Update on Omar Jamal
by Phil Steger
First, Jamal wants to express his deepest appreciation for the extraordinary support and encouragement that all of you have been showing in so many, different ways since his arrest.
Jamal's hearing was at 10:00am. The judge ordered Jamal released on $6500 bond. It had been set at $10,000. He is free as of this afternoon.
His lawyers say that the government has still not provided any evidence backing their claim that Jamal gave inaccurate information on his asylum application, and that the immigration issues regarding the government's allegations will be resolved in the next year or two. Unfortunately, the government has not only initiated deportation proceedings against Jamal, but criminal proceedings, as well.
For the same, alleged act of inaccurately answering questions on his application, the government is charging Jamal with six felonies, one for each of the questions which he allegedly answered falsely. The maximum penalty Jamal would face would be 30 years in federal prison!
This is the chilling reality. Up until a year ago, for possible errors on an asylum application, an immigrant would be invited to INS in order to clear up the allegations and decide what to do next. What is unusual, and particularly chilling is that in Jamal's case, this precedent and protocol is being bypassed and he - 1) has been sent into immediate, deportation proceedings, and 2) is being charged with felonies. This is a totally new
development in the government's treatment of immigrants.
The government may be singling Jamal out for this unusual and aggressive treatment, or, even more frighteningly, this may be how the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security will be handling immigrants from now on.
What to do:
1) Keep calling Sen. Dayton's AND Sen. Coleman's offices, as well as Rep. McCollum's office and ask them to make some statement of support for the good work that Jamal has done for our community, and of concern for the grave and chilling implications that this double jeopardy of putting an immigrant into immediate, deportation proceedings and of charging them with felonies for errors on their applications has on the human and civil rights of all citizens, especially immigrants.
2) Write such letters to the editors of the newspapers, and make such calls to TV news stations. Some in the media may pillory Jamal based on these allegations. One reporter from Channel 4 asked me (on camera), "What are you and all these people doing here?" When I answered, "Supporting Jamal for his service to our state and to civil and human rights in Minnesota." He said, "Yeah, but the government is saying that he frauded the American people by lying on his application." We should all respond to these kind of claims and insinuations in some way like the following:
*That these are allegations that have not been proven,
*That they stem from five years ago, and
*That in the meantime, Jamal has tirelessly and selflessly (if at times idiosyncratically) defended the human and civil rights of all Minnesotans, immigrant and citizen alike.
3) Come to 24th and Chicago tomorrow in Minneapolis at 2:30pm and participate in a rally of support for Jamal and for immigrant communities in general.
Regarding the larger issues:
1) Write letters to the editor and to your state and US representatives expressing your reactions to this policy of guilty until proven innocent, if you're an immigrant, and of charging immigrants with felonies for inaccurate application information. A talking point might be: how will we have defended our country ("homeland" never referred to the country before 9/11) if, after one attack and before any other, we can't even recognize it
any more, because its freedoms, legal protections, rights and liberties disappeared at the wave of one president's hand?
2) Get involved in the Bill of Rights Defense Committees near you. There is one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. Others could develop. The goal of these is to pass city council resolutions, and eventually ordinances, that withhold any city cooperation with federal mandates that violate Constitutionally guaranteed rights and protections. If you'd like to get involved, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the St.Paul committee, but they can get you in touch with any others.
3) Get involved and attend teach-ins that provide further information on civil rights and liberties questions.
4) E-mail us if you have any other, good resources on civil rights issues, so that we can let others know about them.
Thank you for you strength and support.
Phil Steger, St. Paul, director of Friends for a Non-Violent World
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