Deporting for Shoplifting!
Deported for Shoplifting?
By Bill Ong Hing
Sunday, December 29, 2002; Page B07
Would we deport Winona Ryder for shoplifting? Of course not. In fact, for her felony conviction, Ryder will pay restitution, engage in community service and face no jail time. Yet, every day, the United States deports lawful immigrants and refugees who have been convicted of minor offenses such as shoplifting and writing bad checks. Yes, some have committed more serious crimes involving violence or narcotics, but all have been incarcerated, then deported on top of that.
The planned deportation of almost 1,400 Cambodian refugees back to a country with one of the world's worst human rights records should make us rethink our deportation laws. For years Cambodia would not accept deportable refugees, but last March, enticed by further economic aid from the United States, it signed a repatriation agreement. Since then, 36 Cambodian nationals have been sent back, while others await processing by U.S. immigration officials. Those deported have been detained by the Cambodian government for weeks at a time awaiting further "processing," while they and their U.S. families have been pressured with extortion demands. Money is requested for every little privilege, such as $50 for the use of towels.
The real tragedy of the deportation of Cambodian refugees is who they are. Most of those being deported have little connection to contemporary Cambodia, their only memories being of the cruelty and starvation under the Khmer Rouge and the "Killing Fields" massacre of more than 2 million of their countrymen. Some do not speak Khmer, and many do not read or write the language. Some were born in refugee camps in Thailand and have never set foot in Cambodia. Others entered the United States as infants. Most have resided in the United States for more than 20 years and for all intents and purposes are Americans, having grown up here. Like it or not, they are products of the American environment.
Who are the Cambodian deportees? Lundy See of Philadelphia entered as a refugee at age 8; he was convicted of assault at 16 and served 14 months in prison. Sokha Sun of Seattle, who possessed a gun illegally, came to the United States as a three-week-old refugee. Borom Chea, who grew up near Sacramento, entered at the age of 3. At 17 he was convicted of robbery and served 71/2 years in state prison. Other Cambodian deportees, who wish to remain anonymous, include a young man whose offense was public urination; another was convicted of drunken driving; one was convicted of two petty thefts. A recent group of deportees who arrived in Phnom Penh included an 80-year-old man. Left behind are their spouses, children, parents and friends. In years past, deportation relief might have been afforded to many of these people if certain hardships or rehabilitation could be established, but an overhaul of the immigration laws in 1996 closed this avenue for a second chance to most "alien criminals."
As a sovereign nation, we certainly have the technical authority to punish and remove these people from our country. But even though we have this power, how, when and on what basis should we exercise it? Are we really proud of deporting people who entered the country as infants to a land where they have no real ties? People who have served their criminal sentences? People who may have convincing evidence of rehabilitation? People who have stable families and communities ready to help get them back on their feet? Many of these deportees deserved a second chance, but our system provided them with no opportunity to present their cases.
Winona Ryder is lucky she did not enter the country as a toddler from a Thai refugee camp. If she had, she might be faced with an armed escort to Phnom Penh.
The writer is a professor of law and Asian American studies at the University of California at Davis.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
The Wrong Way
Sunday, December 29, 2002; Page B06
NOTHING IS WRONG, in principle, with the Immigration and Naturalization Service's plan to register and fingerprint temporary visa holders in this country who hail from countries with a history of sponsoring terrorism or exporting terrorists. It makes sense for the government to have as precise an idea as possible of who is here and where those people are living. The assumption by some civil liberties groups that it is illegitimate racial profiling to attach stricter conditions for visas for nationals of some countries than for others seems wrong. Yet a basic sympathy with the INS's "special registration" project does not redeem the counterproductive manner in which the INS handled the first wave of registrations. The initial deadline for registration -- for those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan -- was Dec. 16. Hundreds of people who showed up to comply, many of them in Southern California, were handcuffed and detained on minor immigration charges. Some of these people seem to have had merely technical problems and had already submitted paperwork to fix them. Somehow, a program intended to keep track of who was in the United States turned into another dragnet for trivial immigration matters unrelated to terrorism.
