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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, May 11) – A government lawyer Monday accused Marshall Islands immigration and police officers of being "out of control in abusing and victimizing" Chinese people’s human rights.

But the country’s attorney general refuted the allegations, saying they were an unfounded result of the government getting proactive in targeting Chinese over-stayers for deportation.

In a strongly worded letter to Attorney General Posesi Bloomfield late last week, assistant public defender Russell Kun said "it seems only the Chinese race is being singled out and targeted on the receiving end of the whip by the Immigration division, a department under your watch and charge."

Kun is a former speaker of parliament from Nauru who is now working in Majuro.

But Bloomfield said in an interview that Kun’s letter "is very misleading. The alleged constitutional violations are baseless and un-researched."

Bloomfield, a Tongan attorney who took over as Attorney General in January, has ramped up efforts to deport nationals of China who have overstayed their visitors visas. In March and April, immigration and police teams raided several businesses, temporarily detained about 15 illegal aliens, and have served deportation notices on the group.

During the past two years, the Attorney General’s Office has filed dozens of criminal cases against Chinese nationals for overstaying visas, opening businesses and working without proper documentation, and failing to pay local taxes.

But since taking over as Attorney General, Bloomfield and his staff are now systematically focusing on deporting illegal over-stayers.

Kun accused the government of abusing the Chinese. He said the Public Defender’s Office has received four separate reports from potential clients detailing "inhuman and degrading treatment" of Chinese detainees.

Kun listed four incidents in which he said Chinese were rousted from their homes or restaurants and, without warrant, arrested and put in Majuro jail. Bloomfield responded that immigration and police "can certainly detain those who in their opinion are in violation of the law for further investigation, which is what occurred in all these instances. The one time the public defender has bothered to file a habeas corpus (motion in court), the (judge) did not move on it — in fact the court treated the hearing as a bail application, and granted bail on that merit."

Kun said on several occasions, Chinese have been held for two-to-three days in jail without any charges being filed and have not been granted access to a lawyer or given food and water — when the constitution forbids anyone being jailed for more than 24 hours without a charge.

Bloomfield responded that Kun’s allegation of mistreatment in jail "is untrue" and that charges were filed against two of the Chinese who were initially detained in jail.

All detainees were found to be without entry or work permits, and have been told to leave Marshall Islands, Bloomfield said. "Some have willingly left," he said. "Once the 14 day period is over we will file charges."

"The bill of rights of these people is being breached and abused by the law enforcement agencies involved — unless the Chinese do not qualify under the protection of the Constitution that ‘all persons are equal under the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the laws,’" Kun said.

But Bloomfield said his office, which oversees immigration, "will continue to combat illegal immigration with or without criticism. It was inevitable that when we finally get proactive, that these civil issues will be raised."

He said that the Attorney General’s Office will "investigate further," which he said he hoped would lead to working "together with (the public defender) to alleviate their concerns."

May 11, 2006

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