The L.A. Eight.

The L.A. Eight.

The U.S. government will be using the Patriot Act to attempt to deport two L.A. activists, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, in the sixteen year old case of the Los Angeles Eight. To do so the government will claim they can make the Patriot Act retroactive to sixteen years ago, something most say will not stand up to a court challenge.

The Bush administration has decided to pursue a 16-year-old effort to deport two Palestinian activists who as students distributed magazines and raised funds for a group the government now considers a terrorist organization, despite several court rulings that the deportations are unconstitutional because the men were not involved in terrorist activity.

The PFLP was not considered a terrorist group when this happened. It was judged terrorist after the fact and the law was then applied retroactively.

The case, which has long had a high profile among Palestinian Americans, could pose a new judicial test of a controversial provision in the Patriot Act, passed in 2001. The provision prohibits supplying material support for organizations the government deems “terrorist,” even without evidence of a link to specific terrorist acts.

In other words, a group is “terrorist’ because we say it is and we don’t have to show any evidence. Charming.

In seeking the deportation in 1987 of Hamide, Shehadeh and six other Palestinian immigrants allegedly associated with the PFLP, the Reagan administration’s Justice Department invoked a provision of the Cold War-era McCarran-Walter Act, which barred membership in communist groups <by non-citizens>.

But a lawsuit filed by the so-called L.A. 8 led a federal appeals court to declare the law an unconstitutional infringement of free speech, and Congress repealed it in 1990.

The deportation cases nonetheless continued to churn through the courts because Congress’s action did not affect pending disputes. Then-FBI Director William Webster conceded in 1987 that none of the eight had engaged in terrorist activity and that they would not have been arrested if they were U.S. citizens.

This seems politically inspired. The government doesn’t like the (nonviolent peaceful) politics of the L.A. 8 and wants them out of the country. Fortunately they have friends and allies and this attempt by the government to deport them will be fought long and hard, just like it has for the past 16 years.