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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

MAY 23, 2000
My name is Hany Kiareldeen and I was born in Gaza in 1968. I arrived in the United States in 1990 to pursue my college education. In 1993 I got married to Amal Mohamed and had my daughter Nour. In 1994 I dropped out of college and worked at a restaurant to support my family.

My first marriage was very turbulent. My ex-wife made many false accusations of domestic abuse against me and tried to keep me from seeing my daughter Nour. All of those accusations were either dropped or dismissed, and the court gave me visitation rights after my divorce in 1997. However, my ex-wife continued to make false accusations against me of assault, child abuse and terrorist threats. She also told the police that I was a terrorist. I was cleared of all charges by the Superior Court of New Jersey.

In 1997 I married Carmen Negron and we lived in Bloomfied, New Jersey with my stepson Bryant. I also applied for adjustment of status based on my marriage to a US citizen. In March 1998 I was arrested by the Joint Terrorist Task Force for overstaying my student visa. Then, it never occurred to me that I would have to endure 19 months in jail for being a threat to national security. I was confident that it was another false accusation by my ex-wife and I was looking forward to proving my innocence in court.

The immigration judge denied my request for bond based on classified information presented by the government. I was shocked to know that I was accused of being suspected of terrorism. Later, the government issued a brief summary of the evidence against me in which I was accused of making a credible threat against Janet Reno. Until that summary was given to my lawyer, I didn't even know who Janet Reno was, but I knew that such ludicrous allegations could only be made by my ex-wife.

I have been in the United States since 1990, and I love this country and call it my home. I have little interest in politics or religion, and I was always critical of political extremism. No one who knows anything about me could consider me an Islamic fundamentalist. I am afraid that the government credited those accusations because I was of Arab origin. I decided to fight deportation to clear my name and prove my innocence, and I had faith that the American judicial system would not tolerate such an injustice. In the end, I prevailed and am now a free man, and a permanent resident. Not a single judge who reviewed the full record in my case agreed with the INS that I was a threat to national security. However, I still do not understand why I had to spend 19 months in jail, when the FBI and the INS could easily have found out that the information they had gathered was false. From almost the first day, they should have known that my ex-wife had a long history of making false accusations. But because the evidence was kept secret, I could not easily and quickly disprove it.

I am very thankful to my family and friends who supported me through this ordeal. My wife, my brother, and my sister-in law had to endure tremendous emotional distress, financial burden, and harassment by the government as they fought to prove my innocence. The efforts of my lawyers and of members of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom finally bore fruit. When I think of America, I think of all the good people that stood by me and endured so much for the sake of justice. When I sat in jail trying to fight evidence that I couldn't see, I found comfort in the fact that I was in America, and that the American system of justice would not fail me.

I was imprisoned on secret evidence in March 1998. More than a year later, in April 1999, the Immigration Judge in my case granted me adjustment of status, and ordered that I be released on bond. The judge found that I had successfully refuted all allegations made by the government, and was not a threat to national security. Yet I remained imprisoned for six more months. The government appealed the decision and obtained an emergency stay from the Board of Immigration Appeals. A federal judge later found that my detention based on secret evidence was unconstitutional, and the government still tried to appeal his decision. Later, two panels at the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the Immigration Judge's decision on adjustment of status and bond, and the INS still tried to keep me in jail.

I was finally released from prison in October 1999 after 19 agonizing months, but my suffering is not completely over. While I was in jail, my wife ran off with my daughter Nour. Since I was released, I've not found my daughter and been able to tell her I love her. Every night I have nightmares about being in jail, about the federal agents coming to my house to take me again. Even when I am awake at work, I have flashbacks of my tormenting jail experience. My lawyers are seeking to obtain declassification of the FBI information regarding my case under the Freedom of Information Act. I hope that by obtaining such information, I will be able to further prove my innocence.

I would like to take advantage of the opportunity of speaking to you today to urge you to reconsider the use of secret evidence. I hope that you can see the human side of my story, and that you will realize that the use of secret evidence is profoundly contradictory to our principles of fairness and due process. I understand the need to be vigilant to protect public safety, but secret evidence itself undermines the safety of the most vulnerable group of our society, and ultimately undermines our legal system. 
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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