DBy Joe Mahon
espite facing deportation and felony immigration fraud charges, Omar Jamal remains cautiously optimistic about his future. But he is less hopeful about the future of immigrant rights.
Jamal, the director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, spoke Thursday on the University’s West Bank campus.
Jamal spoke of his life as a Somali in Minneapolis since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Jamal warned of attacks on the rights of immigrants and other Americans.
Authorities currently have 40 Somalis in detention on various charges and have deported some to Somalia, Jamal said. He said one deportee was killed upon arrival.
“It’s not just about immigrants; it’s about the rights of everyone,” Jamal said, referring to government surveillance of domestic groups and citizens.
“It has completely eroded the system of checks and balances,” he said.
Jamal also said U.S. authorities frighten some immigrants because of experiences in their home countries.
“When the FBI came to my door, the first thing that came to my mind was that they wanted to kill me, because that’s what they used to do in my country,” he said.
Jamal said the charges against him are an example of new threats to the Constitution.
“The Department of Justice is saying we’re charging you with a felony and the INS is saying because of this crime we can deport you from the country. It’s on a criminal level and an administrative level, so I’m being charged twice for the same thing,” Jamal said, claiming this was double jeopardy.
As an example of the help he has received, Jamal recognized a group of law students from the University and the William Mitchell College of Law who volunteered to research his case.
“I think my rights have been seriously violated, but I will fight through the court system of this country, and I feel it will exonerate me,” he said.
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, began deportation proceedings against Jamal after his arrest March 31. He is charged with falsifying information on his asylum application.
“I cannot, due to the counsel of my lawyers, give details of my (deportation) case,” Jamal said, adding, “I think my case looks good.”
Jamal’s preliminary hearing before a federal court is scheduled for April 30.
Joe Mahon welcomes comments at [email protected]