Deportations of two men determined to be illegal

By September 14, 2010News & Press

On July 12, 2010, the summary deportations of Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz were determined to be illegal, with the United States government at fault. Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee offers some pertinent commentary concerning inequities of media coverage involving this grave injustice.

On Dec. 27, 2002 and July 17, 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) received petitions from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the law firm of Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Center for Human Rights and Justice against the government of the United States on behalf of Wayne Smith and his children and Hugo Armendariz and his children, respectively, in relation to Mr. Smith and Mr. Armedariz’s deportation from the United States. According to the petitions, the State violated the alleged victims’ rights protected under Articles I (right to life, liberty and personal security), V (right to private and family life), VI (right to family), VII (right to protection for mothers and children), IX (right to inviolability of the home), XVIII (right to fair trial), and XXVI (right to due process of law) of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, ironically, in this instance, known as the “American Declaration.”

More than three years later, on July 20, 2006, the IACHR finally admitted the petitions. In both cases, the IACHR found the alleged victims’ petitions admissible with regard to potential violations of Articles V, VI, VII, XVIII, and XXVI of the American Declaration.

In the determination report filed by IACHR and published on July 12, 2010, it was stated that Messrs. Smith and Armendariz, both of whom were legal permanent residents of the United States, were subjected to deportation without permitting them to present a reasonable defense in administrative or judicial courts, including the following alleged internationally-required consideration of humanitarian equities to deportation: the alleged victims’ length of legal residency in the United States; the alleged victims’ family ties in the United States; the potential hardship on the family members left behind in the United States;  the alleged victims’ links with their countries of origin; the extent of the alleged victims’ rehabilitation and social contribution to the United States; any medical or psychological considerations; and the gravity of the alleged victims’ offense and the age when it was committed.

Both Messrs. Smith and Armendariz had been convicted of “aggravated felonies,” but the actual crimes of both were found to have been misdemeanors if charged under more reasonable prosecutorial conditions, in fact, Mr. Armendariz’s offense, an instance of shoplifting, had occurred when he was 13 years of age, well under the age of majority for such a crime if committed in the United States.

“What’s really amazing in these cases,” said Houston-are immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee, “is that these men were deported during a period of rabid anti-immigrant hysteria and that their cases – and their individual ordeals, as well as the hardships inflicted by the U.S. government on their families – were virtually ignored by the mainstream U.S. media, and in fact, even the well-deserved positive resolution of their cases as judged on their merits, received scant attention even from moderate voices in the U.S, media, such as Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow hosting programs on MSNBC, while more rabid “conservative” anti-immigrant voices such as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh only singled them out prior to the more human resolution of their cases.”

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