28.6.04

Irish Echo Online

IMMIGRATION COURT RULES AGAINST FERRY PLEA

By Ray O'Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com



An immigration appeals court has confirmed a lower court ruling denying political asylum in the U.S. to former IRA man Ciaran Ferry.

The Virginia-based Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed not only Ferry's appeal against the bar on asylum, but also his application for a full adjustment of status hearing and a "redetermination" of his custody status.

Ferry has been held in a Colorado prison since Jan. 30 of last year.

"The Board point-blank refused to consider the question as to whether or not Ferry is being unconstitutionally detained," Ferry's attorney, Eamonn Dornan, said this week.

Last November, a Colorado immigration judge, James Vandello, ruled that Ferry, whose wife and daughter are American citizens, was ineligible for asylum because of a past conviction for a "serious nonpolitical crime" in Northern Ireland.

Ferry was detained when he turned up for a green-card interview accompanied by his wife, Heaven Ferry.

In reaching his ruling, Judge Vandello referred to a previous asylum case involving another onetime member of the IRA.

Peter McMullen -- also known as "Pete the Para" because he had served in the British army's Parachute Regiment -- failed in his bid for asylum and was ultimately extradited from the U.S. in the spring of 1996.

Vandello also ruled against Ferry's asylum plea on the basis that he had filed his plea too late.

" He has not shown changed circumstances nor extraordinary circumstances relating to the delay," he said.

The BIA, in its ruling, said that it concurred with Judge Vandello's finding that Ferry had failed to submit his application for asylum in a timely manner and had failed to establish "changed or exceptional circumstances to excuse his delay in filing a timely application."

When he appeared for his green-card interview in January 2003, Ferry was questioned about a prison term he served in Northern Ireland for IRA-related activities in the early 1990s.

Ferry was arrested in Belfast in 1993 after two guns and ammunition were found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was sentenced to 22 years but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. Ferry did not reveal that he had been in prison when he first entered the U.S.

Ferry, who is 32, was detained at the green-card interview by immigration officers. His asylum plea, heard by Vandello in August, was a legal counter move against a deportation order that followed his arrest.

Ferry's initial detention was specifically based on a charge that he had overstayed his U.S. visa. His legal team has countered that he had in fact obtained labor authorization and was permitted an extended stay in the U.S. pending his green card interview.

The Ferrys have a 3-year-old daughter, Fiona. The couple had lived in Belfast for a time but decided to settle in Arvada, Colo., after Ciaran Ferry's name was found by police on a loyalist death list.

During the August asylum hearing, Ferry stated that the FBI had offered to have him freed from jail if he gave information, but that he had declined in part on the grounds that such a move would endanger his relatives in the North.

Part of Ferry's plea for asylum is based on loyalist death threats and seeks protection under the international Convention Against Torture.

The BIA found that Ferry had failed to meet his burden of proof to establish eligibility for relief under the convention because the United Kingdom government "indicate that they have attempted to protect persons included on the 'death list.' "

A separate writ of habeas corpus has also been filed on Ferry's behalf but this was a "different tack," according to Dornan.

This story appeared in the issue of June 23-29, 2004

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