A federal appeals board has reopened the immigration case of Joeri DeBeer, giving the Dutch native who killed his guardian after being repeatedly molested by him another chance at fighting off deportation and eventually gaining U.S. citizenship.
The Board of Immigration Appeals, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, ordered a new deportation hearing last month after a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge vacated DeBeer's 1986 criminal conviction and entered a finding of not guilty.
An immigration judge ordered DeBeer deported after his manslaughter conviction, saying that he had committed "crimes of moral turpitude" and was in violation of his student visa.
In April of this year, the immigration appeals board denied DeBeer's initial appeal and went so far as to order him to report for immediate deportation on April 24. But another appeal, including the news that his conviction had been vacated, resulted in the board granting DeBeer another hearing.
That hearing is scheduled to begin today in San Francisco.
"We're hoping for a happy resolution to all of this," said John Alcorn, DeBeer's immigration attorney. "He no longer has any criminal convictions . . . and over the last five years, he hasn't committed any (criminal) acts."
DeBeer's criminal attorney, Gary Proctor, said that defendants commonly ask to have their convictions vacated, but they must earn it. "They do that by establishing that they're rehabilitated," Proctor said. "They're entitled to the benefit of that rehabilitation."
DeBeer was convicted in 1986 of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Phillip Allen Parsons, a convicted child molester who had brought DeBeer to the United States at the age of 13, promising DeBeer's mother to foster the teen-ager's budding career as a motorcycle racer.
At his trial, DeBeer testified that Parsons molested him repeatedly during the four years that he lived with him. On April 9, 1985, DeBeer testified, Parsons tried to molest and then choke DeBeer. The youth, then 17, shot Parsons with a borrowed gun, took the body to Riverside County and set it afire with gasoline. Then he returned to their Dana Point apartment and set it on fire.
Jurors, while convicting DeBeer, asked for leniency for him. Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald sentenced him to three years' probation and 14 months in Juvenile Hall, which he had already served awaiting trial.
Later that year, however, the Immigration and Naturalization Service successfully moved to have DeBeer ordered deported.
The INS will fight "to the death" to keep its deportation order from being lifted, said San Francisco District Director David N. Ilchert.
"This is a kid who butchered another human being, takes him out to the desert and torches him and the residence where they were living" Ilchert said. "Nice kid. He's convicted by a jury. How do you expunge a conviction by a jury?"
In asking that the deportation order be lifted, DeBeer, now 22, is not requesting immediate legal resident status. Instead, he is requesting to be allowed to leave the country under a procedure called voluntary departure.
That would make it easier for him to re-enter and settle in this country in the future.