22 May 1997 Edition

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Deportees' cases raised in US Congress

By Mick Naughton.

During a Congressional debate last Wednesday in Washington DC the plight of seven Irish men battling the US government's efforts to deport them was raised by ten members of the House of Representatives.

The men, all former POWs, are married to US citizens and have children who also face deportation. All the men had been living quite openly.

The thrust behind the moves to deport the men comes from the British government through their Washington Embassy, and it is widely accepted that that British government ``upped the ante'' against the men following the IRA ceasefire of 1994.

Tyrone man Brian Pearson's case was mentioned frequently during the debate. He was recently awarded political asylum by a New York judge, a decision now being appealed by the US Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

Campaigners for the men said that an escalating campaign in Washington was aimed at Attorney General Janet Reno's decision to go along with the British inspired moves.

``The US born families of these men are victims too,'' said Sinn Féin's Washington-based representative Mairead Keane.

``It has irked the British, here and in the Six Counties, that American courts have recognised that these men had political status when POWs, a fact recognised by the recent New York ruling that granted asylum.

``It is really a hangover of the removal of political status in 1976. I would question the British government's motives. Do they really want a rerun of battles over 20 years ago or are they going to help rebuild the peace process as we go into the new millennium?'' Keane said.

An Phoblacht
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