[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]



Published Friday, September 3, 1999, in the Miami Herald 

 Anti-immigrant law takes a wrecking ball to one man's life.

 If another country had done to Atlanta businessman Ralph Richardson
what our own U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has done to
him, there would be howls of indignation and rebuke from Washington,
D.C., to Miami. But in this case, there is only stony silence from
Attorney General Janet Reno, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner and INS
district director Robert Wallis. Acting with anal attentiveness to the
mean-spirited Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility
Act of 1996, the INS has held the Haitian-born Mr. Richardson, 33, in
questionable detention since October 1997, thereby ruining his
 business and wrecking his American-born family.  It has fought all the
way to the Supreme Court his request to be released on bond pending a
hearing on the INS's detention claim. Today, an immigration judge in
Miami will decide if Mr. Richardson should be deported to Haiti, a
country he left as a 2-year-old back in 1968 to live in Atlanta.
 All logic and justice demands that the judge should reject deportation.
And if not, Mesdames Reno and Meissner and Mr. Wallis should use their
authority to do so. Mr. Richardson is a lawful, permanent resident of
this country. He has a wife and three young children. Prior to his
detention, he had a successful janitorial business in Atlanta, where he
had lived continuously since his arrival -- and until the fateful
two-day visit he made in 1997 to visit his mother in Haiti. 

 Returning from the trip, Mr. Richardson was routinely queried by an INS
agent and asked if he'd ever been convicted of a crime. He answered Yes,
acknowledging an offense for drug possession, for which he had completed
a jail sentence in 1993. The INS detained Mr. Richardson under that 1996
law, a shameful measure that Congress passed in part to rid the country
of immigrants who commit crimes. Applied retroactively -- an outrage by
itself -- it has ensnared thousands of people such as Mr. Richardson who
have repaid society for their transgressions. One problem with the law
is that it effectively suspends basic rights (such as the right to be
freed on bond pending trial) normally guaranteed to all under the
 Constitution. Lawyers for Mr. Richardson have challenged this
interpretation, and prevailed, all the way to the Supreme Court. But the
11th Circuit Court of Appeals thwarted his release by reinstituting its
previous adverse ruling on different grounds.  When the governments in
Cuba, China or Iran jail their people for years without trial or
conviction, the United States is first among nations to brand the
actions as wrongful violations of human rights.  This is a similar
injustice that responsible U.S. officials must now stand against.