Detained, continued from page 9 years for his asylum case to be heard. Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, suspects that there may be many more like Khufash quietly sitting in jails around the country. “It’s hard to tell because of the secrecy, but we’ve got reports of people who an immigration judge has ordered deported or who have accepted voluntary departure, but are still sitting in jail because the FBI hasn’t ‘cleared’ themeven though there is no evidence of any involvement with September 11 or any charges filed,” he said. The Supreme Court recently ruled on a case, filed long before September 11, concerning immigrants who cannot be deported because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties with their home countries, such as Cuba. The Court rejected the government’s position that such immigrants could be detained indefinitely \(as many Cubans who have committed crimes in that case is that non-citizens, like citizens, have basic protections under the Constitution and you cannot jail an person arbitrarily,” Guttentag said. That would seem to be an accurate description of Khufash’s incarceration. Even after the FBI had finished with him, he was inexplicably denied bond by a judge, who called him a “danger to society.” Khufash was moved from jail to jail, eventually landing in Denton. Fearing that his deportation would be indefinitely delayed, in November Khufash agreed to voluntary departure, under which an immigrant buys his own ticket and leaves the country under the supervision of the INS. Chances were good, he knew, that he would probably be jailed and interrogated as soon as he landed in Tel Aviv. “But at least I will be in jail at home, where I can see my family,” he said. But then came another snagthe INS lost the ID card issued by Israel for residents of the Occupied Territories, without which he would have no chance of reaching home. The Israeli embassy was contacted for a replace ment, but they did not respond, Khufash was told. Finally, a breakthrough: In January, the immigration officer handling his deportation told him he would have to be released until his departure could be arranged. He would be on a sort of probation, required to report every month to the INS. Just two weeks, they told him, to finish the paperwork. On January 29, the agency reversed course again. His release had been denied, without explanation. “You can’t imagine what it’s like to be here,” he said, “everyday thinking they will call your name, but they never do.” According to INS spokesman Lynn Ligon, the long delay has been for Khufash’s own good. The agency has been in protracted diplomatic negotia tions, “working night and day,” Ligon said, to get the necessary travel documents to get him home safely. \(His Ill was not “lost” Ligon said, though it had been placed “somewhere it shouldn’t for security reasons, he could not say exactly by what route Khufash would be traveling home, though he suggested it would involve a third country, and that it would happen “soon.” If the INS is your travel agent, a long wait is perhaps to be expectedbut eight months? And why couldn’t Khufash wait in the free world for his departure? No charges had been filed against him, after all. According to Ligon, although Khufash was not considered a criminal alien, the INS and the FBI were concerned about his commercial driver’s license, which theoretically allowed him to haul hazardous chemicals. Ligon did not cite any evidence of illegal activity on the part of Khufash, who never even made it onto the highway during his brief career as an American truck driver. Khufash has received financial and moral support from a group of friends at the Arlington mosque where he once worshipped. One of them, Badar Almahshri, a 29 year-old cab driver from Oman, said the FBI had been to his house as well. In an interview at a mall coffee shop in Arlington, Badar, who is married to an American, said he and Shadi did not fit any profile that made sense. “People come here to live. If they wanted to fight and kill people, they wouldn’t get married and have kids and have businesses here,” he said. He knew of many in Arlington’s growing Muslim communitythere are now three mosques in the blue-collar suburbwho had simply decided to go home. Khufash himself was reluctant to criticize his captors, but he said that Palestinians had been unfairly labeled terrorists. “Give us a chance. We are building our own government. Give us a chance to stop the terrorists,” he said. He was like most Palestinians, he said, caught up in a conflict beyond his control. September 11.couched by bin Laden in part as a blow against U.S. support for Israelwas just the latest turn. “The Palestinian people get tired sometimes from some Arab people or Arab terrorists using us as a commercial for terrorism: ‘I come to revenge the Palestinian people.’ No, you don’t revenge, you destroy us more!” he said. “Terrorism never changes anything,” he said. “The only solution is by talk: Convince me, I convince you. If I get in a fight, you kill my son, I kill your son, you kill my wife, I kill your wife when are we going to stop? But if we sit down, we talk, somedayit may take longbut someday we are going to find a solution,” he said. Despite what has happened, Khufash said he still hopes to live in the United States someday.”I still love this country, no matter what,” he said. “Don’t forget Bush was the first American President to say we will make a Palestinian state. Look how much Clinton was a friend, but he never said that.” Bush’s order to Sharon to pull out of the Occupied Territories also made a lasting impression on Khufash, for different reasons. “I learned this word from Bush: He said Pull out ‘without delay.’ I found out what means ‘without delay.’ It means ri’;Izt now.” 20 THE TEXAS OBSFr ’21/02
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