The bait and switch, which punishes and humiliates those who tried to follow the rules, can only undermine the purpose of the registration program. It's hard to imagine that this action will not discourage those with technical visa problems from showing up on Jan. 10, the registration deadline for people from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. If the government plays "gotcha" with the immigration laws, it might score a few deportations, but it risks guaranteeing that the database it is assembling remains woefully incomplete. That's a bad trade.
It also promises to further alienate the very communities whose aid in the domestic war on terrorism is most essential. Complaints about the roundup came not only from Arab American groups that have long been critical of American counterterrorism policy, but also from fiercely pro-American Iranian exile groups; the son of the former shah of Iran, in a full-page ad in The Post last week, decried the "unfair targeting" of Iranian immigrants. Legitimate law enforcement activity creates more than enough friction with Muslim communities, which understandably feel vulnerable in America after 9/11. Law enforcement simply can't afford to exacerbate this problem gratuitously.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
and more............ Great Job in starving refuges
Canada-US refugee deal raises concerns
The US has tightened its border with Canada
By Mike Fox
BBC correspondent in Montreal
There is growing concern in Canada that a new accord signed with the United States could make it much harder for refugees trying to enter the country.
Under the 'safe third country' agreement which the governments signed in December, refugee claims have to be made in the country they arrive in first.
In 2001 around 21,000 people made refugee claims at Canada's border with the US which has been criticised for harsh attitudes towards refugees.
US immigration services are tougher than Canada's
The agreement was made while Canada and the US were discussing how to improve security on their 4000 kilometre joint border, in the wake of the 11 September attacks.
The aim of the agreement is that the 20,000 people who turn up each year at the border seeking asylum in Canada will instead have to do it in the US - what the regulations regard as the first safe country they arrived in.
This has angered groups that help refugees.
Amnesty International says the US system does not meet the norms of other industrialised countries.
While refugees are awaiting a decision they cannot work for six months and receive no financial help.
They get both in Canada, along with access to free medical help.
In the weeks following news of the signing there was a sharp increase in the numbers of refugee claimants at the busiest border crossing near Buffalo.
The Canadian Council for Refugees says once the new rules are in place, many refugees will just try to cross the border illegally - where the border runs down the middle of the fast-moving waters of the St Lawrence river that's often extremely dangerous.
US officials admit that they are likely to see an increase in their workload with more refugees forced to make claims there.
But they seem happy to accept the extra workload and expense in return for having better control and knowledge of the people who are entering the country.
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Canadian Council for Refugees
US Immigration and Naturalisation Service
Immigrants and Exiles BBCi
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N.J. Secrecy Rule Keeps Arab American in Jail and in the Dark
Mohamed Atriss has been in jail for five months without being indicted. (File Photo/ Ellie Markovitch -- Herald News)
By Dale Russakoff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 3, 2003; Page A01
PATERSON, N.J. -- Five months have passed since a flamboyant county sheriff led a squadron of assault weapon-wielding deputies and television news crews on a raid of a hole-in-the-wall travel services business here, declaring he was hot on the trail of an Arab American businessman who had sold fake IDs to two of the Sept. 11 terrorists.
The raid made international headlines, but not for long. As it turned out, the FBI already had interrogated Mohamed Atriss and had concluded he knew nothing more about the hijackers than he did about thousands of other mostly illegal immigrants who bought official-looking identification documents at his office, located directly across the street from City Hall.
The camera crews departed after Atriss, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, surrendered voluntarily and was charged with misdemeanors: 26 counts of conspiracy and simulating identification documents. He pleaded not guilty.
