January 31, 2007

"A Festering Wound"

Offered for the edification of those who erroneously believe these kinds of abuses only began with the bogus "War on Terror":
A federal immigration judge has dismissed the government's attempt to deport two men who were arrested along with six other U.S. residents because of their alleged ties to Palestinian terrorists and who fought relentless efforts to force them to leave the country for 20 years.

Judge Bruce E. Einhorn of Los Angeles, in a ruling made public Tuesday, said the government had violated the constitutional rights of Khader M. Hamide and Michel I. Shehadeh by its "gross failure" to comply with his instructions to produce "potentially exculpatory and other relevant information."

In a scathing decision, Einhorn said the government's conduct in the case was "an embarrassment to the rule of law" that left "a festering wound on" Hamide and Shehadeh, who have been in legal and personal limbo for two decades.

The two men, both longtime legal residents of the United States, are part of a group that was dubbed "the L.A. 8" after the government launched attempts to deport them in January 1987. All eight denied that they were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, a radical offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization that has taken credit for airline hijackings and car bombings in the Middle East.

Hamide and Shehadeh, as well as the others, steadfastly maintained that they were being persecuted even though their political activities — distributing newspapers, participating in demonstrations, assisting Palestinians with human rights and medical needs, raising money for hospitals, youth clubs and day-care centers — were lawful.

Einhorn's ruling "is a great decision that really vindicates what we have said all along," a jubilant Hamide said in an interview Tuesday. "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.

"The government should drop this case and leave us alone to lead normal lives — if there is such a thing after a case like this — and pursue real terrorists," said Hamide, 52...
And please note this, which is now all too familiar from the many cases of alleged terrorists imprisoned for years, and against whom no charges are ever filed:
Prosecutors never filed criminal charges against any of the eight. Late last year, Aiad Barakat, another member of the L.A. 8, was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Los Angeles. Three other members of the L.A. 8 have obtained permanent residency. One member of the group is still seeking that status, and the other has returned to the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
This story of an out of control government is awful in every respect, but the following may be its most terrifying aspect in terms of the principle at stake:
[G]overnment lawyers twice persuaded Congress to change laws and make them retroactive in an effort to be able to deport the two men, said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild, who has represented them for 20 years.
Congress changed laws that were made retroactive -- specifically to go after these particular individuals. So much for that "archaic" notion of a government of laws, that is, laws designating anything more than merely empty forms used to persecute those the government regards as "undesirable."

Finally, there is this:
Added Georgetown University law professor David Cole, who has been co-lead counsel for the L.A. 8, on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights, since the case began: "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. We hope that the government will now move on and focus its efforts on real terrorists and not political activists."
They will hope in vain.