Palestinian Immigrant Found Guilty of Concealing an Israeli Bombing Conviction on Immigration Papers
|As President Barack Obama prepares to square off against the Republican-led congress on immigration reform, a high-profile immigration case is making headlines in Detroit.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 67, was found guilty of immigration fraud earlier this month for concealing her Israeli military court-ordered imprisonment in 1969 from immigration officials. She served for 10 years after being charged with several bombings and was released as part of a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
“An individual convicted of a terrorist bombing would not be admitted to the United States if that information was known at the time of arrival,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. “Upon discovery that someone convicted of a terrorist attack is in the United States illegally, we will seek to use our criminal justice system to remove that individual.”
According to Odeh, Israeli authorities tortured her into confessing to the bombings, but U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain dismissed that claim, saying it wasn’t relevant to the case of Odeh lying on her citizenship form. Odeh also claims that she thought the criminal history questions on the form only applied to crimes committed on U.S. soil, a claim that was disputed by Detroit immigration officer Jennifer Williams.
Odeh still has supporters in her corner, despite the fraud conviction. As the associate director of Chicago’s Arab American Action Network, Odeh worked with immigrants, specifically Arab women, making her popular and respected in Chicago. Women made up 51% of the U.S. immigrant population in 2012.
Many pro-Palestinian activists are also siding with Odeh, arguing that the U.S. government is using her case to silence critics of Israel. Dozens of Odeh’s supporters traveled from Chicago to Detroit to protest her conviction. Odeh faces 10 years in a U.S. prison and a possible loss of citizenship.
“I felt the verdict is not justice,” Odeh told The Associated Press. “The government did not allow us to defend ourselves.”
Tensions over immigration are reaching a boiling point on Capitol Hill, too, as aides submit their final recommendations on immigration reform to President Obama. The ambitious list of actions would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and seek employment, but the GOP-controlled Congress is likely to block any legislation.
No date is set for Obama’s decision, but Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement that it will likely be announced by the end of the year.