Final charges dropped against LA 8

On Oct. 30, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed all charges against Palestinian immigrants Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh, the last two members of the “Los Angeles Eight” (LA 8) who were still fighting deportation, and approved a settlement submitted by the men’s lawyers and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The BIA announced the settlement on Oct. 31.

Hamide and Shehadeh were legal permanent residents when they were arrested on Jan. 26, 1987 and placed into deportation proceedings along with six other activists because of their alleged support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Specifically, the government targeted the eight activists’ efforts to distribute Al Hadaf, the PFLP magazine, a publication available in public libraries and college campuses. On Jan. 30, 2007, Los Angeles immigration judge Bruce J. Einhorn terminated the deportation proceedings against Hamide and Shehadeh, calling the government’s conduct in the case “an embarrassment to the rule of law.”

The government had appealed Einhorn’s ruling, but under the terms of the settlement it dropped its appeal and agreed not to charge either Hamide or Shehadeh as “removable, deportable, excludable or inadmissible, or bring any other type of proceedings to expel” either of them or take away their lawful permanent resident status “based on any affiliations, associations, information or conduct in any way connected with any organizations that were identified or described in any testimony” or any other legal document in the case or based on any statement they made.

In exchange, Hamide and Shehadeh agreed to have several court orders—including Einhorn’s January 2007 order—vacated as moot; and to give up their right to sue any government officials or agencies—including the Justice Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—for any action taken in the course of the case. The settlement also states that Hamide and Shehadeh must wait at least three years before they can apply for citizenship, and could be subjected to deportation or to having their permanent resident status revoked if they violate immigration laws in the future.

In a statement, the DHS said, “After thorough analysis and investigation, the United States government has no information indicating that Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh currently pose a threat to national security.” (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31)

“The government reasonably believed at the time these men were charged they were a threat because of their membership in a terrorist organization,” said Virginia Kice, spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in California. “Based on current analysis, we have no information that they are a threat.” (New York Times, Nov. 1)

“It’s a huge victory and certainly a relief for our clients who have lived with this cloud over them for 20 years,” said Georgetown University law professor David Cole, representing the Center for Constitutional Rights, which fought the case along with the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. (AP, Oct. 31)

“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,” said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild, who has worked on the case since its inception. The government’s attempt to deport Hamide and Shehadeh “all these years marks another shameful period in our government’s history of targeting certain groups of immigrants for their political beliefs and activities.”

“My family and I feel a tremendous amount of relief,” said Hamide, who lives in Chino Hills, California, and works as a wholesaler of coffee and tea. “After 20 years, the nightmare is finally over. I feel vindicated at long last. This is a victory not only for the LA 8 but for the First Amendment of the Constitution and for the rights of all immigrants.”

Shehadeh, who now lives in Oregon, said that although he was “extremely happy” to put the battle behind him, he had mixed emotions. “The government robbed us, and our families, of the best and most productive years of our lives. But we will continue…acting on our beliefs, loving our country and defending the Constitution,” he said. (LAT, Oct. 31)

As for the other members of the LA 8, Hamide’s Kenyan-born wife, Julie Mungai, has permanent resident status, as do Naim Sharif and Amjad Obeid. Obeid’s brother Ayman remains in the US on a work permit; his application for permanent residency is apparently still pending. Basher Amer returned to the West Bank. Aiad Barakat is a US citizen, sworn in on Dec. 20 of last year, six months after a federal judge ordered the government to allow him to naturalize.

From Immigration News Briefs, Nov. 4

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown, the LA 8 and other Palestinians caught in the web.