Federal Judge in California Grants Citizenship to Palestinian Man After 20 Years

June 23, 2006 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – In an historic case, a federal judge ruled today that a Palestinian man who came to the United States more than two decades ago seeking a better future should become a U.S. citizen. The man, Aiad Barakat, is one of the so-called L.A. 8, a group of eight people who were targeted by the government nearly 20 years ago for engaging in political speech and supporting Palestinian rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyer’s Guild filed the case after immigration officials denied Barakat’s citizenship application.
“Aiad Barakat did nothing more than attend social gatherings and distribute a Palestinian magazine in the mid-1980s, yet the government forced a federal trial to determine whether this father who has lived in L.A. for 20 years, could finally become a citizen and fully participate in our society,” said Ahilan Arulanatham of the ACLU of Southern California. “The answer from the court today was a big win for Aiad and everyone who supports freedom of speech.”

According to the ACLU, officials denied Barakat’s application for citizenship on the same allegations that the government had failed to prove 20 years ago. None of the L.A. 8 were ever charged with a crime, and a federal court determined that their activity was protected by the First Amendment. In today’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson said that, will become a naturalized citizen.

“I am very pleased. I have waited for this day for almost 20 years,” Barakat said. “I’m hopeful that the government will quickly issue me a passport so that I can travel back to the Middle East to visit my elderly mother, something I haven’t been able to do since I came to this country.”

Barakat is a construction site supervisor and lives in Arcadia with his two children.

“This is an historic ruling,” said David Cole of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This case makes clear that the government cannot deny someone citizenship simply based on activity protected by the First Amendment.”

Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild added, “We hope the government will not waste even more resources in appealing this important decision. This misguided prosecution has gone on long enough and it’s time it ended.”

Barakat is the first of the L.A. 8 to become a citizen.

“We hope the government will take this opportunity to reassess the cases of the other seven people in the L.A. 8 and grant them citizenship as well,” Carol Sobel, also of the National Lawyer’s Guild, said.

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