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Activist fights deportation in federal court



Activist fights deportation in federal court
Copyright 2003 Pawtucket Times
DATE: 7/25/03
BOSTON-In deportation proceedings that began Thursday for a local Palestinian activist, the ex-wife of Amer Jubran testified that their marriage had been a loving one.

Jubran, of Cumberland, is facing deportation in the wake of his divorce shortly after receiving his green card. His case is in federal immigration court; the judge is expected to make a ruling at the next hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Jubran is a Jordanian citizen and well-known advocate for the Palestinian cause. He and supporters allege that the government is trying to deport him because of his political activities.

With about 100 supporters outside the courtroom, Thursday’s hearing focused on nearly four hours of testimony from Maria Soto, Jubran’s ex-wife. Jubran himself said he plans to testify on his own behalf at the next hearing.

Soto testified that the two met while Jubran was running a gas station he owned in East Providence. In 1997, they married and moved together into a small apartment on Appleton Street in Pawtucket.

She also testified that they were a loving couple and that Jubran had a warm relationship with her three children.

“He was very nice to the kids and very playful,” Soto said. “He showed that he cared for them and really loved the kids.”

As time went on, though, the marriage went downhill.

Soto testified that Jubran waited 18 months for news about his green card, meanwhile putting in long hours at a job in Boston.

“Amer was working a lot and frustrated because of the immigration problem and he just changed as a person,” she said.

Eventually they divorced after Soto decided to take a job in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

In such a deportation case, Jubran has the burden of proving that his marriage was a legitimate one.

Richard Neville, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, asked Soto repeated questions about the nature of her marriage to Jubran.

At times, Soto appeared to remember very little about their relationship, proving unable to recall if she helped pay the rent, registered utility bills in her name or opened a joint checking account.

She also testified that she knew very little about Jubran’s background or political activities and said she couldn’t remember if Jubran was born in Jordan or Palestine.

“He used to talk about a lot of things I didn’t understand at the time,” Soto said.

Jubran and his attorney Nelson Brill have argued that he has become a post-Sept. 11 scapegoat because of his outspoken criticism of Israel and the U.S. government’s support of that country.

Jubran was arrested on Nov. 4, 2002 in his Cumberland apartment. Then, according to a complaint he filed with the justice department, was held at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston for 17 days without being told why and without access to his lawyer.

Brill also accused the government of recent attempts to intimidate Soto and her family. Soto testified that two agents from the FBI and INS visited her in her South Carolina home on July 21 and questioned this week other family members living in Providence.

Soto said one federal agent wanted her to testify against Jubran.

“They were telling me that he had something to do with Sept. 11. I was scared. I didn’t know what to believe anymore,” she said. “I felt like she wanted me to say something that I couldn’t have said because it wasn’t true.”

Shapiro called Brill’s accusations “very disturbing.”

Neville questioned Soto as to whether agents ever intimidated or threatened her. She said no.

“I’m aware of no attempt to tamper with witnesses in this case,” he said.

Still, Brill said the government’s use of so many federal agents to investigate a deportation case is suspicious.

“Usually in these marriage cases, there are very few resources put into (the investigation),” he said.