03 January 2007

Persecution of Serbians In the United States

Refugees Hunted by Over-Zealous U.S. Government Agencies, Serbian Bar Association of America
Serbian Bar Association of America
5315 N. Clark St., PMB 279,
Chicago, Illinois 60640

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday, December 30, 2006www.serbbar.org

CHICAGO - At least 45 U.S. citizens and permanent residents across the country have been selectively targeted, indicted and arrested on federal charges related to their refugee and immigration applications. Many more face immigration related deportation charges on similar grounds. The Serbian Bar Association of America has joined with the Serbian Orthodox Church of America and other national organizations in calling upon the U.S. Attorney General and or Congressional leaders to review and reject what appears to be an abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the various United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
During the past fifteen months, legal immigrants currently living in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois have been arrested on immigration charges related to refugee applications completed nearly ten years ago. In many instances, U.S. contracted refugee agencies assisted these individuals with their applications which are now the subject of the charges against them. By way of example, one woman was arrested for omitting “military service” due to her position as a cook for local military personnel.
Of major concern is the manner and method of prosecution of these individuals. Many had little or no knowledge of English, and wholly relied on these agencies to assist them with their immigration in order to leave their war torn country. Also disturbing is the fact that, no matter of ethnicity, all refugees from Bosnia were conscriptive soldiers during the war, yet only Serbs are being singled out in what appears to be a discriminatory purge of Serbian refugees.
The Serbian Bar Association of America questions the manner and method of these charges. In almost all instances, U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents made early morning raids of individual homes and made arrests at gunpoint frightening innocent women and children, where communication and notice to individuals would have sufficed. While the U.S. Governmental agencies purport the premise for these arrests was to capture those in this country “known to commit atrocities”, no such charges are leveled against any of these individuals. Moreover, no indictment carries war crimes charges yet these individuals are being treated like terroists.
It is of grave concern that the U.S. government is targeting Serbian refugees from the former Yugoslavia while other ethnic groups from the same region with ties to terrorist organizations are not being investigated. “These poor people fled the wrath and oppression of a fascist mujahadeen and relied upon the counsel of US appointed immigration officials in order to seek refuge and legal entry into the United States. Unfortunately, they again find themselves inappropriately targeted by authorities simply because of their ethnic background,” says Metropolitan Christopher, the senior Serbian Orthodox Bishop in North America.
The SBAA demands full disclosure of all files of all refugees from a similar time period, regardless of ethnicity, to determine whether this is a discriminatory purge of one ethnic group, and calls for all indictments to be held in abeyance until an investigation is fully conducted.
The SBAA strongly encourages all those interested to donate to the Serbian Refugee Defense Fund “SRDF”, sending those donations to the address above, and view specific information regarding these arrests on the SBAA website at www.serbbar.org. In addition, the website provides additional information about the rights of any individual facing similar mistreatment, and encourages all to download these basic rights and present them at time of arrest.
The Serbian Orthodox Church of North America and Canada and the following organizations are signatories to this release:
The Serbian Bar Association of AmericaSerbian Unity Congress
Serbian National Defense Council of America
Serb National FederationSerbian Brothers
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