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Why do they want to deport Alex Mathew?

October 6, 2006 | Page 2

EDWARDO "ALEX" MATHEW is a U.S. permanent resident and Dutch national who has been unjustly detained and threatened with deportation by the Department of Homeland Security. But his family and friends in Providence, R.I., are fighting back, forming the Committee to Stop Deportations and Detentions.

Alex's wife, ARIANNA IANNUCCILLI-MATHEW talked to SHAUN JOSEPH and BRIAN CHIDESTER about the couple's experience. Shortly after this interview, Alex was moved from the Suffolk County, Mass., jail to the Buffalo Federal Detention Center.

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WHO IS Alex Mathew?

HE WAS born in Aruba and lived there for a while, and in the Netherlands. We've been married for 11 years.

In Aruba, he was involved in politics. He owned a few businesses, including a security guard company and a nightclub. He also had a telecommunications license from the government to open a phone company in Aruba in 2001. This was rare because there were few such licenses awarded by the government.

Following the takeover by a new government, Alex was politically and racially targeted, and unjustly and inhumanely incarcerated.

While he was in jail, he was abused and tortured. We submitted all the evidence to the European Court of Human Rights, the most influential human rights court in Europe. His case was accepted by the court, and he won. The court decided that the Aruban authorities had violated Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights.

It was a landmark case, because no one from the Netherlands had won a case in that court. Because he won that case, the cases in Aruba could be reopened on appeal. They are still pending.

So in 2004, once he was released from the Aruban jail, he came here to the United States, legally on his visa waiver. We had a baby, and he opened a granite company. He was making a life here in the United States.

He was still involved in some things in Aruba. He helped with the elections last August, and he tried to run his own campaign for the depressed town of San Nicolas, in an oil refining area in Aruba, and against the oil refinery.

My husband's the type of person who will stand up for his rights and for other peoples' rights as well. For this reason, he rubs people the wrong way. They feel he's Black, so he shouldn't have a voice. He is a caring person who would give you the shirt off his back.

He has his business here, we own a home and an office building, he has his friends here, his son and me. We were making our life here.

MOST AMERICANS think that immigrants who marry citizens automatically become citizens themselves. What was the process like of applying for Alex's permanent residency?

BECAUSE WE didn't know how to do it, we went to a service that supposedly knew what paperwork to fill out. We explained my husband's situation to the woman who ran the service, and gave her all the appropriate documents.

We explained that he had been in jail in Aruba, and that the U.S. government knew this because they had sent several letters on my behalf, inquiring about my husband to the government of Aruba. She explained that the U.S. government was not concerned if he had been in jail outside the U.S. She filled out the paperwork and typed everything, and we went one day to sign the paperwork.

My husband got different letters in the mail to go for fingerprints, then his work permit, and then we went for the interview. The interview went well. The interviewer asked us some questions about our marriage and about my husband. But interviewer said in court that she did not ask all the questions on the I-485 form, nor did she ask them verbatim--she paraphrased the questions. She asked my husband if he had ever been arrested, but didn't specify inside or outside the U.S.

We were under the impression that the question only applied to inside the U.S, and she didn't clarify it. Finally, she stamped his passport, and we got his green card.

DESCRIBE THE incidents that led to Alex's problems with Immigration and his detention.

ON NOVEMBER 5, 2005, he was returning from a trip to Holland, and he was pulled aside at Logan Airport in Boston by Customs. He was asked if he had ever been in jail in Aruba. He told them yes. They came back with some paperwork and said there was a discrepancy, and that he was being paroled back into the U.S.

U.S. Customs took his green card and passport, and gave him a notice to report to the customs office in Providence to explain the situation, so he could get back his green card and passport. We went to the CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] office on several occasions, and each time we went, they said they didn't have the documents. They kept postponing the appointment.

Then we got another letter to go to the immigration office on May 9 to complete "the deferred inspection," and we thought he was going to get his green card back. They took him in a room and shackled him and arrested him. We never got a chance to explain the situation.

When he was paroled back in the U.S., every time we went to the customs office, we asked if we could bring an attorney, and they told us he was not entitled to an attorney, because of his parole status.

He's been in jail since May 9,2006. They've beat him up, violated his rights, denied him due process and tortured him at each of the prisons immigration has placed him in.

My husband is a civil/administrative detainee, not a criminal detainee. He is being accused of lying on his application, because the incarceration in Aruba can't be used against him to deport him or even to detain him. So they have him in jail because they have accused him of lying.

WHAT HAPPENED after Alex was detained?

