In the Matter of Williams – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1991

Dessima Williams, former Ambassador from Grenada to the Organization of American States and a leading critic of U.S. Caribbean policy, was seized in Washington, D.C. by immigration officials in October 1984. The arrest took place on the anniversary of the U.S.- led invasion of Grenada, just after Williams had eulogized Maurice Bishop, the slain Grenadian prime minister, at a Howard University forum.

Williams was charged with being an illegal alien and placed on $3,000 bond. Immigration officials claimed she should be deported because she remained in the U.S. after the termination of her diplomatic status. This charge was dropped. She was then accused of being an illegal alien because she allegedly entered the U.S. with an invalid visa. The new charge was designed to prevent Williams from qualifying as a permanent resident and, as a result, her application for such status was denied.

A judge terminated Williams’s deportation hearing because the Immigration Service had not proven the invalidity of her diplomatic status at the time of her last entry to the U.S. The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld that ruling and dismissed the government’s appeal. CCR filed an application for permanent resident status with the INS district director in Arlington, Virginia under the so-called registry provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides permanent resident status to persons who have established residence in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1972. Williams received a green card this year.

Michael Ratner and Michael Maggio