Jarno Supporters Appeal Immigration Judge's Deportation
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 14, 2005
YORK, PENNSYLVANIA--Supporters of Malik Jarno are appealing a December 29 decision by an immigration judge that would have the native of Guinea deported to his war-ravaged home.
Immigration Judge Joan V. Churchill said she did not believe Jarno's claims that he has mental retardation, that he turned 20 years of age last month, or that he would be persecuted or killed if sent back to his native country.
According to the York Daily Record, Churchill wrote that she based her decision in part on Jarno's body language which she said suggested to her that he was not telling the truth. Churchill also did not believe evaluations by three psychologists which showed Jarno's IQ between 63 and 66. Most experts agree that IQ scores below 70 would indicate mental retardation. Further, she said that Jarno would be protected if sent back to Guinea because humanitarian organizations there know about him and would take care of him.
Jarno's team of about 30 attorneys, all of which are working at no charge to him, filed a notice of appeal prior to the February 28 deadline. Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said Jarno would be allowed to stay at the International Friendship House, a refugee shelter in York, Pennsylvania, until the matter is finally resolved.
Jarno has been seeking asylum in the U.S. since he arrived at a Washington, DC airport in February 2001. He spent much of his first three years in Pennsylvania and Virginia prisons while immigration officials tried to determine whether his claims were legitimate.
Federal officials determined that Jarno arrived at Dulles International Airport with a fake passport, a phony birth certificate, and false assertions that he would face persecution in his home country.
According to Amnesty International, Jarno is an orphan whose mother died when he was 12. His father, a well-known opposition activist in the West African country, died while imprisoned by the Guinea government. Other family members are missing and presumed dead. His home and neighborhood have been destroyed.
Jarno escaped in 2000 to France with an aunt and uncle who quickly abandoned him. He stayed with a Moroccan friend for a time, but when the man decided to return to Morocco, he put Jarno on a plane bound for Washington, DC. The friend told him he would be safe in America because "it is the land of freedom."
Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service discovered right away that Jarno's passport was bogus. Officials used dental X-rays, which showed his wisdom teeth coming in, to determine that Jarno was an adult in his mid- to late twenties. Investigators located a birth certificate which showed he was born February 7, 1985, but the agency said it had no similar document in its reference files and rejected Jarno's as a fake.
Jarno was jailed as a juvenile at five different adult facilities for all but four of his first 35 months in custody. He did not see an immigration judge during his first eight months in the U.S., as is his right by law. He did not even have an attorney until fellow inmates got help for him through an American Islamic group.
His attorneys claim Jarno should not have been jailed, especially for that long. Instead, he should have been treated as an abandoned foreign-born child and given an immigration green card so he could stay. Jarno's lawyers have also accused the INS, which has since been absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security, of engaging in pseudo science to justify its position on his age.
Jarno claims that while he was in prison he was assaulted by other inmates, pepper-sprayed, beaten by prison guards, and held in solitary confinement for one week.
In her December ruling, Churchill added that Jarno is not covered under the Convention Against Torture Act because he would be deported only to France, which is where he last lived.
"That made no sense because the Department of Homeland Security obtained the travel papers more than once to deport him to Guinea," said Jarno's attorney Christopher Nugent. "France would only dump him back to Guinea."
Jarno's case has attracted widespread support from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the American Bar Association, and the NAACP. Seventy members of Congress have asked the Department of Homeland Security to grant asylum. U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen, from Maryland, has introduced legislation that would grant Jarno legal immigration status, regardless of the outcome of any court cases.
"Supporters challenge denial of Jarnos asylum" (York Daily Record)
"Millions spent on Malik Jarno" (York Daily Record)
"Opinion: Money wasted on immigration case" (York Daily Record)
"African Mans Asylum Status In Hands Of Immigration Judge" by Dave Reynolds (The NewStandard)