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Why Can’t We Just Set Him Free?

Masoud Khoshnevis will get out of jail one of these days.

It’ll happen as soon as federal immigration officials in San Diego summon some more of the courage and common sense they’ve already shown and finally send him home to Anaheim Hills and his wife and two children.

The feds have made it clear they want to send him home.

As Nike says: Just Do It.

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The Iranian-born Khoshnevis has been in federal custody near the United States-Mexican border for two months, caught in the web of federally required registration this year for thousands of foreigners, mostly from Muslim nations. Khoshnevis has lived in the United States for several years but was detained because of an unresolved deportation proceeding in 1993.

Rather than take you through the murky bureaucratic mess, I’ll get to the punch line: Immigration officials are on Khoshnevis’ side.

You’d think that’s all it would take. After all, the bureau formerly known as the INS is not exactly known for being warm and fuzzy toward anyone with immigration “issues.”

Yet the bureau didn’t oppose the effort by Khoshnevis’ attorney to reopen the 1993 deportation case that started the whole mess. After an immigration judge denied that, however, the feds took the unusual second step of signing the motion in which Khoshnevis’ attorney asked the judge to reconsider. Again, the judge balked.

Even then, the immigration folks didn’t flinch. The judge’s rulings notwithstanding, they took another honorable step and said Khoshnevis should be released on bond, pending the clarification of his immigration status.

So, if the agency (now known as the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is saying in so many words that Khoshnevis isn’t a security threat, shouldn’t have been threatened with deportation and, most obviously, shouldn’t be in jail ... why is he?

There’s no way to put this nicely. He has the misfortune of being Iranian at a time when fear and paranoia override common sense.

It’s hard to see it any other way when you consider the final act in Khoshnevis’ personal drama.

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That’s the point at which the feds needed their final injection of courage.

Three weeks ago, when he was about to be released, the Iraqi war began, and immigration officials in Washington alerted local offices to increased terrorist threats. “Watch your fanny” was the unofficial translation.

Although nothing in Khoshnevis’ file pointed to him being a threat -- and the San Diego office knew this better than anyone -- they gulped and then choked on the D.C. warning.

As a result, Khoshnevis has spent three more weeks in jail.

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Now he appears close to being released again. Or so says his attorney, David Ross, who’s as profuse in praising immigration officials in San Diego as he is in excoriating the immigration judge.

Immigration officials and the judge told The Times last week they wouldn’t discuss the case. Ross says he has been told that Khoshnevis’ release is imminent. He noted, however, that he’d been told it would be Tuesday, and that hadn’t happened by late afternoon.

“I want you to know something,” Ross says. "[Immigration officials] have been incredibly humanitarian in this.”

In the not always rational post-9/11 world, Khoshnevis -- born in Iran and with an unresolved immigration status -- becomes suspect.

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Not fair, but understandable.

Here’s what’s grossly unfair: that even after the agency that knows his case inside out tells everyone he isn’t a threat, he has to spend even one more night behind bars.

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821, at dana

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.parsons@latimes.com or at The Times’ Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.


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