- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday reversed a 1999 decision that blocked the deportation of a Haitian woman convicted of manslaughter in 1995 for fatally beating a 19-month-old child.
"The United States has always been a nation of immigrants," Mr. Ashcroft wrote in his opinion. "But aliens arriving at our shores must understand that residency in the United States is a privilege, not a right."
He added that the respondent's criminal conduct in connection with the homicide "is sufficiently severe as to make the conferral of asylum entirely inappropriate."
Mr. Ashcroft accepted the case after a request from U.S. immigration officials, seeking to overturn a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that halted the deportation of Melanie Jeanbeaucejour, 45.
Following the confession and ensuing conviction of Jeanbeaucejour, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) sought a deportation order and later challenged the ruling by a three-member panel, asking in August that the full 18-member board review the deportation denial.
The INS said the panel erred in determining that the toddler's beating death was not a crime of violence.
Jeanbeaucejour served two years of a six-year sentence in state prison for her crime, and upon release asked the INS to adjust her status from refugee to lawful permanent resident.
But an immigration judge ordered her deported. She then turned to the immigration appeals court, pleading hardship in her native country. The court concluded that her crime was not a "crime of violence" and reversed the immigration judge's order.
Mr. Ashcroft, in his opinion, attacked the appellate court's decision, saying "the board's analysis, which makes no attempt to balance claims of hardship to the respondent's family against the gravity of her criminal offense, is grossly deficient."
Jeanbeaucejour was admitted to the U.S. in 1994 with her husband and five children.
Four months after her arrival, she fatally beat a 19-month-old child who was living in her family's apartment in Buffalo, N.Y.
The convict admitted to investigators that she struck the child on the head and shook him until he stopped breathing. According to a statement made after her arrest, she told detectives that the toddler "continued crying, so I hit him two or three times with my fist on the top of his head. I did this to stop him from crying. It did not work."
She then said she started shaking the child. "I do not know how long I shook [the child], but I did not stop until he was unconscious," her statement said.
The three panel members who blocked the deportation order were Cecelia Espenoza, former professor at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio; Gustavo Villageliu, a former immigration judge in Miami; and Lory D. Rosenburg, former lecturer at Washington College of Law at American University. All were appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno.


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