Man Fighting Deportation Gets 2nd Chance

From Associated Press

An immigrant should not have to forfeit the right to fight deportation simply because a freeway traffic jam from Canoga Park to Downtown Los Angeles made him late for a hearing, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Frehd Ahmad, who fled Afghanistan after torture and imprisonment, should have another chance to argue his claim of political asylum.

Ahmad, son of a slain commander of a mujahadeen rebel group, was arrested by Soviet soldiers in 1986 and charged with anti-government leafletting, the court said. He was interrogated and tortured for the next six months, then imprisoned under miserable conditions, the court said.


He was freed when Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, but fled to Pakistan and eventually arrived in New York City in April, 1992. After being held by immigration authorities, he appeared three times for scheduled deportation hearings that were postponed, then had the case transferred to Los Angeles, where he moved in with relatives.

In November, 1992, Ahmad showed up between 30 minutes and an hour late for a 9 a.m. hearing in Downtown Los Angeles. He explained later that he was unfamiliar with the area, relied on a friend to estimate the time needed, and was delayed when his friend’s car got caught in rush-hour traffic on the 30-mile drive from Canoga Park to Downtown.

In Ahmad’s absence, an immigration judge held a brief hearing and ordered him deported. The Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that Ahmad had not shown “reasonable cause” for his absence. U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian agreed but was overruled by the appeals court.

“Aliens who have shown good-faith efforts to attend their hearings should be allowed to present the merits of their cases,” the court said in a 3-0 ruling. “Ahmad made a good-faith effort to be on time, but for understandable reasons was not.”