Houston, TX – In what could possibly be a storyline straight out of the Onion, but regrettably played out in reality, a Texas guy was arrested by several heavily armed U.S. Marshals for not being able to pay an almost 30-year-old student loan debt.
The guy, Paul Aker, 48, explained he was caught off-guard by the heavily armed agents that arrived at his home to arrest him for not being able to pay the nearly 3-decades old debt.
“They grabbed me, they threw me down,” Aker shared with the Daily News on Tuesday. “Local PD is just standing there.”
As outlined by a report by the NY Daily News:
He mentioned he observed a suspect truck in front of his house on Thursday morning, and when someone greeted, he ran back into the house. Later that morning, a group of armed Marshals with combat weapons arrived at his door.
“I say, ‘What is this all about?’” Aker explained to The News. “They say, ‘Shut up, you know what this is all about.’ I don’t have a clue.”
When Aker continued to question, they continued to state “you know what this is all about,” he reported.
Finally he was informed it was about a 30-year-old student loan.
“You could have sent me a letter. You could have called me,” Aker explained.
The U.S. Marshals stated later in court that they had the firepower because Aker had a gun, but he disagrees with that.
“But you were already at my door,” he stated. “It was because they understood I was a registered gun owner.
“It’s out of control. Out of control,” he continued. What if they had seen a gun on me? They would have shot me for 1,500 bucks.”
Aker’s arrest for a 30-year-old, $1,500 dollar debt is troubling enough; but taken in concert with the truth that simply being an owner of a firearm, a protected right under the U.S. Constitution, was reason enough for agents to turn up in combat gear and with fully automatic weapons elevates the threatening specter of the police state rising.
After being detained, Aker was held at the federal building in downtown Houston, before being brought to a courtroom, where a “prosecutor,” judge and county clerk were present, based on the NY Daily News. Aker stated the supposed “prosecutor” was actually a collection lawyer.
“Then I get a lecture (from the judge) about the United States and stealing from the government,” Aker stated.
As per the NY Daily News:
Aker told The News that he was ordered to pay $5,700 for the loan, including interest. However, Aker was also ordered to pay for the cost of the morning arrest – nearly $1,300. If he didn’t pay that amount by March 1, he said, he was told he would be arrested again.
Aker was shaken by the entire ordeal and is working to secure legal representation. He claims that during the whole process he was never read his rights.
“I am still shaken,” Aker said. “I had to go to work yesterday, and it was hard to drive to work, for the fear of someone coming. I am looking out the window and I have things to do today, and I am still afraid to go outside.”
The typical student loan debt for a 2015 graduate was roughly $35,000, reported by the Wall Street Journal. The criminalization of those who can not afford to repay a student loan may become a more common phenomena, with a report by Fox 26 claiming that U.S. Marshals have plans to serve up to 1,500 warrants on folks who have failed to repay their student loans.
Texas Rep. Gene Green (D) sees a issue with utilizing U.S. Marshals to act as muscle to collect these loans for debt collectors and lawyers.
“There’s bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that is so old,” Green told Fox 26.
As per a report by Fox 26:
Congressman Gene Green says the federal government is now using private debt collectors to go after those who owe student loans.
Green says as a result, those attorneys and debt collectors are getting judgements in federal court and asking judges to use the US Marshals Service to arrest those who have failed to pay their federal student loans.
Our reliable source with the US Marshal in Houston say Aker isn’t the first and won’t be the last.
They have to serve anywhere from 1200 to 1500 warrants to people who have failed to pay their federal student loans.
It is particularly a concern that armed agents of the state are being utilized to bully people into paying delinquent student loan debt. There has to be a more intelligent approach in which to try to reconcile these debts than to send heavily armed individuals to arrest those either unwilling or more than likely unable to pay.
It speaks to the nature of the state itself that the default position is essentially always one of coercive force rather than to intellectually evaluate the means that will almost certainly provide the desired result – a reconciled debt.
When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.