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Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse - Unless You’re a Refugee

July 17, 2017

From Federal, to States and municipalities, there are an almost innumerable number of laws. So many that no one could possibly know them all, much less keep track of them.
What we do know is the phrase, ignorantia legis neminem excusat. Okay – maybe we don’t all know Latin - but we have heard the English translation – Ignorance of Law Excuses No One. It’s legalese that means a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because one was unaware of its existence. In other words – if a law says some action (or inaction) is a crime and you commit it, you’re guilty. The principle is also one of the first that students learn in law school. It’s pretty simple and pretty straight forward.
It is unless one happens to be a refugee from some far away land. Then this principle, which is strictly enforced on us law-abiding American citizens, may not.
A man in Manchester, NH, was arrested on six counts of domestic violence. “According to court paperwork, he was accused of striking, pushing, grabbing, kicking, and pulling out the hair of a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant at the time.” It was evidently an open and shut case.
The man, 33-year-old Augustin Bahati, is a refugee from the Congo who was “resettled” in 2015. He, like many refugees, has been placed in Manchester, and many cities like it, without the permission, and quite often without even the knowledge of the city. The feds, under Obama, just brought in refugees and quietly bussed them to cities around the country. As this is my own backyard, I’ve been able to speak to authorities about our refugee problem. They tell me there’s not a darn thing they can do. They have to take them. Great system - eh?
You may be thinking – oh great – another immigrant clogging up the judicial system, and another for which we taxpayers must pay to incarcerate. You’d be wrong. He got off scot-free. And the reason given was due to “cultural incompetence.”
A liberal Manchester prosecutor agreed with Bahati’s defense attorney that he showed “cultural incompetence” regarding the American judicial system. This is a new one, of which the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office was unaware.
According to the AG’s office, to prove incompetency, a forensic examiner must show that, “a defendant suffers from a mental disease or defect, and lacks the ability to rationally understand the case - the defendant cannot be restored to competency in 12 months, and the defendant is not a danger to himself or others.” If ALL criteria are met, the case is dismissed. New Hampshire law contains no provision for “cultural incompetence.” It’s a made up, feel-good liberal term.
But the parties agreed that Bahati was, “Not competent, not restorable, and not dangerous.” After all – he was just a poor African refugee who just didn’t understand that beating a pregnant woman is not allowed in America. And certainly the beating of just one woman (that we know of) does not make him “a danger to others.”
However, it was discovered that Bahati was not so ignorant of the American System. Newly arrived refugees are enrolled in cultural orientation classes held in their own language. The refugees are taught about and must show they understand legal system and yes, domestic-abuse laws.
“They have to go through a cultural orientation program. They have to pass an assessment, they have to show competency,” said Jeffrey Thielman, president and chief executive of the International Institute of New England.
So what are we to conclude? I guess the only thing we can is that there are actually three systems of justice in this country. One - where the well-connected avoid prosecution. Two - where immigrants and refugees get off due to a nonexistent “cultural incompetence.” And the third – where regular citizens like you and I are held to the highest account, regardless of our ignorance of the law.
And now that this cat is out of the bag, I would expect to see more liberal prosecutors accept the “cultural incompetence” defense.

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Brent Smith, "The Common Constitutionalist," offers not just conservative commentary and analysis, but a blend of politics, history, arts, science, and humor. Whoever said conservatives aren’t funny? Yeah, I know…most people. Brent is a contributing writer for numerous online publications. When he is not burning the midnight oil writing his insightful commentaries, he is raising his two teenage sons to be patriots and Conservatives.
Visit Brent Smith's website at www.commonconstitutionalist.com