Five months later, the alleged proprietor of a small-time document mill is at the center of what appears to be the only criminal case of its kind in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- one in which secret evidence has been presented against the defendant. Atriss remains in jail, now on $500,000 bond -- an amount consistent with a murder charge -- but prosecutors will not say why he poses such a serious risk or give him a chance to respond.
Passaic County Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark doubled Atriss's bail in November, based on the secret evidence presented to her in a closed hearing -- without Atriss or his attorney present. In a letter requesting the hearing, senior assistant county prosecutor Steven Brizek said that allowing Atriss access to the information -- consistent with his constitutional right to confront evidence against him -- "might compromise or otherwise harm" the criminal investigation. Brizek also filed a charge of racketeering, a felony comparable to residential burglary in the state criminal code.
Clark, who declined to comment, directed a reporter to a 1973 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that she cites as precedent for the secret hearing. The ruling, State v. Campisi, upheld a bail proceeding in which a judge took into account secret evidence implicating a murder defendant in other organized crime killings then under investigation, for which he later was charged. It also detailed his alleged plan to flee.
"Some people are saying this is extraordinary, but there are circumstances under which there's a justification to deviate from rules of general application," Brizek said.
Atriss's new attorney, Miles Feinstein, said he plans an emergency appeal, saying the secret proceeding had violated Atriss's rights to due process, equal protection and the assistance of counsel. "This an affront to the presumption and assumption of innocence," he said. Feinstein recently joined the case. Atriss's first attorney, Hassen Abdellah, had said he would file an appeal but did not.
Leaders in Paterson's large Muslim community said the secrecy measures are more extreme than the ones the Bush administration has imposed on immigration detention hearings.
"At least in immigration court, my client and I were able to sit in and listen to the substance of the evidence, and I can ask questions and cross-examine," said Sohail Mohammed, an attorney and general counsel of the American Muslim Union. "I'm saying to myself, 'Now they're moving from immigrants to citizens. What is next?' "
In the late 1990s, secret evidence was used in a number of high-profile immigration cases to detain non-citizens of Arab descent on suspicion of terrorism. Judges ultimately ruled the information unreliable; the source in one case was the suspect's estranged wife. And the suspects were released, but only after long detentions, in one case 3 1/2 years.
But a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government can freeze the assets of a U.S.-based global Islamic charity without providing evidence of a suspected terrorist link to defense lawyers. The court said the USA Patriot Act, enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, provides the authority for the government's action.
But other than Atriss's case, civil liberties advocates said they know of no criminal case in the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which secret evidence has been allowed. "It's the most basic constitutional issue: the right not to have your freedom constrained without being able to see the evidence that justifies it," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University.
Tim Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out that prosecutors can use classified information in federal criminal cases only if they give defendants a summary detailed enough to allow them to contest the evidence, as guaranteed in the 1980 federal Classified Information Procedures Act.
"A state can provide more protection than the federal government, but it certainly can't provide less protection," he said.
Exactly what information Passaic County presented in the hearing remains a mystery. At Atriss's first bail hearing in August, then-prosecutor Marilyn Zdobinski requested and won a bail of $250,000 after alluding to "ongoing investigations with regard to this defendant's connections to known terrorists." Federal law enforcement officials expressed surprise at the time, saying they were satisfied Atriss did not know the Sept. 11 terrorists or their plans.
Zdobinski argued that Atriss had ample resources with which to flee. She said police had found records of $29,000 he had wired to Arab National Bank in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, adding that he could create his own travel documents, for any identity.
Prosecutor Brizek declined to say whether his office still suspects Atriss of terrorist connections. "To get into the nature of the information would render a nullity the proceeding held out of the presence of the defendant and the public," he said.
But speaking of the Sept. 11 attacks, he added, "It would be folly not to incorporate one's experience with that event into how one views the world and how one should deal with problems that might have impact on our safety and well-being."
Federal and state law enforcement authorities said they have no idea what evidence Passaic County authorities are guarding, but they emphasized that if it relates to terrorism, it should be shared with the FBI and state terrorism investigators.
