Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lafayette Tibetan fights deportation to Nepal (Daily Camera)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Tibetan national who's been living in Boulder County for years could be deported to Nepal this week despite his pleas for asylum.

Namgyal Tsering, 35, of Lafayette, is being held at the Teller County Jail near Colorado Springs because an immigration judge has ordered that he be deported to Nepal, where he fears he'll be deported to China and persecuted.

Tsering was arrested in March because he waited too long after arriving in the United States to file for asylum and was denied the protection order that would have allowed him to stay here.

His friends and attorney are continuing to fight for his release from jail and permission for him to return to Lafayette.

Friends argue Tsering has no criminal record and that he waited to file for asylum because he couldn't speak English and was afraid of authorities.

His attorney said Tsering fled Tibet in 1997 because the Chinese government was after him for posting dissenting slogans, and the only way he could get to the United States was to obtain a visitor's visa and Nepalese passport using a false name and nationality.

After Tsering became more comfortable in the United States, he filed for asylum from China in 2002 using his real name and nationality -- not the false Nepalese passport he used to get here.

But because he waited more than the allowed year to ask for the protection order, and because of his identification confusion, a judge denied Tsering's application and referred him to immigration court.

An immigration judge in January confirmed Tsering was who he said he was -- a Tibetan national born in July 1972 -- and approved an order preventing him from being deported to China because of the danger.

The judge maintained, however, that Tsering must be removed from the United States because of his late asylum filing and ordered that he be sent to Nepal.

Tsering's attorney, Theodore Olsen, said immigration officers obtained paperwork they needed to send Tsering to Nepal using the false Nepalese passport he used to come here. And, he argued, that's unconstitutional.

"They're misrepresenting his identity and nationality in their efforts to deport him," Olsen said.

Tim Counts, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said officers have acted legally.

"A federal immigration judge has directed us to remove him to Nepal," Counts said. "When we remove someone to a country, we have to make sure they'll be allowed into that country. We have to get them the documents that will allow them into the country legally."

Counts said Tsering "completed the forms for the Nepalese passport himself."

"We're carrying out the judge's orders, as required by law," he said.

Olsen said he took over Tsering's case after a previous attorney skipped town. He said he wants to ask that his client be kept out of both China and Nepal, but he can't convince a court to reopen the case.

"It's an uphill battle right now," Olsen said.

He filed a petition in Denver federal court Tuesday asking a judge to declare that deporting Tsering to Nepal using a false identity violates the U.S. constitution. The petition also asks the judge to "issue an order requiring (Tsering) to be released from ICE custody immediately."

Friends are worried that if Tsering is sent to Nepal, he'll be arrested and persecuted.

Tsering is the father of an infant American son, for whom he's the primary caregiver -- watching the boy so his mother can work two jobs.

"If he's deported, he will be unable to return to the U.S., probably forever," Olsen said. "His son will not know him."

Nyima Yangkey, the mother of Tsering's son, recently visited him in jail.

"He's suffering like he murdered someone, but he has no criminal record," she said.

If Tsering is sent to Nepal, Yangkey, 33, said she thinks chances are good that he'll be put in prison or even executed.

"My son is too young to lose his daddy," Yangkey said. "It's not fair."

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