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Dear Editor:

Like Ms. Christine Flowers, I'd like to thank you for providing this "interesting forum." I was going to refrain from writing for awhile, but I can't ignore her response of January 24.

In it Ms. Flowers wrote about visa overstays and that they have violated the "civil" law. I agree; I'm not aware of any criminal provision for merely overstaying one's period of admission. (If they use phony papers - to obtain employment,for example - or if they lie to law enforcement officers, that's another story.) I clearly stated that I was writing about Title 8 U.S.C. (United States Code) Section 1325, which is a criminal statute. It makes it a crime to enter the US via EWI (Entry without Inspection) or to obtain a visa or admission to the US by lying. (That's the condensed version). Ms. Flowers wrote: "Immigration proceedings are civil, not criminal, unless the alien has also committed a crime in which case he is called a "criminal alien." I'm not a lawyer, but I dealt with the immigration law for 28 years as a Border Patrol Agent; Ms. Flowers seems to have conveniently ignored certain facts. Aliens who EWI or lie to obtain a visa or entry have committed a crime for which they can be (and frequently are) prosecuted in federal courts. Aliens who are apprehended and who are not going to be prosecuted may be removed from the US via the "civil proceedings" to which Ms. Flowers referred. They may be deported (which is a formal proceeding involving a hearing), or they may be granted "Voluntary Departure" if they waive their right to a hearing. Some aliens are first prosecuted for violations of the immigration laws (criminal) and then deported (civil).

Ms. Flowers wrote that her "primary goal is compliance with the legal and orderly obtention and distribution of visas" but that she would "permit visa overstays to attempt to legalize their status." To me, that seems contradictory.

John H. Frecker
Baileyville, ME