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Federal Gov’t. to Halt Some Deportations

April 30, 2003

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ Immigrants caught up in a document fraud case did not know their visas and similar documents were bogus, and should not face deportation, immigrants’ advocates argued Tuesday.

About 130 natives of Lebanon and Yemen face deportation as a result of a yearlong investigation that led to federal charges against three people, including a former federal immigration worker. No immigrants were charged, but their documents were allegedly phony.

About 50 immigrants have been taken into custody. Another three were deported to Lebanon over the weekend, while immigrant advocates on Tuesday won a temporary halt to the planned deportations of four more.

``What we see here are people who were caught in the middle,″ said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which filed a petition in federal court on the immigrants’ behalf.

The government agreed not to deport the four Lebanese men until U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn holds a hearing on one of their attorney’s request for a temporary restraining order, Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Michael Wicks said. That hearing was expected to be held Friday.

None of the people the three suspects allegedly helped are believed to pose any immediate threat, prosecutors have said.

Wicks declined comment Tuesday on whether the immigrants broke any laws.

The central figure in the document scam, 59-year-old Janice Halstead, worked for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

She is accused of working with Zoha Madarani, 38, who runs an immigration consulting business in Dearborn, to obtain immigration forms. Both face alien-smuggling charges.

A separate investigation resulted in charges that Halstead and Salah Al-Solihi, 45, of New York, worked to validate fraudulently obtained passports.

Halstead faces up to 87 years in prison, plus fines, if convicted as charged. Madarani faces up to 20 years, while Al-Solihi faces a maximum of 65 years behind bars.

``These individuals (facing deportation) had no clue they were doing anything wrong,″ said Ali Kain of Dearborn, whose brother-in-law is among the immigrants being detained in Monroe County. He accused the government of ``trying to cover up an internal scandal.″

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