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28565: Hermantin(News)Haiti may bar former citizen (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Fri, Jul. 07, 2006
Haiti may bar former citizen
A Haitian-born man stripped of U.S. citizenship may not be taken back by his
native country, the consulate said.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Lionel Jean-Baptiste may not be deported after all.
The first naturalized American in recent times stripped of citizenship after
being convicted in a drug case will not be allowed to return to his native
country because he renounced Haitian citizenship when he swore allegiance to
the United States, a senior Haitian official said.
Ralph Latortue, the Haitian consul general in Miami, said he will not issue a
travel document to Jean-Baptiste if and when the immigration service requests
Latortue said a clause in the 19-year-old Haitian Constitution prohibits
issuance of travel documents to Haitians who have renounced citizenship.
''Article 13, related to nationality, says any Haitian that chooses to be a
citizen of another country loses automatically the Haitian nationality,''
Latortue said. ``Since he lost the Haitian nationality, he cannot be deported
Latortue's statement raised a roadblock to U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement's plans to deport Jean-Baptiste. But immigration officials said the
consul's statement may not be the last word.
''It's premature to discuss the country of removal as proceedings are
pending,'' said Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman in Miami.
Though Gonzalez did not elaborate, in the past, when a foreign national is
refused reentry by his country, immigration authorities try to deport him to
Immigration experts say finding another country to take high-profile cases is
often a problem. That's because other countries don't want to take on the
burden of publicity and security that high-profile cases carry with them. Third
countries also tend to shy away from accepting foreign nationals with criminal
Jean-Baptiste, 58, was convicted on drug-trafficking charges. Though he denied
the charges, he was convicted by a federal jury in Miami.
Five years after conviction, in 2002, immigration authorities began citizenship
revocation proceedings against Jean-Baptiste. He challenged those efforts all
the way to the Supreme Court, and lost.
Jean-Baptiste made immigration law history as the first naturalized citizen in
recent times to be stripped of American citizenship and put in deportation
proceedings after being convicted of a crime.
Foreign nationals are put in deportation proceedings when convicted -- but
naturalized citizens have generally been allowed to stay, unless they lied
during the citizenship application process. Jean-Baptiste did not lie, his
lawyer said, because he had yet to be indicted, arrested or convicted when he
Authorities revoked Jean-Baptiste's citizenship because the crime he was later
convicted of committing occurred in March 1995, while he was awaiting
citizenship. ICE attorneys maintained that by helping to arrange two crack
cocaine sales for an undercover officer, Jean-Baptiste violated the immigration
law requirement to remain a person of ''good moral character'' before becoming
Of the charges, Jean-Baptiste maintains he simply pointed across the street
from his restaurant when he was asked where drugs could be obtained.
The ICE charge departed from typical citizenship-revocation cases, which are
generally based on evidence a citizenship applicant concealed a criminal
record. Nevertheless, an appellate court agreed that the commission of a crime
violated the ''good moral character'' rule. Therefore, the appeals court said,
ICE was justified in taking away Jean-Baptiste's naturalization certificate.
The Supreme Court concurred in October 2005 when it refused to hear the case.
ICE officers picked up Jean-Baptiste June 14, locked him up at Krome detention
center in West Miami-Dade County and put him in deportation proceedings.
An immigration judge can issue a deportation order -- which Jean-Baptiste can
challenge, first before the Board of Immigration Appeals and then before the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which backed ICE's effort to
strip him of citizenship. Ultimately, Jean-Baptiste can ask the Supreme Court
to hear the matter.
LONG ROAD AHEAD
The process could take months, if not years. ICE has discretion to keep
Jean-Baptiste in detention until after the immigration judge's deportation
order becomes final -- that is, after all legal proceedings end. ICE also has
the discretion to release Jean-Baptiste under supervision.
André Pierre, Jean-Baptiste's attorney, said Thursday he plans to move for
release on bond at his client's first hearing, tentatively scheduled for
Pierre said he eventually will try to convince the immigration judge to stop
removal proceedings on the grounds his client cannot be deported to Haiti.
Keeping Jean-Baptiste in detention, Pierre said, would be a 'waste of
taxpayers' money'' since he cannot be deported and is not a flight risk.
ICE generally spends about $95 a day -- or almost $35,000 a year -- keeping a
detainee in custody.
''Most taxpayers would want the government to keep a convicted drug trafficker
out of their neighborhood and in detention,'' said Dean Boyd, an ICE spokesman
in Washington. Boyd added that, by law, ICE was ''obligated'' to detain
Jean-Baptiste because his crime was an aggravated felony.
The Supreme Court has prohibited indefinite detention for foreign nationals who
cannot be deported -- but ICE generally interprets the high court's ruling to
mean a detainee can be held until at least six months after all legal
proceedings have ended.
The reason for the six-month delay is to give ICE time to secure travel
documents for the person being deported, either to his home country or another