Deportation Cases In Marshalls Highlight Difficulties

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Removal orders against Chinese challenged in High Court

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 6, 2015) – Two deportation cases now wending their way through the Marshall Islands High Court demonstrate the difficulties the government faces in its attempts to deport overstayers.

In one case, a Chinese national has been in the Marshall Islands for at least 12 years and is now seeking citizenship approval from the Attorney General’s Office despite a deportation action against him from the same office.

The Immigration Division and the AG’s office issued removal orders against two Chinese nationals, Yong Jiang and Sun Shicheng. Both Yong and Sun filed appeals of the deportation notices with the High Court, arguing that they were properly issued visas by Immigration. Both cases are scheduled for court hearings or rulings later this month.

Defendant Yong is said to have first arrived in the Marshall Islands over 12 years ago, although Immigration does not have records to verify the type of entry visa issued in 2002. But Immigration was able to locate an entry permit issued on December 16, 2011 that expired on March 11, 2012. He was served with a removal order in July 2014, and the Attorney General’s Office brief to the High Court by Assistant Attorney General Laurence Edwards, II, stated that a visa issued as a result of administrative error may be revoked at any time.

Yong’s attorney John Masek filed an appeal of the deportation notice, saying that Yong had taken all steps to comply with Immigration requirements and has a valid visa. Moreover, he has applied to become a Marshall Islands citizen, an application that is pending with the AG’s office, Masek said.

The dispute was supposed to be heard on December 11, but a power outage forced postponement of the hearing to January 16.

Sun, meantime, has been working at remote Ujae Atoll since 2010 as part of a sea cucumber harvesting and export operation. A notice to leave the Marshall Islands was prepared by Immigration in April 2013 but not actually served on Sun until 2014. His attorney, Chief Public Defender Russell Kun, said Sun had a valid alien registration good through December 31, 2014 that had been issued by Ebeye’s Immigration Department — although earlier in 2014, Immigration Director Damien Jacklick had rescinded the permit and directed his Ebeye office to gain approval from Majuro before issuing any alien permits in the future.

Kun contends the court should not accept the attorney general’s contention that the visa was an "administrative error" and has asked the court to dismiss the government’s attempt to deport his client.

Chief Justice Carl Ingram asked both attorneys to file legal arguments on whether or not the Marshall Islands’ Administrative Procedures Act applies to immigration cases. Assistant Attorney General Yolanda Lodge in her brief says that immigration cases are different from other contested administrative issues. She pointed out that the law restricts deportation matters to 14 days, while the Administrative Procedures Act allows for 30 days to petition the government, then 60 days for it to be sent to court.

No further hearing dates are scheduled, and the Chief Justice may decide the case this month based on the written submissions.

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