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Letter by Alliance of Iranian Americans to INS

by Babak Sotoodeh, President, AIA Friday, Dec. 20, 2002 at 9:47 AM

We cannot understand why the completely legal Iranian immigrants, and the 245 (i) immigrants have been arrested? We also cannot understand why the Iranian immigrants who have overstayed their visas, but who came to the INS in good faith to comply with President Bush's call have been arrested? And, worst of all, we cannot understand why the sick, the disabled, and the elderly have been arrested?

Letter by Alliance of Iranian Americans to INS Acting District Director in Los Angeles
December 18, 2002

December 17, 2002

Mr. Ronald J. Smith
Acting District Director
Immigration & Naturalization Service
300 North Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012 Via Fax Only
Re: Meeting with the Alliance of Iranian Americans ("AIA")

Dear Mr. Smith:

The Iranian American Community is outraged at the maltreatment that its members have been receiving at the hands of the Immigration & Naturalization Service ("INS"). We have been receiving and documenting the horror stories of defenseless Iranian immigrants, who in their efforts to be law abiding citizens and to comply with the call of the President Bush to combat terrorism by complying with the Special Registration law, have come to INS offices under your jurisdiction and instead have faced wholesale arrests, without any proper justifications. We cannot understand why the completely legal Iranian immigrants, and the 245 (i) immigrants have been arrested? We also cannot understand why the Iranian immigrants who have overstayed their visas, but who came to the INS in good faith to comply with President Bush's call have been arrested? And, worst of all, we cannot understand why the sick, the disabled, and the elderly have been arrested?

Yesterday, December 17, 2002, I accompanied the New York Times' Western Bureau Chief, Mr. Broder to the Los Angeles INS. We met Mr. Francisco Arcaute, your Public Affairs Officer. He did not want to meet both of us together, and promised me that he will meet me after he is finished with Mr. Broder. This was confirmed by his assistant, who called me 2 minutes before Francisco accompanied Mr. Broder to the exit door, stating that Francisco was coming down to take me in for a meeting. Instead, Francisco turned around and briskly returned inside as soon as he saw me, ignored my calls for him, and the INS security officers blocked me from going in, although I showed them his calling card. This could hardly be regarded as a friendly gesture by the INS when the Iranian American community has extended its hands for dialogue and understanding.

Today, Francisco called and said that you will talk to me if I send this letter. I asked him how many Iranians have been arrested, and how many of them are in custody at the present time. He said he cannot discuss that information with me. I reminded him that AIA wants to meet the INS to find out what has happened to these defenseless Iranian immigrants, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled, who are incarcerated not only at your detention facilities in Santa Ana and Los Angeles, but in the criminal courts of San Pedro, Pomona, Pasadena, and Lancaster. Also, we want to have the permission to see these people, and to examine these jails and detention areas. Francisco replied that INS cannot do that. My initial reply was that the meeting would then be futile.

In credit to Francisco, he suggested that I should mention in my letter to have the responsible people for these matters from the detention be present at the meeting, since apparently effective last week the INS district directors are no longer in charge of the enforcement/detention units. Furthermore, he suggested that I mention in my letter that we need to find out how many people have been arrested and are now incarcerated or detained at the present time, so you may request permission from Washington, D.C. to release these vital information.

I am looking forward to meeting you, if you are the proper INS official in charge of these arrests, and/or the other responsible people who can help us in resolving the above problems.

Very truly yours,

Babak Sotoodeh
President, AIA


Message from Alliance of Iranian Americans

I have been receiving lots of inquiries from people, asking how they can help.

Yesterday, I told everyone that we have been advised to "Get politically as well as legally going by setting up picket lines. That even if we send 10 people to the INS office in Los Angeles (or any other place where arrests are taking place), with picket signs reading something like "Everyone is entitled to a lawyer, even immigrants," will be helpful." No offers have come from anyone to do this. Not even one!

If anybody needs to help, this is what we need:

Bodies out there demonstrating at the jails where people are being held, so we could force INS to release these people, and
People who were here legally, and were arrested for no reason, for the class action. These people would be the member of the class for the class action that we have in mind. They should send their complete information to AIA.
Organize local AIA chapters, so we can respond quickly and be organized for future emergencies.
Pass this around please. Email it to your mail list and ask them to become AIA members.

Here are some links about the Special Registration and AIA's role in publicizing INS's malfeasance. Please note that the NY Times had agreed to report that hundreds of Iranians were being arrested, on the condition that the people who were arrested and released would agree to talk to them and mention their names. We had people who originally promised (through their relatives when these people were in jail) that they would talk to NY Times, but then refused to do that for irrational fears. Other people who were brave enough to do that, were unfortunately released too late to talk to the NY Times before the publication's deadline. We lost a great window of opportunity.

The site for the NY Times article (page A16) "Men From Muslim Nations Swamp Immigration Office" is: AIA member, Ally Bolour was cited in there.

The site for the Sacramento Bee article "Muslim, Mideast visitors face deadline" is: AIA member, Babak Sotoodeh was cited in there.

Today we publicized these horrible events by speaking to reporters from the National Public Radio, the Los Angeles Times, the Register (Freedom Newspapers), and KTLA news in Southern California. I urge all AIA members to try to publicize these injustices in their local media.

Below is the content of my letter faxed to INS' Acting District Director, Mr. Smith.

Babak Sotoodeh
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