Rafeedie v. INS

Citation688 F. Supp. 729
Decision Date15 June 1988
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 88-0366.
PartiesFouad Yacoub RAFEEDIE, Plaintiff, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

David Cole, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York City, Timothy P. Dyk, Kerry W. Kircher, John K. Lapiana, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, Michael Maggio, Nat. Lawyers Guild, Visa Denial Project, Washington, D.C., James R. Fennerty, Nat. Lawyers Guild, Chicago, Ill., Marc Van Der Hout, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiff.

Allen W. Hausman, Asst. Director, Linda S. Wendtland, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civ. Div., Dept. of Justice, William P. Joyce, Associate General Counsel, I.N.S., Washington, D.C., for defendants.


JOYCE HENS GREEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Fouad Yacoub Rafeedie, a permanent resident alien who has resided in the United States for the past thirteen years, except for a two-week trip to Syria in April 1986 to attend a meeting of the Palestinian Youth Organization ("PYO"), challenges the decision of the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS")1 that seeks to exclude him from reentering the country through a summary exclusion proceeding conducted under Section 235(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1225(c). The INS has invoked the summary procedure on the basis of confidential information which, according to the INS, shows that plaintiff is a high-ranking member of a terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ("PFLP") (with which the PYO is allegedly affiliated), that he has undertaken fundraising and recruiting activities for the PFLP, and that he fought in combat for the PFLP in Lebanon in 1982. Plaintiff claims that the INS's decision to invoke the summary exclusion proceeding (whereby the INS is required to provide him only with notice of the charges against him and an opportunity to submit a written statement to the Regional Commissioner who could make a summary decision without a hearing or further proceedings), rather than to conduct an ordinary exclusion proceeding under Section 236 with an adversarial hearing before an immigration judge, is contrary to law and violates his constitutional rights to due process and free speech. This is the first time that the INS has used Section 235(c) to attempt exclusion of a permanent resident alien.2

The matter comes now before the Court on plaintiff's motions for a preliminary injunction and for partial summary judgment3 and defendants' motion to dismiss.4 For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, but plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is granted.

I. Background Allegations5

Plaintiff Fouad Yacoub Rafeedie was born in 1957 in El-Bireh on the West Bank of the Jordan River, in what was then Jordan. Declaration of Fouad Yacoub Rafeedie ("Rafeedie Decl.") at ¶ 2. On January 26, 1975, Rafeedie came to the United States on an immigrant visa sponsored by a member of his family who was a United States citizen. Id. ¶ 3. Since his initial entry, Rafeedie has been a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States. Id. ¶ 4.

Plaintiff currently resides in North Olmstead, Ohio with his wife, who is a United States citizen, and one child, born March 7, 1988. Id. ¶ 5. In addition, Rafeedie's mother, a permanent resident alien, lives in Youngstown, Ohio, and he has four brothers, two sisters, and 27 nephews and nieces who are United States citizens living in the United States. Id.

In 1981, plaintiff obtained a bachelor of science degree from Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio. Id ¶ 6. He has completed all requirements for a master of science degree in clinical chemistry at Youngstown State University, except for submission of his thesis, which he still intends to pursue. Id. Rafeedie is currently employed as assistant manager at Nazer Food Market in Cleveland, Ohio. Id. ¶ 8.

Plaintiff has been politically active while living in the United States, particularly with respect to issues involving Arab-Americans. Id. ¶ 11. He has been "outspokenly critical of United States' policies in the Middle East particularly with respect to their effect on the rights of Palestinian people." Id. He has written numerous articles and appeared on television and radio programs on these issues, and he belongs to a number of Arab and Palestinian political and cultural organizations in this country. Id.

Since coming to this country in 1975, plaintiff has desired and intended to become a naturalized United States citizen. Id. ¶ 9. He first petitioned to become a naturalized citizen in April 1981.6 In July of that year, he was called by the INS for an interview. He was accompanied to his interview with the INS officer by two witnesses. Id. ¶ 10. He claims that the examiner questioned him and the two witnesses about his political beliefs and associations. Id. According to Rafeedie, the examiner told the witnesses that Rafeedie would not be given citizenship because of his political activities. Id.

