Somali awaits deportation to homeland OPERATION RESTORE HOPE

December 09, 1992|By Robert Erlandson | Robert Erlandson,Staff Writer

As U.S. Marines landed in Somalia, one 24-year-old Somali was getting "three hots and a cot" in the Wicomico County Jail while awaiting deportation to his starving homeland.

"It's outrageous" that Jama Farah Mahamed has been kept in the Salisbury jail for a year, said Michelle Pistone, the Washington lawyer who is trying to get Mr. Mahamed's illegal-alien status overturned.

An immigration judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the District Court in Baltimore all have rejected Mr. Mahamed's petition for political asylum. Ms. Pistone said she is appealing his deportation order to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. No date has been set for a hearing.

Ms. Pistone said that when Mr. Mahamed arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last year, he declared that he had no travel documents and requested political asylum. Instead, the lawyer said, "they put him in jail."

She said she is preparing a letter requesting parole pending the court action and has taken affidavits from relatives of Mr. Mahamed who were found recently in Virginia.

Don Crocetti, deputy director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Baltimore, said, "Any and all claims were considered by more than two bodies." Until Ms. Pistone said she had found relatives of Mr. Mahamed, "it had not been shown that he simply wouldn't abscond," Mr. Crocetti said.

Mr. Mahamed's father and mother were killed by rebels in Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, last year, and he risked a similar fate, Ms. Pistone said. He was "singled out for persecution" because he belonged to the same clan as overthrown Somali leader Mohamed Siad Barre, she said.

Allan Ebert, another Washington lawyer who specializes in immigration cases said yesterday that it is "ironic" that while the United States has launched a massive humanitarian effort in Somalia, "the Department of Justice is trying to deport Somalis in the U.S. back to their likely deaths."

Mr. Ebert said he has represented nearly 1,000 Somalis in the last five years and has prevented deportation of more than 600 of them.

"Very few" have been sent back, Mr. Ebert said, and many cases are pending. "Some of them have gone to Canada because the INS has not been helpful at all," he said.

Verne Jervis, an INS spokesman in Washington, said 107 Somalis were granted residence in the United States in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Twelve claims were denied and 563 others are pending, he said.

"No one is in any imminent danger of being deported," Mr. Jervis said, because deportation has many appeal steps that can take many years to complete. "It is heavily weighted in favor of the individual," he said.

Anyone seeking asylum must prove "a well-founded fear of persecution" if he is returned to his homeland, he said.

Congress has created a "temporary protected status" that allows the attorney general to grant immigrant status to citizens of countries torn by disaster, but Mr. Jervis said it is "not an open-ended invitation for all to come." The status could be granted to people who were living in the United States before Sept. 16, 1991, and who applied for protected status.

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