HE'S BEEN moved by immigration to four different facilities. At the Wyatt, they jumped on his back and re-injured a preexisting back condition. He has been denied medical treatment in one form or another at all four prisons. At the other three prisons, he has been called racial slurs, tormented and threatened by the guards. He's been denied access to his family via visits or phone calls.

He is currently at the Suffolk County jail, where he's been in segregation for over a month without just cause. My attorneys and I have written several letters inquiring about his strict detention, and they have not responded.

He is allowed out of his cell one hour a day in hand and foot cuffs. He hasn't been able to take a shower, because they let him out in full restraint, in a wheelchair. He hasn't gotten any fresh air because they don't take him out to get fresh air.

On his one-hour recreation, he usually calls me to let me know how he is doing. Some days, he is not allowed out of his cell at all. And they take him out at 8 in the morning, so even if he wanted to call the lawyer, he couldn't. By law, he should be able to at least call his lawyer every day, no matter what status they have him in.

It's been mentally, physically, emotionally, financially draining. My son hasn't seen his father in over two months. It's been horrible.

It's frustrating because we've written several letters to the government, the attorney general, congressional leaders and senators, President Bush, Immigration, and no one's responded. We've written most recently several letters the Suffolk County jail to find out why he's being tortured like this, and we still haven't gotten a response.

Immigration says they know nothing about his treatment--it's the county jails' decision to keep him in any status they feel necessary. We call the county jail to ask about his treatment, and they tell us they cannot give us any information, and we have to call Immigration to get information.

The Suffolk jail has severely mistreated my husband. They have violated his civil and human rights and denied him due process--they refuse to give us a reason for his segregation in writing. Now, instead of dealing with the problem, the superintendent of Suffolk jail, Mr. Horgan, has requested of ICE that my husband be moved to a new prison.

We feel my husband's inhumane and criminalizing treatment is an attempt by Immigration to put pressure on my husband, so he will not fight his case, and give up and go back to Aruba.

Immigration consistently claims that they don't know why he is in segregation, yet in court on the record, the Immigration prosecutor Richard Neville says he's in segregation because he was a kick boxer and assaulted a warden in Aruba. The jail can't tell us why he's in segregation, but the prosecutor can?

Obviously, there is communication between Immigration and the jail. We feel that Immigration told them he was a kick boxer. My husband has not kick boxed in over 13 years. It's Immigration that's doing this to him.

WHY IS the government trying to deport Alex?

THEY'RE ACCUSING him of lying on his permanent resident application. They're saying he lied on his application; if he didn't lie, they're saying they would not have let him in anyway.

They're really trying to deport him because he's Black, because he stands up for his rights, and because he had a good life here--they're trying to make an example. He has a business, he has an American wife and an American-born son. They're treating him like he's a terrorist.

I definitely think the way he's been treated and the reason this process has been like it has is because he's Black. If he were white, they would not take him into court with eight guards around him. And then at the next court date, they only took him in with one guard. My husband says he can't make sense of this whole thing.

WHAT'S NEXT in Alex's case?

THE JUDGE had given the prosecution several deadlines to meet in order to produce certified documents proving the accusations against Alex. They did not meet any of those deadlines, and the judge has still accepted the documents. I still don't think they're properly certified--the certificate that's supposed to be attached had the name of the person who's supposed to sign, but did not have their title--but he still accepted them.

The next court hearing is just to see if the judge will allow Alex to subpoena the witnesses that he wants in his defense. They are witnesses who work for Homeland Security. My husband doesn't think the judge is going to allow them to be witnesses.

I want to help my husband to get out of jail and prevent his deportation. I also want to bring awareness to Americans to show them what's happening to the immigrants and bring awareness to immigrants to show them they have to join together to stop the government from abusing them.

The government tries to make immigrants feel as if they are "lucky" to be here, so they take the abuse. We want to get an organization going to get more people involved--to help bring light to the situation so hopefully Americans will understand, because when I tell them the story, they can't believe it.

My husband is not the only one this is happening to. It's happening to a majority of immigrants, they're putting them in jail without cause. If we don't stop the unjust deportation and detention of immigrants now, it will eventually affect all immigrant families and American families.

HOW HAS this experience changed your view of the world?

IT'S MADE me realize that America is corrupt, selfish, and unfair--I thought Aruba was corrupt, but after this ordeal with my husband, I think America's worse.

I feel that there's so many injustices and that America thinks they can rule the world and interfere with every country, and with people's lives and families. America feels they can destroy lives and families, and there's no repercussion, yet they complain everybody hates them. I feel there is so much hatred toward America because of the way they treat human beings.

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