The son of convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic vowed Thursday to fight any attempt by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport his mother.
“You can bet your bottom we will try to have her declared a U.S. citizen,” Radoslav Artukovic said of his Austrian-born mother, Ana Artukovic, 65, of Seal Beach. “We will do everything we can. I can’t believe this is happening. She has lived in this country for 38 years.”
An INS official said Thursday that no immediate effort would be made to force Mrs. Artukovic out of the country because she may be entitled to apply for permanent legal status through any of her five children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. Whether to grant citizenship in response to such a petition is the prerogative of a federal judge.
“It appears that Mrs. Artukovic is eligible for this benefit,” the INS spokeswoman said. “I don’t know why she did not apply for it before.”
Immigration officials denied published reports Thursday that they had sent a deportation order to Mrs. Artukovic at her home.
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.
Artukovic was minister of the interior and held other government posts as part of a so-called Nazi puppet regime in Yugoslavia during World War II.
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.
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.
Immigration officials Thursday said that on Aug. 22, they sent her a letter advising her that her case files had been transferred to the INS’ deportation branch.
“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.”