DHS Appealing Decision Granting Extremist Imam Qatanani Permanent Residency In U.S.
October 6, 2008
DHS May Have Last Laugh, Appealing Decision Granting Extremist Imam Qatanani Permanent Residency In U.S.
October 5, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - As noted in a September 5 piece [see, Testimony By FBI And Elected Officials Allow Hamas Supporting Imam To Be Given Permanent Residency In U.S., http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=qatananiid=9.5.08%2Ehtm] Mohammad Qatanani, the controversial imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, seemed to be home free in his legal battle to remain in the United States, despite his ties to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, but now the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency [ICE] has indicated that it will appeal the decision that allowed him permanent residency.
In the above referenced article we wrote:
According to the Investigative Project's expose "The Latest "Interfaith" Imam With Terror Ties."
DHS' legal action, attempting to reverse immigration judge Alberto J. Riefkohl's obviously defective decision in this case might well be a sign that DHS has come to grips with the MO of radical Muslim immigrants posing as moderates and is now taking the appropriate action. http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=qatananiid=10.5.08%2Ehtm
Imam's victory short-lived Saturday, October 4, 2008
What was expected to be a day of jubilation at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson Friday turned into one of bitterness as news spread that the mosque's spiritual leader must renew his fight against deportation. "We thought it was over," said Awatif Abadrabbo, referring to the announcement by Homeland Security officials that were appealing an immigration judge's ruling last month granting Imam Mohammad Qatanani permanent U.S. residency. "We want him to stay," she said. "He has been good for us, for our children." Other congregants said the appeal would taint a relationship between the mosque and federal officials developed since Sept. 11, 2001, when Qatanani was one of the first imams nationwide to condemn the attacks and invited the FBI to the mosque to address the congregation. "This is vindictive," said Aref Assaf, spokesman for the imam. "The implications for relations between our community and the federal government are damaging and far-reaching."
DHS filed a notice Thursday that they will appeal Immigration Court Judge Alberto Riefkohl's ruling. DHS, which includes immigration agencies, contends in its appeal notice that Qatanani "engaged in terrorist activity" in the early 1990s with Hamas, a group in the Middle East that the United States classifies as terrorist. Riefkohl rejected the DHS claims, which relied heavily on Israeli documents that the judge found questionable. "ICE believes that the immigration judge made mistakes of law, judgment and discretion," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many Muslims view the government's new effort to deport the imam, hailed across New Jersey as a voice of moderation and a bridge-builder between Muslims and non-Muslims, as an attack on their religion and their culture. Qatanani said the government's decision was bewildering. "I'm surprised and disappointed," Qatanani said. "I extended a hand to the government to continue to help them reach out to our community, and they didn't take the hand."
The imam came to the United States on a religious visa in 1996 with his wife and three children. Three more children were born in the United States. During his time as imam, Qatanani, a soft-spoken, diminutive man, has won the respect of people from different religions and ethnic communities. In addition, the state's most powerful political and law enforcement officials often make a point of attending major events at his mosque. On Wednesday, at a 7 a.m. event which marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Gov. Jon S. Corzine was the main speaker at the mosque. Homeland Security had argued during the four days of the trial earlier this year that Qatanani, 44, lied on his 1999 application for residency because he failed to disclose a conviction in Israel in 1993 based on purported links to Hamas. They tried to forge a link between Qatanani and the mosque's former imam, Mohamed El-Mezain, who is facing conspiracy charges by the federal government in Dallas. The government is seeking a conviction against El-Mezaain and other past officers of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Muslim charity shut down in 2001 that U.S. officials accuse of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas.
The judge chastised DHS prosecutors for trying to establish "guilt by association." In his defense at the trial, Qatanani maintained that during a visit from Jordan, where he had been living, to his native West Bank in 1993, he was detained by Israeli authorities. But he said that during the three-month detention, Israelis never told him he was officially arrested or convicted of anything. He also testified that he was tortured during that detention. Experts on the Israeli judicial system testified that Israel routinely detained Palestinian men without charges. They argued that Qatanani would not have been released after only three months if the Israelis believed he had an association with Hamas.