Judge throws out LA 8 case

In a decision received on Jan. 30, Los Angeles immigration judge Bruce J. Einhorn terminated deportation proceedings against Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh, the last two members of the “Los Angeles Eight” (LA 8) group of Palestinian rights activists who were still fighting deportation. The government has been attempting to deport Hamide and Shehadeh since January 1987 on the basis of their alleged political associations with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In his decision, Einhorn said that the proceedings must be terminated because the government had violated the constitutional rights of Hamide and Shehadeh by its “gross failure” to comply with his orders to produce “potentially exculpatory and other relevant information.”

Hamide and Shehadeh were legal permanent residents when they first arrested on Jan. 26, 1987, for allegedly distributing newspapers, participating in demonstrations and engaging in other lawful political activities on behalf of the PFLP. In his 11-page opinion, Einhorn wrote that “the attenuation of these proceedings is a festering wound on the body of respondents and an embarrassment to the rule of law.”

“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,” said Hamide on Jan. 30 after learning of the ruling. “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, who has been representing the LA8 on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild since 1987. “For 20 years the government has been attempting to deport these individuals for political activities that would clearly be protected if they were US citizens,” said David Cole of Georgetown Law School, who has served as co-lead counsel for the LA8 on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights since the case began. (Press release Jan. 30 from Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild & ACLU of Southern California; Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31)

ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said ICE “finds the judge’s decision troubling as a matter of fact and law, and the agency is considering its legal options.” (New York Times, Jan. 31)

Last Dec. 20, another LA 8 member, Aiad Barakat, was sworn in as a US citizen after a federal judge ruled last June that the government must allow him to naturalize. (AP, Dec. 20) Three other members of the LA 8 have obtained permanent resident status since their 1987 arrest. One member returned to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and Ayman Obeid is still awaiting approval of his application for permanent residency. (LAT, Jan. 31)

From Immigration News Briefs, Feb. 4

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