California Judge Ends 20-Year-Old Deportation Case Against Palestinians

January 30, 2007 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – In a strong rebuke to the federal government, a Los Angeles immigration judge today ordered an end to deportation proceedings against two members of the so-called “Los Angeles Eight,” a group of immigrants who were targeted by the government 20 years ago for engaging in political speech and supporting Palestinian rights.

In his decision, Judge Bruce J. Einhorn said that the proceedings must be terminated because of the government’s refusal to disclose evidence favorable to the two men, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh. Judge Einhorn called the government’s actions in the prolonged case “an embarrassment to the rule of law.”

“The message from this decision is clear: the government should spend its resources on genuine threats to our national security instead of targeting law-abiding immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” said Ahilan T. Arulanantham of the ACLU of Southern California, who is co-counsel on the case.

The case began on January 26, 1987 when Hamide and Shehadeh, two student activists, were arrested for distributing newspapers and organizing community dinners to raise funds for humanitarian aid to Palestine. The government accused the students of being members of the Marxist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but were unable to show evidence to prove a connection and no charges were ever filed against the men. However, the federal government has insisted since 1987 that Hamide and Shehadeh are subject to deportation because they were affiliated with a group that “advocated the doctrines of world communism.” The case has reached every level of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today’s decision came after repeated failures by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to comply with a June 2005 court order to turn over evidence in the case that could potentially clear Hamide and Shehadeh of any wrongdoing. The order followed similar demands by the court in 1986,1993 and 1994.

In addition to the ACLU of Southern California, the men are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

“Judge Einhorn’s decision is important not only for Hamide and Shehadeh but for all immigrants in this country who want to be able to express their political views,” said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout of the law firm of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, who has represented the LA8 on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild since 1987. “The decision makes clear that the government cannot blatantly refuse to comply with an immigration judge’s orders and that the government cannot continue to try to deport these permanent residents who did nothing but try to advocate for Palestinians right to a homeland – hardly a revolutionary belief in the 21st century.”

In today’s 11-page opinion, Judge Einhorn called the prolonged deportation proceedings a “festering wound on the body” of the defendants. Judge Einhorn held that the government violated Hamide and Shehadeh’s right to due process by subjecting them to a 20-year deportation proceeding, while at the same time being unprepared to prosecute the case.

“For 20 years the government has been attempting to deport these individuals for political activities that would clearly be protected if they were U.S. citizens,” said David Cole of Georgetown Law School, who has represented Hamide and Shehadeh on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights since 1987. “We hope that the government will now move on and focus its efforts on real terrorists and not political activists.”

Late last year, Aiad Barakat, another member of the LA8, was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Los Angeles after a similar 20-year battle against the government’s deportation attempts. Three other members of the LA8 have also since become permanent residents of the United States.

The legal team for Hamide and Shehadeh also includes civil rights attorney Leonard Weinglass, who has represented the two men since 1987.

Today’s decision is available online at:

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