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Immigration Fiasco Puts Marshall Islander in Jail

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Immigration Fiasco Puts Marshall Islander in Jail

A Marshallese man was recently released on home-monitoring following seven months of detention at a Minnesota lock-up. He is waiting for the Court to make a decision on whether or not he will be released from custody. He was arrested and detained in error.

Jimmy Mote, a thirty-three year old from Majuro, Marshall Islands, came to the United States legally twelve years ago with non-immigrant status, but when he went to apply for an ID card renewal, he was detained by police. Someone working in the government office there found some information on the computer, which has since been proved an error, and had him arrested. According to Mr. Mote, a policeman told him that he looked like a terrorist. " No one seemed to know where the Marshall Islands is," he said. *good ole worldy americans hehe

Jimmy Mote, born in Laura Village, Majuro Atoll, on August 25, 1970, came to the United States on or about September 4, 1992, to attend school in Arizona. There, he met an American lady, and they moved up to North Dakota, starting a family in Mandan. They both worked at a local hospital. They have three children, ranging in age from 3 to 11.

"I have lost my job, my car, and my house, " said Mote.

One day, December 2003, Jimmy went to Bismarck, North Dakota to renew his I.D. That's when the trouble began. "I have no criminal record, neither in the Marshall Islands, or in the United States," said Mote in a telephone interview.

He lived and worked in the United States under provisions of the Compact of Free Association agreement between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, giving RMI citizens the right to enter into and establish residence as a non-immigrants without any set duration of stay.

That was not enough for Mr. Jim Rumple, area supervisor for the Drivers License and Traffic Safety Division of the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation.

After being taken into custody by six or seven state patrolmen in Bismarck, Mote was whisked up to Bottineau, where he was held for a week. All the time, he was trying to tell them that he had a right to be there. He also had an unexpired passport, issued on April 17, 1998, which under the Compact law, is the only documentation a Marshall Islands citizen needs to enter the United States.

Mr. Mote was taken down to Chaska, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, where he was held in jail until his recent release. He is presently living with some relatives of a non-Marshallese inmate he met while in jail. Jimmy has an ankle monitor and has to be back at this residence from 6pm to 6am every day.

Until recently, he had no any Marshall Islands contact, and when he tried to call the RMI Embassy in Washington, D.C. while detained, his collect call was not accepted.

Someone with Marshallese-connections was mentioned in a local newspaper article that Mr. Mote saw, and he was able to get into contact with Bob Cress, who has been helping him.

Cress was a Peace Corps Volunteer at Marshall Islands High School from 1970-72 and stayed on teaching at MIHS through 1976, and lived on Maloelap Atoll through 1978. " I'm married to a Maloelap woman (Margina Aikne), and we have been living in Minneapolis since 1978," said Cress.

"We are trying to get his temporary residence changed to our house, so he can have a more comfortable place to stay," said Mr. Cress.

Mote's lawyer, Sheila Stuhlman of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, submitted a motion on July 27 to the Immigration Court asking to terminate proceedings and release Mote from custody based on his current non-immigrant status under the Compact of Free Association.

According to the motion document, the original charge was that his permission to stay in the United States expired in December 31, 1999. Based on this information and lack of proof of his current status, he was charged with "failing to comply with conditions of status and being present in violation of the Act." This was an error.

The lawyer also submitted a letter from Joseph H. McDermott, of the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, detailing Mr. Mote's legal rights to enter and reside in the United States.

"If the lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security agree with me, then the judge will end your court case. If that happens, you will not have to apply for a green card, unless you want to follow through with it," wrote Stuhlman to Mote on July 28.

Mote will have to return to court on August 13 if the judge does not end the case.

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