Wednesday, January 31, 2007

20 Years in Immigration Limbo--But Then A Victory

"A federal immigration judge has dismissed the government's attempt to deport two men who were arrested along with six other U.S. residents because of their alleged ties to Palestinian terrorists and who fought relentless efforts to force them to leave the country for 20 years.

"Judge Bruce E. Einhorn of Los Angeles, in a ruling made public Tuesday, said the government had violated the constitutional rights of Khader M. Hamide and Michel I. Shehadeh by its "gross failure" to comply with his instructions to produce "potentially exculpatory and other relevant information."

"In a scathing decision, Einhorn said the government's conduct in the case was "an embarrassment to the rule of law" that left "a festering wound on" Hamide and Shehadeh, who have been in legal and personal limbo for two decades.

"The two men, both longtime legal residents of the United States, are part of a group that was dubbed "the L.A. 8" after the government launched attempts to deport them in January 1987. All eight denied that they were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, a radical offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization that has taken credit for airline hijackings and car bombings in the Middle East.

"Hamide and Shehadeh, as well as the others, steadfastly maintained that they were being persecuted even though their political activities — distributing newspapers, participating in demonstrations, assisting Palestinians with human rights and medical needs, raising money for hospitals, youth clubs and day-care centers — were lawful.

"Einhorn's ruling "is a great decision that really vindicates what we have said all along," a jubilant Hamide said in an interview Tuesday. "The government spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to deport us, and the only things they ever accused us of were constitutionally protected activity.

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