dire straits, it's reasonable to ask them to endure some of the pain.
Apparently, there is no plan to consider the budgets of the City Council offices. That is unacceptable, in light of the unanimous decision by the City Council a week ago to cut spending on social-service programs by 34 percent.
We propose averaging out the eight City Council office budgets to $909,000 and then cutting $50,000 from each, resulting in $859,000 for each member's office. That figure falls just $3,000 short of Maienschein's budget, so we know it's possible to run a City Council office on that level of funding. We also propose trimming Murphy's office budget by $50,000, making the total savings $450,000. That money, we think, should be put back into the funding for nonprofit social services. The tradeoff is the equivalent of one mid-level staff person for each council office in exchange for restored funding for services used by San Diego's neediest residents.