The son of convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic said Thursday that he will fight attempts by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport his mother, Ana Artukovic of Seal Beach.
“You can bet your bottom we will try to have her declared a U.S. citizen,” Radoslav Artukovic said of his 65-year-old, Austrian-born mother. “We will do everything we can. I can’t believe this is happening. She has lived in this country for 38 years.”
Last May, a Yugoslav court convicted Andrija Artukovic, 86, of murder and war crimes and sentenced him to death. The sentence has been stayed pending appeals.
Immigration officials denied published reports Thursday that they had sent a deportation order to Ana Artukovic. The officials said that on Aug. 22 they sent a letter advising her that her files had been transferred to the INS’s deportation branch and that her case would be handled from there.
“A judge ruled several months ago that Mrs. Artukovic is deportable, so she would have been on notice at that time,” INS spokeswoman Beverly Wilson said. “All we did was tell her that further correspondence would be with a different office. She has until the end of this month to respond, to notify us if she has further petitions to file. Otherwise she will be told to report for a deportation hearing.”
Wilson said no immediate effort was being made to force Ana Artukovic out of the country because she may be entitled to apply for permanent legal status through her children.
Any of the five Artukovic children, who are U.S. citizens, can petition to have their mother declared a citizen, Wilson said. A judge would make the final decision, she added.
Eligible for Benefit
“It appears that Mrs. Artukovic is eligible for this benefit,” Wilson said. “I don’t know why she did not apply for it before.”
Meanwhile, Wilson said, a lengthy appeals process could delay deportation for months if not years.
Radoslav Artukovic of Seal Beach said that he could not recall if he or other family members previously had known about such petitions. “We’re going to find out about it and do something as soon as possible,” he said. “I still can’t believe they’re even going after her.”
Ana Artukovic came to the United States with her husband on a temporary visitor’s visa in 1948 and never received permanent resident status. The Artukovics became the focus of U.S. deportation efforts in 1951, but the case against Ana Artukovic was suspended during the long legal battle over Yugoslavia’s attempts to extradite her husband.
Held Posts in Croatia
Artukovic was minister of the interior and held other government posts as part of the Nazi World War II puppet regime in Yugoslavia, then known as Croatia.
The current government of Yugoslavia charged Artukovic with running concentration camps and ordering the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and members of underground resistance groups.
He was deported to Yugoslavia in February.
“I still haven’t given up on my father,” Radoslav Artukovic said Thursday. “As I’ve said throughout this whole thing, the charges against him were trumped up. We were never allowed to present a defense at the trial.”