- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002


Immigrants automatically deported under a law struck down by the Supreme Court could not return to the United States under new rules proposed by the Justice Department.

The rules, triggered by a June 2001 Supreme Court decision, would let immigrants convicted of certain crimes before 1996 have hearings on whether they can stay in the United States, but would not grant hearings to those already deported.

Under the previous law, legal permanent residents who committed crimes before 1996 were deported to their native countries without hearings.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants are entitled to challenge deportation orders in a federal court.

Immigration backers are outraged by the Justice Department's proposed rules, released earlier this month.

"I think it's another example of the attorney general trying to disregard Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees, and he promised in his confirmation hearing to follow the law of the Supreme Court," said Lucas Guttentag, American Civil Liberties Union's immigration rights project director.

The regulations are open for public comment through mid-October, after which the Justice Department can adjust them and decide whether to make them permanent.

The Justice Department says allowing deported immigrants to return would be logistically difficult for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"Aliens who were deported years ago, may have been convicted of crimes abroad that would disqualify them from relief under regulation, but which would be difficult, if not impossible, for the INS to discover and verify," the department stated in its proposal.

Jorge Martinez, a Justice Department spokesman, said only immigrants who were not eligible for deportation reviews under the decision were deported.

That statement angered Tracy Hong, staff attorney at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who said the Justice Department before the Supreme Court decision used tactical maneuvers, such as transferring cases to less-friendly courts, to push through deportations.

"They fought us tooth and nail for years, trying to get venues changed, fighting against immigrants who had no lawyers. I find this completely heartbreaking and disingenuous. It could not be further from the truth," Miss Hong said.

INS officials and advocates did not know how many people have been deported.

Rose Max-George of Houston had hoped the Supreme Court decision would mean her son could return home.

Prince Max-George, who pleaded guilty to a theft charge in 1989, was deported in 1998 when he tried to apply for a permanent residency.

"They sent him to Sierra Leone in the middle of the civil war, in the middle of a brutal civil war," Mrs. Max-George said.

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