Acting more like heady nightclub bouncers than doormen to our fair city, a week ago INS officials strip-searched an innocent 36-year-old Chinese businesswoman as she tried to pass through the Portland Airport. Afterward, they handcuffed her for a two-hour ride to prison. God bless America, huh? It seems as if the woman's passport was a bit dog-eared and the INS goons suspected her of some sort of international hanky-panky.

Several months ago, three Japanese businessmen were also gruffly detained by INS officials at PDX. At that time, there was a murmuring of discontent about David Beebe, the local director of the INS, and his power trip. This time around, after last week's detention, a bevy of local politicians have stepped forward. State Senator Avel Gordly called him "racist." While the Mercury commends the recent criticism of Beebe, we also believe that he deserves much more. The recent detention is merely the tip of a hulking mass of human rights violations in Oregon by the INS. Several weeks ago, the Mercury detailed the local INS policy of indefinitely holding Vietnamese and Cuban immigrants. Currently, approximately five dozen Vietnamese and Cuban are held in stir-crazy jails around the state.

At the base of the problem is the very same complaint that local environmentalists have with the US Forest Service: The INS is an independent, executive branch, federal agency. Like the US Forest Service, the INS has no true responsibility to the people of Oregon. They are not elected officials. They are appointed. As such, they can freewheel without any of the normal checks and balances of democracy. This November, you can't vote them out of office.

It raises the question: What can you do? Should we just hold our breath and hope for the best? Hope that these appointed officials will suddenly acquire an ethical backbone?

Oregon is quickly gaining a reputation for human rights violations. These violations stem from the direction of one man. Perhaps we should consider the same tactics that environmentalists use to draw attention to their problems. Picket. Sit on the ledges outside the INS offices. For those interested, David Beebe is located on the fourth floor of the building at 511 NW Broadway.