Subject: Expulsion overturned
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 20:49:19 -0500
From: "Mexico Solidarity Network" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Press Release For Immediate Release September 13,
Contact: Tom Hansen, 773-583-7728
Subject: Mexican Court Overturns Expulsion of Human Rights Activist Decision
Highlights Illegality of Government Expulsion Campaign
In a unanimous decision, a three member tribunal of the Supreme Court of
Mexico overturned the expulsion of Tom Hansen, Director of the Mexico Solidarity
Network, upholding a decision rendered by a lower court in August of 1998.
Hansen was expelled from Mexico on February 18, 1998, for the act of "observation"
which Immigration authorities considered to be "inconsistent with a
tourist visa." Under the terms of the expulsion, he was banned from
returning to Mexico. Complete details on the expulsion are available at
the end of this press release.
The decision calls into question more than 150 expulsions carried out by
the National Institute of Immigration over the past two years. Most of
the expulsions were exercised against foreign human rights observers who
were present in indigenous communities in the southern state of Chiapas
at the invitation of those communities. "Mexican citizens should have
the right to associate with whomever they choose in their own communities,"
"This campaign of expulsions is an affront to every Mexican citizen."
The program of human rights observation, both by Mexican citizens and international
observers, has been very effective. Since 1994, not one extra-judicial
murder has occurred in an indigenous community in Chiapas where human rights
observers have been present. "I would think this record would convince
the Mexican government to invite this kind of observation," said Hansen.
"Instead, Immigration authorities seem bent on expelling people who
are saving lives."
The three judge panel was under a great deal of pressure to rule against
Hansen. When a lower court overturned the expulsion in August of 1998,
the presiding judge was re-assigned to Durango, a remote rural town. During
the appeals process, Immigration authorities stated publicly that the lower
court ruling broke with the tradition of dealing with immigration questions
"administratively." During a hearing in January, one of the three
judges stated in open court that she was under pressure from Immigration
authorities to rule against Hansen.
"I plan to return to Mexico just as soon as possible," said Hansen.
Following is a statement released by Hansen shortly after his expulsion:
On February 18, 1998, at about 12:15 pm, two Mexican immigration officials
confronted me outside of a store in the village of Altamirano in the state
of Chiapas, Mexico. The officials escorted me to a private vehicle, under
the pretense of confirming some immigration forms, and transported me to
the immigration checkpoint at the entrance to Altamirano. There, four heavily
armed men in street clothes forced me into a older model unmarked yellow
car. When I asked them for identification they threatened to beat me and
transport me in the trunk. They never provided identification. Because
of the activity of death squads and the recent murder of 45 Indians in the
area, at that point I was convinced that I would be killed. The constant
assurances that I would not be killed convinced me even more. They transported
me to a Security Police encampment where I was surrounded by about 15 heavily
armed men. I was denied access to a phone and denied a meeting with the
commander of the base.
After about twenty minutes, a detachment of security police transported
me to an immigration office in Comitan. I again asked to make a phone call
and was denied access to the phone. I asked why I was being held and was
told to shut up. I asked to contact the US Embassy and was denied. After
about an hour I was transported by the security police to the immigration
office in San Cristobal, where I arrived at about 3:30 pm. There I was subject
to a three hour interrogation. I asked to have a lawyer
present and was denied. I asked to have access to a phone and was denied.
During the interview US Embassy officials from Mexico City called several
times requesting to talk with me and I was not permitted to talk to them.
The interrogation consisted of questions about my personal finances, my
relations with several communities in Chiapas, my activities in Chiapas
during the past three years, and my work with the Chiapas Media Project.
I was told that if I did not answer the questions I would be expelled from
the country. During the interview, armed guards were present outside of
the office. After a three hour interrogation, I was asked to sign the notes
taken during the interrogation by the regional immigration director. He
told me that if I did not sign the documents I would be expelled from the
country. The document was prepared in Spanish, and although I didn't understand
all of it, and in several cases I was quoted using Spanish words which I
don't know, I signed it, at about 6:30 pm, in the face of these threats.
I was then informed that I had to wait for a call from the US Embassy.
At about 8:00 pm, without having received the call from the Embassy, I
was rushed out of the office by two immigration officials. (I discovered
later that US Embassy officials had called numerous times between 3:00 and
8:00 but always got a busy signal, even though I noted very little phone
traffic during this time.) I was taken to Tuxtla Guttierez and put on a
four seat plane owned by the Ministerio de Gobernacion and transported to
Mexico City. I arrived in Mexico City at about midnight and was put in
a jail run by the department of immigration. At the jail I was again denied
access to a phone, lawyer and US Embassy personnel. The jail cell had a
toilet which was overflowing and the floor of the room was covered in feces.
The mattress and bedding were also covered in feces. I was locked in this
room from midnight until 9:00 AM the next morning.
At 9:00 AM I was removed from the cell, fingerprinted, photographed and
measured. I requested access to a phone and was given access. However,
I didn't have my phone directory with me. I requested a Mexico City phone
directory and was denied access. Five immigration officials then put me
in a van and we drove slowly and aimlessly around Mexico City for about
an hour in an apparent effort to kill time and keep me away from a telephone.
At about 10:30 we arrived at the Mexico City international airport and I
was handed over to other immigration officials. I again requested access
to a phone and was denied. I was informed that US Embassy officials would
be meeting with me shortly and I was locked in a room guarded by an armed
guard to wait. At about 11:00, two US Embassy officials arrived and informed
me that they had been trying to locate me for the past 24 hours but had
been given conflicting and untrue information concerning my whereabouts.
For example, while I was being driven aimlessly around Mexico City, Embassy
officials were informed by Mexican immigration officials that I was on a
flight from Tuxtla Guttierez to Mexico City. I spent about twenty minutes
with the US Embassy officials. During that time I filed a formal complaint
stating that my human rights had been violated by being detained for 24
hours without access to a telephone, legal assistance or the US Embassy.
Then four immigration officials arrived and informed me for the first time
that I was to be deported from Mexico on a flight to Miami that was to depart
at 11:40 AM. For the first time I was provided with information about why
I had been detained under armed guard for 24 hours. I was handed a set
of papers prepared by immigration officials declaring that I was to be deported
because I attended a conference on culture and economics in Chiapas and
because I had been an observer of the peace talks between the government
and the EZLN. Both of these events occurred two years ago. According to
these officials, my immigration status on these two occasions was not
consistent with my activities. Since those two occasions, I have visited
Chiapas a dozen times under the same immigration status and had met with
immigration officials on each trip without incident.
I discovered after I was expelled that an attorney in San Cristobal had
filed an "amparo" in my name, making my detention and subsequent
expulsion illegal under Mexican law. I also discovered that it is illegal
to implement immigration laws retro-actively.