Aug 29, 2005
In early July, a U.S. immigration judge postponed a scheduled deportation hearing against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, two immigrants of Palestinian origin, without setting a new date. A month later, as if to counter the judge's move, the U.S. government added new charges against the two under the newly-passed REAL ID Act.
Hamide and Shehadeh, along with five other Palestinians and one Kenyan, have been prosecuted by the U.S. government for more than 18 years. In 1987, the federal government charged the L.A. 8, as the defendants are often called, with supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. then called a terrorist organization.
The government's case faltered quickly, however, as even the then-FBI director William Webster testified that the FBI had found no evidence of criminal or terrorist activity by the L.A. 8. And officials have never claimed that the eight immigrants have done anything wrong in the last 18 years. Nonetheless, the officials have continued to go after the eight – charging six of them with minor visa violations instead. As for Hamide and Shehadeh, the government has kept charging them under different laws, including the USA Patriot Act, which was passed almost 15 years after the L.A. 8 were first accused!
Why has the U.S. government, under four different presidents, pursued this case so relentlessly?
There is only one logical answer: the government has been using this case to send a message that it will not tolerate opposition to U.S. foreign policy. And the warning is certainly not limited to immigrants. Since 9/11, most of the people charged under the Patriot Act – or, for that matter, held without charges – were U.S. citizens. No one should doubt that the government would try to use laws like the Patriot Act against any opposition – including, for example, anti-war protesters and labor organizers. U.S. history is full of such examples.