DETAINEE ABRUPTLY DEPORTED
Eyana Adah McMillan and Wendi Himmelright, Post-Dispatch News,
York case one of 2 in national eye
By EYANA ADAH MCMILLAN Dispatch/Sunday News and WENDI HIMMELRIGHT
Rose Lami is frantically looking for her father, Munir Lami.
She last heard from him Friday afternoon, when the 54-year-old
Palestinian, who is blind, called from the York County Prison to say
he had been asked to sign release papers and was a free man.
But before she could drive out from Philadelphia, Lami learned from
an immigrants-rights advocate that she should stay put.
County prison officials said that Munir Lami was no longer in York.
He had instead been moved to a Buffalo, N.Y., facility for
"They actually told him, 'Call your family,' Rose Lami said. "Now we
don't know what he signed ... He can't see. He's blind. How can he
sign a paper without his lawyer there?"
Munir Lami now appears to be the most recent example of detainees
deported without any notice to friends, family or lawyers.
Federal officials say they cannot notify people of upcoming
deportations because of security concerns. But that's a big problem
for immigrants and their families, a local activist said.
"It deprives the families of the ability to say a final good-bye,"
said Kathleen Lucas, executive director of CIRCLE, the Coalition for
Immigrants' Rights at the Community Level. The local organization,
staffed with volunteers, advises immigrants and their families.
If families knew when their loved ones were leaving, "they could send
cloth- ing, they could send money. I think the most important thing
is they could arrange for somebody to be looking for them at the
other end," Lucas said.
She said she understands the security problems of identifying the
exact location and time of departure -- but she doesn't understand
why officials can't let family members know an approximate date.
That information would have been very helpful to Rose Lami.
Her father was apparently among 22 people placed aboard a Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation flight yesterday
Officials at the New York detention center confirmed this morning
that Lami was deported although his attorney had not yet been
notified, Rose Lami said.
Advocates involved: Lami was one of two men in the York County Prison
who recently drew the concerns of immigration-rights advocates.
They are concerned about the secret deportations they say often leave
the detainees stranded in their homelands.
"Some (detainees) are likely to land with nothing more than the
clothes on their back and no contacts in their 'home countries,'
which they may not have seen for years," said David Wilson, who has
come to York to support another detainee.
He said his group learned yesterday's flight was expected to include
Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian detainees and make at least two
stops -- in Cairo, Egypt, and Amman, Jordan.
Homeless? Rose Lami fears her father was released, homeless and
blind, in Jordan. "There's nobody there for him. He can't see."
Munir Lami has lived in the U.S. for 16 years, according to a press
release issued by his friends and family. He suffers from diabetes
and lost his vision as a result of an infection after surgery while
in jail in 2000.
Lami served two years in federal prison starting in 1998
for "conspiracy" pertaining to "welfare checks and food stamps," his
daughter said, then a 9-month term for immigration violations. She
said he was released in February 2001 because federal officials
lacked the documents needed to deport him.
But agents picked him up this July 15; his daughter said she did not
Another case: While Munir Lami's whereabouts remain unclear,
Palestinian detainee Farouk Abdel-Muhti remains at the York County
Supporters had feared that Abdel-Muhti, taken into custody April 26,
2002, would be deported on the same flight.
Supporters say Abdel-Muhti -- who came to the U.S. from Mexico in
1976 -- is being detained because the government did not like his pro-
Palestinian message. Government officials say he defied a 1995
deportation order, but no criminal charges have been filed against
"He's been politically active in New York for many years, especially
in the issues of human rights," Wilson said. "They left him alone for
all these years.
"And then he started working on a radio show in March 2002 and they
arrested him the next month."
Court case: Detained for more than a year, he is suing the
government, claiming it has been holding him longer than its own
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 ruled it unconstitutional to hold
detainees for more than six months if they have been ordered deported
unless there is "a significant likelihood of removal in the
reasonably foreseeable future."
As a stateless Palestinian, there is no nation to which he can
legally be deported, Abdel-Muhti said.
But the government seems to have found an alternative.
According to a July Reuters News Service article, recently deported
Palestinians have been flown to Jordan or Egypt and then bused
through Israeli-controlled checkpoints and into the West Bank or Gaza
Wilson is a member of Abdel-Muhti's support group, the Free Farouk
Committee in New York.
The group demonstrated outside the York County Prison in May, three
months after he was transferred here, and wants to find him a pro
bono attorney in York.
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