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INS Detains Dutch AIDS Sufferer En Route to S.F.

From Associated Press

A Dutch visitor was in custody today in a Minnesota jail after immigration officials declared that he cannot enter the United States because he has AIDS.

Hans Paul Verhoef, 31, of Rotterdam has requested a hearing on Friday before an immigration judge to determine whether he can be allowed to continue to San Francisco.

Verhoef had planned to attend the national Lesbian and Gay Health Conference that begins in San Francisco on Wednesday, according to Steve Huber, a spokesman for the conference.

“I think that this detention of this individual at this particular time has an irony to it given the fact that he’s coming here as part of AIDS prevention,” said Huber, noting that Verhoef is an AIDS prevention worker in the Netherlands.

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The Immigration and Naturalization Service declared that he cannot enter the United States because he has an infectious and communicable disease, according to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Verhoef was taken to the Scott County Jail, about 20 miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, after U.S. Customs officials discovered the drug AZT in his baggage on Sunday, according to a friend who was with him.

Steve Morin, an aide to Pelosi, said Verhoef told customs and immigration employees that he had AIDS when he was questioned about the AZT, an approved drug used to treat people infected with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Pelosi and Bea Roman, executive director of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Foundation, among others, are appealing to the U.S. attorney general’s office for a waiver that would free Verhoef to visit San Francisco.

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Federal law prohibits people with AIDS from visiting the United States without such a waiver.

“We do not believe the intent behind the immigration law was to exclude tourists,” said Pelosi, who noted that her staff has been in touch with federal immigration officials in Minnesota.

“He didn’t try to hide it,” Morin said. “We also question this on humanitarian grounds, putting someone in jail under these circumstances.”

Before the hearing, Verhoef must be tested to certify that he has AIDS, said Tom Schiltgen, INS district director in St. Paul.

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