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Update by Alliance of Iranian Americans on Lawsuit against INS

Yesterday afternoon, at around 4:30 p.m., in Santa Ana, California, District Court Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler, denied our Class Action's Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO"). She stated that she felt she had no power over the Attorney General Ashcroft under the law!

First some background. On 12-24-02, we filed the Class Action in Los Angeles Federal Court to stop the INS from its mass arrests and detentions, and to stop them from deporting Iranians in INS jails. Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department went to Judge Stotler and asked her to take the case away from the first Judge. She grabbed the case immediately, and that is how we ended up with her. We subsequently argued that she should send the case back to the first Judge, since most of the arrests took place in Los Angeles, and that is where INS is headquartered anyway. But, she did not agree and kept the case.

We knew that Judge Stotler had denied similar cases before and that is why the Government chose her, so we were not too surprised. Right now we are assessing our options, which an appeal is one of them.

For a pretty accurate newspaper report of what happened yesterday, click on the following link: Orange County Register story

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. This case is no exception. In its efforts to stop the TRO and convince the Judge, the Government stated that people with pending adjustment applications will not be picked up and many Notice to Appears ("NTA") will be withdrawn. It was stated that these are Nationwide guidance memos. This was confirmed later by the Los Angeles District Director in a meeting as follows: For the current phase 2 ending Jan. 10, 2003, they expect fewer arrests and fewer bonds. People with pending adjustment of status applications with no adverse factors WILL NOT BE DETAINED. If an NTA is issued, they will be released O.R. if no adverse factors.

For people who were previously detained in phase 1(i.e., Iranians): If there was relief available (I-485 pending), then a letter will be sent saying NTA will be withdrawn. If the NTA has already been issued with the Immigration Court, the INS will consider terminating the case on a case by case basis.

For people who did not register, there will be no late registration, unless there is a "reasonable excuse" for not registering. "Reasonable excuse" will have to be further examined and refined by INS. One example of what "reasonable excuse" might be is the following: "INS L.A. sent notices out to the community and in some cases mistranslations or mistakes occurred. If some misunderstood the notices due to INS error, that may be considered "reasonable excuse" for not showing up." Plain "fear" is not reasonable excuse for failing to show.

Out of status and criminal registrants will be detained and bonds set. Solely having an approved I-130 and a priority date is not immediate relief. If the above decisions were in place, over 90% of the Iranians who were needlessly detained and jailed would have never been jailed. Although too late to stop the jailings for the Iranian American immigrants, at least AIA's Class Action appears to have made the Government rethink its arrest policy and the fear it causes in the Immigrant Communities. Furthermore, thanks to AIA's Class Action, 1) many people who would have remained in jail were freed, 2) many people who would have been deported may now not be deported, and 3) the ones who were supposed to be issued NTAs will now not be issued NTAs.

Now, the moral of the story. Without UNITY, we will be nowhere. The Iranian American Community has now learned that it has tremendous power, which it could only harness and exploit by working together, such as the Call-in to the White House, and by defending its rights in the Courts, such as the AIA Class Action Law Suit.

Remember, AIA's Action Plan is still two fold:

First. AIA's Class Action Law Suit, to release all of the innocent law abiding prisoners. We are reviewing our options and whether to Appeal the TRO decision of Judge Stotler.

Second. The arrests and detentions of Iranians is still an Issue in the Media. We need to keep it that way by calling for a Congressional Inquiry, and by continuing to protest. That way we will keep this Issue alive in the Media until the White House intervenes from the top.

We are in plans with NIAC to start a joint Congressional Inquiry into the Mass Arrests, and you would shortly hear more about this joint project.

Furthermore, as you receive this email, public demonstrations are going on in front of INS building around the US, such as in San Francisco and Los Angeles. To see one of our recent demonstrations, please click on the following link: or go to our main website at and click on the picture (best viewed with Internet Explorer).

Alliance of Iranian Americans
Babak Sotoodeh

... Payvand News - 1/11/03 ... --

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