The ACLU of Southern California, working attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, helped secure a victory in one of the nation's longest running and controversial deportation cases when federal immigration officials dismissed all charges against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, two members of the 'LA 8' prosecuted for over 20 years for their political beliefs.
This case, which tested whether immigrants have the same First Amendment rights as citizens, began in 1987, when a group of seven Palestinian men and one woman from Kenya were accused of having ties to a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Members participated in activities such as distributing newspapers, protesting in demonstrations and organizing humanitarian aid fundraisers for Palestinians in the Middle East. Though these are activities protected by the First Amendment, the government decided they were grounds for deportation. Using a Cold War-era law, the government launched a relentless deportation campaign against the group, who became known as the 'LA 8'.
'My family and I feel a tremendous amount of relief today,' said Hamide. 'After 20 years, the nightmare is finally over. I feel vindicated at long last. This is a victory not only for us, but for the First Amendment of the Constitution and for the rights of all immigrants.'