Supreme Court Rules against L.A. Eight: Resident Aliens May Be Deported for Political Activity
Marshall, Rachelle, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Supreme Court Rules Against L.A. Eight: Resident Aliens May Be Deported For Political Activity
After 12 years and numerous lower court rulings in their favor, seven Palestinians and a Kenyan now face deportation for having raised money for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine back in the 1980s. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision on Feb. 24 that First Amendment guarantees do not apply to immigrants. Two of the defendants, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehada, are longtime legal U.S. residents. The other six, including Hamide's wife, are charged with minor technical violations of the immigration laws, such as failing to take enough credits to remain qualified for a student visa.
In 1987, on a tip from the Los Angeles chapter of B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League, agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service burst into the homes of six Palestinian men and a woman from Kenya and dragged them away in shackles. They arrested a seventh Palestinian man a few days later while he was in taking a final exam at a community college in San Bernardino. Although none had ever committed a crime or engaged in violence, they were held incommunicado in maximum security cells for two and a half weeks. Hamide, who is a marketing consultant, said afterward, "I did not know day from night...I did not know where my wife was. I could not make phone calls."
The INS originally charged them with advocating "world Communism" and told the press they were "terrorists." That charge was later dropped, and instead the INS moved to deport them for supporting "terrorist activity." The PFLP, like Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, had committed terrorist acts, but it also raised money for charitable purposes. Evidence obtained through surveillance showed that the defendants' activities chiefly involved taking part in fund-raising dinners. Former FBI Director William Webster said at the time that "if they had been U.S. citizens, there would not have been a basis for their arrests."
Lawyers for the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild who defended the group that came to be called "the L. …