COURT RULING ALLOWS INS
TO HOLD CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS INDEFINITELY
Story Filed: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 8:57 PM EST
Denver, Mar 01, 2000 (EFE via COMTEX) -- Representatives from organizations
that defend immigrants' rights criticized a judicial decision on Wednesday that
permits criminal immigrants who cannot return to their native countries to be
"The law is the law, and immigrants have to respect it. But the law cannot be
unjust or discriminatory," Denver immigration attorney Lisa Battan told EFE.
A Denver appeals court ruled on Tuesday that immigrants who have committed
crimes in the United States can be held indefinitely by the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), in instances where they cannot be deported.
The decision was reached in a divided ruling by three judges from Denver's 10th
District Federal Appeals Court, who presided over the cases of two Vietnamese
The judges - Michael Murphy, of Salt Lake City, and Mary Beck Briscoe, of Topeka
- voted in favor of the measure. Judge Wade Brorby, from Cheyenne, Wyoming,
According to Brorby, the INS should not have the authority to hold immigrants
indefinitely because all immigrants, despite their legal standing, are protected
by the U.S. Constitution.
The other two judges argued that immigrants lose their rights once the INS
orders their deportation.
The only Latin American country that refuses to allow immigrants from their
country to return after being arrested in the United States is Cuba.
Other countries that employ the same policy are Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia
and Somalia. In all other cases criminal immigrants are returned to their native
countries upon completing their sentences in the United States.
"The appeals court ruling applies only to those immigrants who have committed
crimes in the United States and cannot be deported to their country of origin,"
"The decision will surely be appealed until it reaches the Supreme Court, though
it will take years," she added.
INS authorities were pleased with the decision because they now have the
authority to "keep immigrants convicted of serious crimes that could be
dangerous to society behind bars."
Joseph R. Green, the INS director in Denver, said the ruling is not an
immigration issue but an issue of public safety. Many criminal immigrants "would
endanger many people if they are set free," he asserted.
According to Green, last year more than 1,000 criminal immigrants were set free
because they could not be deported.
A similar number of criminal immigrants will now remain held indefinitely until
their cases can be reviewed by another appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
In December, Cuban prisoners, who were being held indefinitely in a Louisiana
jail because Cuba refused to allow them to return, rioted and took several
prison guards hostage.
They were eventually deported to Cuba, which finally allowed them to return for
There are some 4,500 convicted immigrants currently being held in INS detention
centers, costing close to 100 million dollars annually. EFE
Copyright (c) 2000. Agencia EFE S.A.