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The Last Refuge ALAN POGUE The View From Outside the Exercise Valid at Bayviow Continued from cover The attorney approaches the subject from another angle. “Ask him if he had a passport,” she tells Mohammed, who is obviouSly the undergirding of this peculiarly Asian Tower of Babel. The question bumps down the table and this time the answer is more succinct. “He says ‘No, he walked.’ ” Was he answering the previous question or did “passport,” in translation from a phonetic to an ideographic language, become a vehicle? Thelma Garcia is pondering the map of China and trying, with the help of her volunteer translators, to construct another question, when an immigration judge knocks and enters. “Ms. Garcia, can we do some Chinese bonds? The electricity is off and I can’t do anything else.” Ms. Garcia responds that she will do Chinese bonds as soon as she finishes questioning the clients scheduled for bond hearings. She looks for Thailand on the map and turns again to Mohamnied. You have the feeling that it might be a while. Fifty-nine Chinese men await either deportation or hearings before immigration judges at a detention facility built to house Central Americans. But the flow of Central Americans, who six years ago came in such great numbers that there was no place to even detain them, has decreased. So now this center, designed to accommodate 668 and once filled with as many as 2,000, has something rare in the tem: empty beds. Among the 480 men listed on today’s camp’count are also 21 Indians, seven Pakistanis, two Bangladeshis, one Sri Lankan, and one Taiwanese. Few of these men were detained for illegally entering the United States via the state of Texas. According to the INS most of the Asian men port entries.” Though detained on U.S. soil, they never really “entered” the United States. Airport entries therefore face “exclusion,” rather than deportation, hearings. They arrived at the edge of this country, either at airports or other seaports. Unlike those who swam the Rio Grande, these men, according to U.S. immigration law ; never got in. Most would prefer to argue their cases near their ports of entry, and most came in through Los Angeles or New York. In December and January they waged a hunger strike, demanding to be returned to California. But changes of venue are routinely denied in this INS administrative district, which is made up of seven South Texas counties -about as far in the continental United States as one can get from New York, LA, and most other places. “We have had a increased rate of requests for change of venue,” said a government trial attorney who asked to remain anonymous. He said that “c.o.v.” requests are made at the discretion of the immigration judges. “The immigration service always opposes them here,” he said, citing overcrowding at other facilities as the reason for the agency’s position. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7