Complaints against Atriss, who has not been indicted, charge him with making fake international driver's licenses and New Jersey state identification cards, and selling them for more than $100. Neither is an official government document (the American Automobile Association provides international driver's licenses for $10), but Atriss told unsuspecting immigrants that they were, Passaic officials said.
Former defense attorney Abdellah said Atriss's business, All Services Plus, translated immigration and other documents into English, which Atriss would then use to create "international ID cards." They carried a disclaimer noting they were not official identifications, Abdellah said. Atriss, 46, had owned various businesses since at least 1995, according to New Jersey records, including a failed Dunkin' Donuts venture for which the records show him tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Prosecutors said he had not filed federal tax returns for seven years.
According to a Sheriff's Department affidavit, which quotes FBI agents, Atriss provided IDs to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers: Abdulaziz Alomari, who was on the first plane that struck the World Trade Center, and Khalid Almihdhar, who was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Federal authorities last summer denounced the raid of Atriss's offices by Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale, saying it interfered with their own investigation. They declined to go into detail, but an acquaintance of Atriss's said in an interview that the businessman had agreed to alert the FBI to suspicious applicants seeking identification documents.
The sheriff is no stranger to flamboyance, having made a practice of bringing reporters along on raids that at times produced only minor charges. A former New York City narcotics officer, he has written a book about his undercover days and is trying to have it made into a movie.
Several defense attorneys expressed surprise that Clark, 51, was the jurist who approved the extraordinary secrecy. A former prosecutor, Passaic County's first female Superior Court judge and now chief of the court's criminal division, she is known for careful and detail-oriented decisions.
Clark has preserved a record of the secret hearing for review by higher courts if Atriss appeals.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
ins laws are for arabs only!
check it out
from the January 02, 2003 edition
Mexican IDs in the US...
Entering the US without a visa is a bit like downloading copyrighted music off the Internet. So many people do it and the benefits seem so great, who really cares if it's illegal?
That "pragmatic" attitude toward illegal migrants has become so pervasive that Mexico now feels no shame in handing out special IDs to thousands upon thousands of its citizens in the US who lack legal documents.
Many US banks have welcomed the IDs as a way to get a cut of the millions of dollars transferred back to Mexico each year. And many local police honor the cards in case these immigrants are victims or witnesses of crime - the fact that they broke a federal crime in entering the US is somehow beyond the scope of local law enforcement.
Mexico says the cards help American officials more easily focus on visa-violating terrorists in the US by allowing its migrants not to hide in the shadows. And it helps these Mexicans more easily take planes and trains and enter buildings where IDs are required post-Sept. 11.
Mexico's campaign to spread the IDs has won over 13 states, many of them in the West. But it's run into roadblocks among Northeast states, most notably immigrant-friendly New York. Concerns are high that the identity cards might complicate the new security measures being put in place in the more terrorism-vulnerable Northeast.
This rapid march to effectively legalize millions of illegal migrants needs to be addressed quickly. A recent poll found 60 percent of Americans regard the level of immigration to be a "critical threat to the vital interests of the US," compared to only 14 percent of the nation's leadership. That gap between officialdom and the public has widened in recent years.
President Bush must soon come up with a plan to end illegal immigration before Mexico takes the matter any further into its own hands. Can the US afford to simply wait as a foreign legal system sweeps the land?
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
The answer to your first question is simple. If an immigrant to the US wishes to stay in our country, DON"T COMMIT ANY CRIMES. I don't want my tax dollars going to jails to house immigrants who commit crimes, deport them.
As for the refugee issue, I see nothing wrong with tightening control of who enters our country. Hell, I don't think we're doing enough, but this is at least a start.
Lastly, I agree with you on Bush's policy on "detaining" people. It's un-American and unconstitutional.
Send them all back. The primary contributors to this society were Western Europeans. Send everyone else - the freeloaders - back.