Monday, November 19, 2001

Four Tanzanian Boys Scouts, held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service since August, will likely be deported soon, according to a federal immigration official familiar with their case.
“The INS thinks that the boys are in violation of immigration law,” said Richard L. Kenney, a spokesman for the agency that appoints judges who preside over immigration cases. “The main goal of the INS is to send them back to Tanzania.”
The boys fled an international gathering of Boy Scouts at Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Va., last summer. They hitchhiked to the District and got turned over to the INS by a D.C. police officer who apprehended them on a street corner.
A hearing for the boys in U.S. Immigration Court scheduled last week was postponed indefinitely, leaving them to sit and wait as they have for the past 31/2 months in an INS detention facility in Berks County, Pa.
Apart from the boys’ wanting to live in a country wealthier than their East African homeland, neither INS officials nor the D.C.-based lawyer, whose firm took their case on a pro bono basis in August, has made it clear why they ran away from their parents.
Mr. Kenney says the INS views a tourist visa as a contract. The boys got visas because they had plans to attend the international gathering of Boy Scouts.
By running away and seeking asylum, they breached that contract, and the INS charges they became inadmissible aliens, he said.
But Andrew Morton, the boys’ attorney, said that with tourist visas valid through January, his clients are being “unlawfully detained by the INS.”
An INS spokeswoman, Niki Edwards, said the indefinite detainment of the boys ages 15 to 17 is standard procedure for processing juveniles who enter the country on a tourist visa without parents or legal guardians and then express a desire to stay.
Traditionally, asylum is granted to persons fleeing religious or political persecution abroad. Because of the relative stability of their home country, the boys are making a false claim for asylum, officials say.
Tanzania has been politically stable compared with other parts of Africa, having had a two-party democracy since 1992.
Mr. Morton however, argues that the situation the boys have been in since running away from the Boy Scout gathering warrants consideration for asylum.
Basically, the boys fear they will be punished when they get home. “The boys have claimed since day one when the INS detained them, that they fear going home because they’ve brought embarrassment to the Tanzanian government while on a state-sponsored trip,” he said. “As a result, they fear that they will face political persecution if they return home.”
Mustafa Salim Nyang’anyi, Tanzania’s ambassador to the United States, told The Washington Times yesterday that claiming the boys have caused embarrassment to the Tanzanian government is “ridiculous.”
The INS should have let the boys go home with their Scoutmaster when they first ran away, and that it is likely their parents are very concerned about them, Mr. Nyang’anyi said.
“There are more serious crimes than that,” he said. “If anything, they caused embarrassment to the Boy Scouts, not the government.
“I have not had any direct contact from their parents, but any loving parent would want his child back and would be concerned about this extended stay in the INS’ hands,” he said.
“The argument these boys are using is an argument that has regularly been rejected by immigration judges,” said Jack Martin a top spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“There’s no indication that they’ve been subject to persecution,” Mr. Martin said. “This is a good demonstration of the fact that once someone gets one of these lawyers on their case, it drags on forever.”
Mark Krikorian, a top spokesman for the Center for Immigration Studies said that before September 11, we had “sob stories about these charming, polite young men wanting to stay here.”
“The law is the law, and we need to start enforcing it these are kids that were here on a temporary visa, and they just didn’t want to go home,” Mr. Krikorian said.
INS officials said a restructuring of the INS, proposed last week by Attorney General John Ashcroft, will not affect the case of the runaway Tanzanian boys.
Mr. Ashcroft hopes to separate the agency’s service and law enforcement functions a two-year plan that will begin within the next 30 days.
Specialists say the restructuring, presented to Congress on Friday, has been in the works for years but was pushed into the spotlight after the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.
Each of the 19 men who hijacked airplanes and crashed them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center entered the country legally.

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