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American Muslim

Mercury News – June 14, 2003

Deportations protested at S.F. rally

By Jessie Mangaliman

A number of Bay Area civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups rallied outside the federal immigration office in San Francisco on Friday to protest the pending deportation of more than 13,000 Muslim and Middle Eastern men found to be living illegally in the United States during a national security registration program.

``What the government is doing is targeting immigrants instead of targeting terrorists,'' Jayashri Srikantiah, an attorney with the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said to a group of about 50 people, across the street from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, in downtown San Francisco.

Srikantiah and others repeated their criticism of a national anti-terrorism program that required men and boys older than 16 from 25 primarily Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern countries to register with the government. They were required to report to local offices of the BCIS to be fingerprinted and photographed as part of a system designed to monitor the comings and goings of U.S. visitors.

In all, more than 82,000 people registered. About 16 percent, or more than 13,000, were found in violation of their visas and placed in deportation proceedings, according to a government report issued last week.

``It doesn't seem unjust to place in deportation proceedings those who are in violation of the terms of their visas,'' said Sharon Rummery, a BCIS spokeswoman in San Francisco.

Rummery said everyone who received deportation notices from the special registration program will get a chance to ``tell the immigration judge why they shouldn't be deported.''

Esam Jalboush, 34, a Jordanian-Palestinian who has been living in the United States since he was 19, was among many Bay Area residents caught in the dragnet and ordered deported. But rather than fight the deportation, Jalboush, who came on a student visa in 1988, said he will leave the country voluntarily.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Jalboush, a supermarket store manager in San Francisco, picked up his expired Jordanian passport at the BCIS office Friday afternoon. Officials had confiscated his passport when he registered in March. He was detained for 24 hours and released on a $15,000 bond.

He has agreed to leave the United States and is bound this weekend for Montreal, where he has a sister. He said he will fly into Detroit and enter Canada at Windsor, where he hopes to get political asylum.

``There is no justice here for me; that's why I've chosen to leave rather than fight,'' said Jalboush, who said he fled Jordan because he was persecuted as a Palestinian.

He had a green card application pending in March when he was placed in deportation. He had applied for a green card in 2000. An immigration official found that after his student visa expired in 1993, Jalboush was out of status -- in the United States illegally for about a year. He then married an American citizen.

``Now a decade later, the government is deporting him for that violation. How is that good for the country's national security?'' said Banafshe Akhlaghi, an immigration lawyer in San Francisco representing Jalboush and about three dozen other people facing deportation.

Akhlaghi spoke at the protest before accompanying Jalboush to the BCIS office.

``The targeting of immigrants and Muslims has created a culture of fear and helplessness,'' said Samina Faheem, a member of the American Muslim Alliance, a national non-profit group in Fremont.