On June 23, US District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles ruled that Palestinian immigrant Aiad Khaled Barakat should be allowed to become a naturalized US citizen. Barakat is one of the so-called “LA 8”: seven Palestinians and a Kenyan whom the government arrested in 1987 and sought to deport for alleged associations with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). All eight have denied being PFLP members. The government initially tried to deport all eight of them, but in 1997 Barakat and another of the group were granted legal residency. Barakat’s lawyers had appealed to the federal court after US immigration officials rejected his petition for citizenship last year; they claimed he lied in his citizenship interview about an association with PFLP leader Ali Kased.
Federal officials have 60 days to appeal the judge’s ruling, but American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who litigated the case, said it was “extremely, very, very unlikely that they’ll appeal.” “The judge listened and found [Barakat] to be credible,” said Arulanantham. “It was very fact-intensive testimony that would be very difficult to reverse on appeal.” (AP, Los Angeles Times, June 23) Attorney Marc Van Der Hout, who represents several of the LA 8, said officials could theoretically try to deport Barakat in violation of Judge Wilson’s orders, using a retroactive provision of the Patriot Act. “But…I don’t think they’re going to try to do that,” he said. Barakat told Judge Wilson he needed to get citizenship soon so he could visit his ailing mother, who will turn 79 next month, then return to the US, where his children were born and raised.
If his petition for citizenship goes unchallenged, Barakat would become the first of the eight to become a citizen. Another of the eight, Basher Amer, has returned to Bethlehem in the West Bank. Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh and Khader Musa Hamide have green cards but are fighting deportation in immigration court over allegations that they financially supported terrorists by distributing a Palestinian magazine. Their cases were delayed last summer, with no indication of when they will be heard, Van Der Hout said. Hamide’s Kenyan wife, Julie Mungai, is a permanent resident, as are Naim Sharif and Amjad Obeid, Barakat’s attorneys said. Obeid’s brother Ayman remains in the US on a work permit and is waiting for word on his application for permanent residency. (LAT, June 24)
From Immigration News Briefs, July 8