The Associated Press, June 3, 2009 Wednesday
Asylum-seeking Brits wait deportation in US jail
Two Britons seeking asylum in the United States after being convicted of hate speech crimes in their homeland will be deported after nearly a year in U.S. custody.
Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled in July 2008 after being convicted of publishing hate speech against Jews and other groups on their Web site. The men sought asylum under America’s free speech protections.
The men believed they were being persecuted for their right-wing views by Britain’s Labor government.
They were taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport when they asked a uniformed U.S. official for help.
An immigration judge ordered that the men be deported to England, where they likely will be sentenced to jail time.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com
June 3, 2009 Wednesday 11:21 PM GMT
Asylum-seeking Brits find reality in US jail
Two British citizens seeking asylum in the United States after being convicted of hate speech crimes in their homeland will be deported after languishing in U.S. custody for nearly a year.
Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled to the U.S. in July 2008 after being convicted of publishing hate speech against Jews and other groups on their Web site. The men believed that they would be granted asylum under American laws that protect freedom of speech.
But Sheppard, 52, and Whittle, 42, were taken into custody immediately after their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport when they asked a uniformed U.S. official for asylum. The two have been held at the Santa Ana City Jail in Orange County since then.
“We came to the beacon of free speech in the Western world which turned out to be a complete fantasy,” Sheppard told the Los Angeles Times, which interviewed them in jail.
Whittle added, “We’ve never seen California but through bars.”
An immigration judge issued a written order on March 1 saying that the men did not qualify for asylum and were to be deported to England, where they likely will be sentenced to jail time.
Sheppard and Whittle did not appeal the ruling within the 30-day window and the order became final on May 1, immigration officials said.
“They remain in our custody awaiting deportation to England. We don’t talk about timing (of deportation) for security reasons,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Orange County.
Kice said authorities learned early on about the men’s hate crime convictions in Britain and that it was a factor in their lengthy detention.
Sheppard and Whittle, who have garnered the nickname the “heretical two,” were convicted in England for a string of essays and other published material on Sheppard’s Web site, which uses a server based in Torrance, Calif.
Sheppard was convicted on 11 counts, Whittle on five. In January, Sheppard was retried in absentia and convicted on five more charges.
The men fled to the U.S. because they believed they were being persecuted for their right-wing views by Britain’s Labor government. That argument was part of the basis of their application for political asylum.
Attorney Bruce Leichty, who no longer represents the men, said he doesn’t agree with the two, but said it’s wrong to jail people for expressing political views.
“I think it has very wide ramifications,” Leichty said. “I don’t share their views or the way they communicate their views, but I certainly don’t think we should be incarcerating people for what they did.”