Randall v. Meese and In the Matter of Randall – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1988-1989

In In the Matter of Randall, the INS is seeking to apply the McCarran-Walter Act’s ideological exclusion provision to force Margaret Randall, a prominent poet and essayist who was born in the United States, to leave her family and her home. Randall, who has written primarily on women’s issues and Central America, lived for more than 20 years in Mexico, Cuba, and Nica­ragua. When she took out Mexican citizenship in order to secure employment to support her in order to secure employment to support her three young children, the U.S. revoked her citizenship.

As a result, Randall is now in this country as an alien. Residing in Albuquerque, N.M., with her elderly parents, husband, brother, and a nephew, she applied for a green card (perma­nent resident alien status) on the basis of fam­ily ties. Ordinarily, such an application would be granted as a matter of course, but this has not been Randall’s experience.

Randall’s extraordinary treatment results from her criticism of certain U.S. policies, in­cluding intervention in Central America and Vietnam, and her support for the revolution in Nicaragua. A district director in the INS read five of Randall’s 40 books, and found that she does not deserve to stay in the U.S. because her writings “go far beyond mere dissent.” INS attorneys, in a subsequent deportation hearing, argued that Randall should be forced to leave because she has never published any literature supportive of free enterprise. The purported basis for these contentions is the McCarran-Walter Act, a law which has also been used to keep a number of writers, such as Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dario Fo, Graham Greene, Carlos Fuentes, Farley Mowat, and Angel Rama from entering this country.

The CCR represents Randall in the deporta­tion proceedings and also filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf in Washington, D.C. In the latter case, Norman Mailer, Alice Walker, Grace Paley, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, Rose and William Styron, and others have joined as co-plaintiffs.

In August 1986 an immigration judge in El Paso, Texas, ruled that Randall should be de­ported because her writings advocate the “doc­trine of world communism.” The judge explained that but for his belief that her writings violate the McCarran-Walter Act, Randall was in all respects eligible to remain here. The case there­ fore presents a pure issue of deportation on the basis of one’s writing. The CCR has appealed this decision administratively to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

In the federal suit, the district court denied a request for a preliminary injunction and dis­missed the case. The court concluded that Randall had somehow received the relief which she sought when the immigration judge denied her application for adjustment of status. On appeal, the D.C. circuit ruled, over a strong dissent, that Randall’s challenge to the consti­tutionality of the district director’s decision was premature, but could be renewed in an­ other court after the BIA issues its decision. The CCR has filed a request for rehearing .

In December 1987, when Congress temporarily amended the McCarran-Walter Act to pro­ vide that aliens could not be deported for writ­ings and associations that would be constitu­tionally protected for U.S. citizens, CCR brought this amendment to the attention of the BIA, and argued that there was no longer any legal ground for deporting Randall. The INS initially opposed Randa ll’s motion but on February 4, 1988, announced tha t it agreed with Randall’s interpretation of the new law. The BIA, how­ ever, still has not issued its decision.

David Cole, Michael Ratner, with CCR cooperating attorney Michael Maggio; Walter Rockler, Chris Painter, Cindy Lewin of Arnold & Porter