FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 20, 2009
CONTACT: Brandon Hensler, Director of Communications, (786) 363-2737 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TAMPA, Fla. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today sent a letter to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urging the release of Youssef Megahed, a University of South Florida student who was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on April 6, in what the ACLU is calling a vindictive arrest.
Megahed’s arrest came just three days after he was acquitted by a federal jury of criminal charges relating to possession and transportation of explosive materials. The new arrest, which DHS and ICE have indicated are based on the same charges as in the criminal trial, undermines the jury system and illustrates the lack of due process for those caught in the web of the immigration courts.
“This arrest and the impending deportation charges highlight the flaws in our system,” said Rebecca Harrison Steele, ACLU of Florida West Central Regional Office Director. “A federal jury acquitted Mr. Megahed of all criminal charges. Now the government’s trying to get another bite at the apple in immigration court, where due process takes a lower priority. This latest arrest seems so vindictive. We are urging the federal government to release Mr. Megahed during the proceedings in immigration court and, if the charges in immigration court are indeed based on the very same facts as the criminal charges for which he has been acquitted, to dismiss the removal proceedings.”
Perhaps most telling was the release of statements by several of Megahed’s jurors, who also view ICE’s arrest as vindictive: “It strikes us as fundamentally wrong that the Government has put Mr. Megahed back in jail for suspicion of the same activities that he was acquitted of in the criminal case.” The jurors also stated: “More troublesome is the Government’s seeming blatant disregard of the will of its own people.”
The full text of the letter sent today is below, or can be downloaded in PDF.