Political Hypocrisy & Economic Ignorance: the Case Against Atanas Entchev

by Brian Timoney

This week many of us in the geospatial community have been deeply troubled by news that our colleague Atanas Entchev, along with his wife and son, have been detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a for-profit “Community Education Center” (read: prison) in Newark, New Jersey.  Prominent in the online world with his blog, articles in professional publications, and reliably droll tweets, I enjoyed meeting up with him when on the East Coast for wide-ranging conversation over lunch, comparing notes on the life of freelance GIS consultant.  Among others, John Reiser, James Fee, Adena Schutzberg, and Bill Dollins have helped spread the word about Atanas’ plight and the support fund set up for his family.

It's a lot of things, but certainly not "justice": US Government is spending your tax dollars to deport law-abiding immigrant entrepreneurs in order to meet internal quotas.


A native of Bulgaria, Atanas came to the US in 1991 in the wake of the turmoil in Eastern Europe following the disintegration of the Iron Curtain, etc.  The winding road of the 20-year legal saga can be found here. To a layman, it reads as a story of differing interpretations of perceived threat in a chaotic political climate and a litany of motions, counter-motions, and paperwork deadlines.  Amid these gray areas of interpretation, there is no accusation of any type of criminal behavior on the part of Atanas or his family members during their 20-year stay here. Given that Atanas became firmly established professionally and his family lived the life of the educated middle-class, the question of “why deportation now?” lingers.

By coincidence, Frontline this week is broadcasting a feature, ‘Lost in Detention’, outlining the increasingly aggressive measures to deport immigrants.  The key clip begins at the 17-minute mark outlining the arbitrary goal of 400,000 deportations, including “Non-criminal removals”. So like school test scores and police CompStat metrics, deportation goals seemingly have unleashed their own set of nasty counter-productive consequences.  And is it any wonder in our time of federal budget cutbacks that agencies re-double efforts to protect their slice of the pie, invoking “security” whenever possible?  Further, with an election year coming up, neither party wants to be seen as anything but tough on immigration, happily playing on the fears of economically downtrodden voters.

But here’s the funny thing about immigration:  economically, it’s a net positive.  And when you’re talking educated professionals fluent in the language with an entrepreneurial bent it’s utterly self-defeating to turn them away. In our time of expending trillions in the hopes of stimulating the economy, that the inarguable financial benefits of immigration can’t be acknowledged speaks volumes either of the ignorance or moral cowardice of the political class.  Hell, even Tom Friedman gets it.

Having little faith in the efficacy of appealing to the better nature of politicians, I would nonetheless urge you to, in addition to the methods of support listed above, drop a line to Atanas’ Senate and Congressional representatives asking why taxpayer money is being wasted on imprisoning a non-criminal immigrant entrepreneur and his family members–

                     Congressman Frank Pallone (Atanas’ office is in his district)
                     Senator Frank Lautenberg
                     Senator Robert Menendez

Like so many whose formative years were spent elsewhere, Atanas is notably well-mannered: I’m utterly confident that whatever effort you can expend on his behalf would earn a lifetime of gratitude.

—Brian Timoney