Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Removal Proceedings Tossed Against Two of ‘L.A. 8’— Lawyers
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The 20-year effort to deport two Los Angeles-area men, legal residents of the United States, over their alleged support for terrorism has been dismissed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, attorneys for the men said yesterday.
Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and the ACLU of Southern California announced that deportation proceedings had been terminated after the government dropped its appeal of a ruling early this year by Senior Immigration Judge Bruce Einhorn.
Einhorn ordered the dismissal as a sanction for the government’s violation of his order to turn over exculpatory evidence in the case against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh. They are among eight person—seven Palestinians and the Kenyan wife of one of the seven—who were dubbed the “L.A. 8” following their arrests in January 1987.
They were accused of involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization. They did not dispute allegations that the PFLP was involved in terrorist activities between 1984 and 1986, but said their support for Palestinian causes was political and humanitarian only and that they did nothing to further terrorism.
Attorneys for Hamide and Shehadeh said in a statement that the men had reached an agreement with the government, giving up their right to apply for citizenship for at least three years and allowing Einhorn’s orders in the case to be vacated as moot, in exchange for the government dropping its appeal, dismissing all charges, and agreeing not to seek removal of either of the men in the future based on any of their political activities or associations.
The litigation had tested the extent to which aliens residing in the Unites States may exercise the rights of U.S. citizens. William Webster, director of the FBI when it first investigated the eight, conceded at a congressional oversight hearing that the activities of the eight would not have formed a basis for arrest if they were citizens.
In ordering dismissal, Einhorn wrote:
The repeated actions of the government in not complying with the court’s orders have prevented [Hamide and Shehadeh] from obtaining fair hearings and closure in their cases. The attenuation of these proceedings is a festering wound on the body of these respondents and an embarrassment to the rule of law.”
Unless such a “gross failure” had consequences, Einhorn said, “an immigration judge is reduced to the status of a Blanche DuBois, who must rely on the kindness of strangers. Such status would gut the statutory and regulatory scheme of deportation proceedings.”
Attorneys for the two hailed the government’s decision to drop the case as a victory for the rights of immigrants.
“This is a monumental victory for all immigrants who want to be able to express their political views and support the lawful activities of organizations in their home countries fighting for social or political change,” Marc Van Der Hout, a San Francisco-based lawyer with the NLG, said in a statement.
“Hamide and Shehadeh did nothing more than advocate for Palestinians’ right to a homeland and support charitable causes and other legal activities in the Occupied Territories. That should never have been cause for deportation charges in the first place. The government’s attempt to deport them all these years marks another shameful period in our government’s history of targeting certain groups of immigrants for their political beliefs and activities.”
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and volunteer attorney for the CCR, said the government recognized “that federal anti-terrorism resources can be far better spent on other endeavors.”
The government has never accused any of the eight of advocating or participating in terrorism. It initially sought to have them deported for belonging to a Communist organization, which immigrants were prohibited from doing under the Cold War-era McCarran-Walter Act.
That act, which lower courts had declared unconstitutional, was repealed by Congress in 1990. Authorities then sought to deport the eight under the 1990 immigration law that replaced McCarran-Walter, accusing them of providing “material support” to the PFLP.
Einhorn ruled in 2001 that the 1990 act could not be applied retroactively to Hamide and Shehadeh. But Congress later enacted the USA Patriot Act, which expanded grounds for deportation, and the case was sent back to Einhorn.
In all, the case went before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals four times, the U.S. Supreme Court once, and the BIA multiple times.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company