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Marriage on Trial



Relationship was real, immigrant's ex-wife says
Copyright 2003 Providence Publications, LLC
The Providence Journal-Bulletin (Providence, RI)
DATE: July 25, 2003
also available online

BOSTON -- The ex-wife of a Cumberland man facing deportation because the
government says the couple had a sham marriage testified yesterday in
U.S. Immigration Court that their relationship was legitimate.

Maria Ortiz, during cross-examination exploring intimate details of her
marital life with the accused man, Amer Jubran, said that "my marriage
to Amer was for love."

"I didn't think that it was a crime to marry someone who wasn't from
this country," said Ortiz, addressing Richard D. Neville, the government
lawyer for the Department of Homeland Security. She was the one witness
questioned yesterday during Jubran's deportation hearing, which was
continued because the government wants to cross-examine Jubran.

Jubran, a Jordanian citizen who works at Cambridge College, in Massachusetts,
to any illegal activity besides the alleged marriage
fraud. But Ortiz offered a surprise during questioning. Referring to FBI
agents' questioning of her in her home, she said: "They told me that
Amer had something to do with Sept. 11."

Homeland Security and FBI officials have stated publicly that Jubran is
being investigated only for "immigration violations." In the small
immigration courtroom of the JFK Federal Building in Boston's Government
Center, which was under high security for the trial, Neville maintained
that Jubran married Ortiz, an American citizen born in Puerto Rico, to
advance his green-card application, which was approved in 1999.

Jubran, who has become a cause célebre in local activist circles, was
indignant at the reported allegation that he is being linked to the
terror attacks. "It's ridiculous, and shows how Arabs have become a
scapegoat in this country," he said. Nelson K. Brill, Jubran's lawyer,
asserts that his client is being "targeted" due to his pro-Palestinian
activism and participation in antiwar protests. The 33-year-old is a
founding member of a group called the New England Committee to Defend
Palestine and has spoken in many public forums against American foreign

Brill asserted this week that Ortiz had recently declined to testify on
behalf of her former husband because of what he termed "intimidation"
and "witness tampering" by federal agents. Ortiz, now living in South
Carolina, said she changed her mind because she "wanted to bring the
truth to the light . . . but I felt scared because I've never been in

Ortiz said she was "nervous" when FBI agents asked her about her
ex-husband's possible ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks during visits
to her home. Agents also questioned her family about Jubran, Brill said,
including a "nine-hour interrogation" of her sister in Providence.

Neville, during a lengthy cross-examination, tried testing her
credibility. He asked whether Ortiz or her family were offered money to
marry Jubran, which she flatly denied. She filed an affidavit stating
that her marriage to Jubran was valid. Her parents, who live in Rhode
Island, entered a supporting affidavit attesting this, as well. At one
point, her gold wedding band was passed to the prosecution table for

"Were you always truthful to those agents?" Neville asked Ortiz.


"Did anyone from the government ask you not to come here today?"


Then he began asking how the two had met. Earlier, during Brill's
questioning, Ortiz said that she and Jubran met at a gas station in
Pawtucket during the summer of 1996 and started dating. "We used to go
out to restaurants, take the kids to the park, stuff like that."
Ortiz said they obtained a marriage certificate at Providence City Hall
in June 1997. They believed they were married and marked the occasion
with a celebration at her parents' house in Pawtucket. The couple began
living together.

However, when Jubran had his first interview for a green card in January
1998, he learned that the marriage was not valid. In May 1998 they were
married by a justice of the peace in Pawtucket.

The couple lived in a one-bedroom Pawtucket apartment with Ortiz's three
children from another relationship. "He was very nice to the kids," she
said, adding "he worked a lot of hours to support us."
They then moved to a bigger apartment on Providence's Federal Street in
October 1997, said Ortiz. She and her children got health and life
insurance from Jubran's new job in Massachusetts. Gradually, their
marriage began to strain because Jubran was working late hours and she
didn't like to be alone, she said.

"He wanted to go back to Jordan. I didn't want to go," said Ortiz. She
said Jubran felt his green card application would never be approved.
"Amer was working a lot, and frustrated about the immigration. . . . He
just changed."

Jubran's second green-card interview was in May 1998. When it was
approved in 1999, they were living apart, said Ortiz. They kept in
contact, however, because they parted as friends, she said.

But Neville maintained that during an FBI interview, Ortiz said she
thought that Jubran might have married her for a green card. Ortiz said
yesterday that she didn't know if she had said that or not. "They're
telling me that he have something to do with Sept. 11. I was scared, I
really was. I didn't know what to think."

Brill said Judge Leonard Shapiro would set a date within the next week
for a continuation of the hearing.