INS Attempts to Deport Palestinian Activist
in Test of Counter terrorism Act
Imad Hamad's life took a dramatic turn on October 30, 1996, when he
received a deportation order from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). He had two weeks to leave the country. Suddenly, the life he had struggled so hard to build for himself and his family was shattered. According to INS, Hamad could not remain in the United
'I feel that my only crime is being an
unlucky Palestinian refugee."
- Imad Hamad.
States because of "his active participation and membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)" - a "terrorist" organization.
Throughout his 16 years in the United States, Hamad has never been charged with any crime. Yet, the counter terterrorism Act passed into law on April 24,1996, made him guilty by association. The Act provides that a "terrorist" is not eligible for voluntary departure or work authorization and is subject to "summary exclusion without a hearing" - thus making it impossible to defend himself against the allegations brought against him.
Hamad is a 34-year-old stateless Palestinian from Lebanon residing in Dearborn, Michigan. He came to the United States in 1980 as a student. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Hamad was an active member of the General Union of Palestinian Students (CUPS); As such, he helped organize and participated in several demonstrations protesting the Israeli invasion and the massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps.
"I feel that my only crime is being an unlucky Palestinian refugee," Hamad said. "At a certain point in time, I dared to speak out defending my people's rights. If that's illegal, why did they wait 16 years to punish me?"
INS set Hamad's deportation date to Lebanon on November 18, 1996. Yet Lebanon will not admit him without the
proper travel documents required of every Palestinian refugee. "On November 18, I'll be a stateless Palestinian in the sky - kicked from one airport to the next," he predicted.
His lawyer, Noel Sale, contacted the office of Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and asked him to intervene
on Hamad's behalf. A few days later, Hamad's application cation
for an extension of time during which to depart voluntarily at his own expense
was granted. He now has until December 15,1996, to leave the country. This
still does not allow him enough time to obtain proper travel documents to
Lebanon since the application process normally takes six months.
Hamad married Arwa Alkhateeb, a naturalized U.S. citizen and the mother of his two children - Sarah, 2, and Nadeen, 1 - while in Temporary Protected Status (TPS) - a law which allowed Lebanese nationals to stay and work in the United States until 1993. When Hamad's TPS expired, he filed an immigrant visa petition. For almost two years, Hamad made multiple inquiries about the status of his application. Each time, he was told the petition could not be located. Amazingly, the day Hamad's lawyer filed a duplicate, the original was found. The petition was subsequently approved but his adjustment of status denied on a technicality.
While Hamad and his lawyer appealed the decision, they also requested an extension of employment authorization. INS never responded despite its own regulations which require processing of the request within 90 days. As a result, Hamad lost his job at the Arab American and Chaldean Council (ACC) in Detroit in October. This caused significant financial hardship on the family since a car accident in April 1995 left Hamad's wife disabled, making him the household's sole provider.
"I'm shocked that the justice system has no consideration whatsoever for my family," Hamad said. "If I were on my own, I wouldn't care. I'm just a Palestinian like any other. This is our plight as refugees without a homeland. If they wanted to do this to me, why didn't they do it in the 1980's when I was still single?... Now my whole family is eig punished." If Hamad were deported, his family could not legally follow him due to the continued U.S. travel ban on Lebanon.
In addition to years of stalling tactics and procedural maneuverings, Hamad was also subjected to harassing phone calls from an anonymous source. 'Your days are counted... Nobody is going to help you," the caller would say, making reference to information which could only have been available to an immigration officer, according to Sale. He alleges that an immigration officer seems to be abusing his position and making a personal vendetta out of Hamad's case.
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