In October 1982, Rafeedie was called by the INS for a second interview. He was asked if he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization or the Communist Party. He replied that he was not. Id. ¶ 10. Rafeedie contends that although he was asked again about his political beliefs and associations, the examiner told him that he had passed the test, could become a citizen, and INS would call him in about a month to attend a naturalization proceeding. Id. He signed some forms and paid a $25.00 fee. Id.

Plaintiff claims that the INS never called him after this examination. Id. When he called the INS office in Cleveland to inquire about whether he would be naturalized, the INS "always responded that either it has no file on me, that my file is still being processed, or that I should not call the INS." Id.7

On April 7, 1986, plaintiff obtained a reentry permit from the INS in order to take a trip abroad. Rafeedie stated on his application that he intended to travel to Larnaca, Cyprus "because I received a telex that my mother is going through a surgery, and she likes me to attend, because its a major heart surgery." Complaint, Exhibit D, Attachment to Form I-147, Defendants' Specific Factual Allegations of Excludability under Section 235(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("Specific Allegation") No. 9 sic.

Three days later, he obtained from the Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C. a visa to travel to Syria, which was stamped into his reentry permit. Id. at No. 10. According to defendants, plaintiff's mother at that time continued to reside in Ohio, and the hospital in Larnaca, Cyprus neither had facilities for performing major heart surgery nor a record of admittance of his mother. Id. at No. 11.

Plaintiff departed for Syria on April 16, 1986. He traveled to Syria with Tarak Mustafa (a United States citizen) and Sulieman Shihadeh (a permanent resident alien), whom defendants contend are also members of the PFLP. The INS alleges that travel arrangements for Rafeedie, Mustafa, and Shihadeh, were made by a California travel agency and that they were seated next to each other on the flight from New York to London. Id. at No. 16.

According to defendants, while in Syria, plaintiff, Mustafa, and Shihadeh attended the First Congress of the Palestine Youth Organization, a division of the PFLP. Id. at No. 13.

Upon their return to the United States, plaintiff, Mustafa, and Shihadeh were stopped and questioned by INS and Federal Bureau of Investigation officers at the airport in New York. Plaintiff reportedly denied knowing Mustafa and Shihadeh, and told the INS officers that he did not know anything about the PFLP or the PYO. Id. at No. 15. According to defendants, a scarf and pin marked with the letters "PYO" were taken from Rafeedie. Id.

Shihadeh, on the other hand, reportedly admitted that he was returning from the PYO Congress, that the PYO was a division of the PFLP, and that he had attended the Congress as a representative of the Palestine community in Los Angeles, which had provided funds for the trip. Id. at No. 19. Shihadeh had an agenda from the PYO Congress and a card with his picture identifying him as a PFLP member with the rank of "fighter." Id. at No. 22. Shihadeh also had a camera containing film, which when developed after being confiscated, showed some photographs of Rafeedie associating with individuals at the PYO conference. One of the photographs on the roll included George Habash, the founder and top leader of the PFLP. Id. at No. 21.8

Mustafa allegedly told the INS officers that he had known Rafeedie and Shihadeh prior to the April 16 flight. Id. at No. 17. Mustafa was found to possess papers titled "Palestine Youth Organization, First General Congress, Damascus, April 1986." Id. at No. 18.

After the inspection, Rafeedie was paroled for deferred inspection and permitted to return to North Olmstead, Ohio.

During the deferred inspection of plaintiff in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1986, Rafeedie told the INS that he had not gone to Cyprus because his sister had telephoned him to inform him that his mother's surgery had been cancelled. Id. at No. 25. INS officers asked him to provide the name of his sister, the place from which she made the telephone call, and his mother's medical records. Id. at No. 26. He did not provide this information. On May 27, 1986, the INS reiterated its request in writing, asking plaintiff for additional information relating to the alleged cancellation of his mother's surgery. Id. Rafeedie did not respond.

In a letter dated July 9, 1986, the INS asked Rafeedie to appear personally at the Cleveland INS office to provide the requested information. He responded that he could not appear because he was travelling out of Ohio for his engagement party, and his attorney indicated that he was having back surgery and would not be able to come for at...

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