U.S. Citizen Deported To Guyana

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When immigrants from Guyana gather near the bronze bull on Wall Street tomorrow, one unfortunate member of the community won't be there. He was unceremoniously deported in November, even after having served in the US military in Vietnam. 

Post 9/11, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was placed under the banner of Homeland Security. It had to be some crude minded people who sat down to think of the new name, "Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The initials fit this cold-hearted agency like a glove.

This is a follow-up on Lawrence Williams' case. He was born in Guyana, lived in the United States for over 35-years and has three adult American children.  To become a United States Citizen, Williams put his life on the line, signing a contract to join the U.S. Army to fight in the Vietnam War.  However, the U.S. Army did not live up to its end of the contract—no one from Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the Guyana embassy cared to lifted one finger to take a hard look into this breach of contract whereby Williams, who is ailing and was receiving treatment, was deported to Guyana. 

Williams' ordeal starts many years ago. He returned to the United States in the early 70's on leave from the Vietnam War. Feeling safe around his family and friends, Williams went absent without leave (AWOL) from the U.S. Army. He was suffering from various ailments and never returned to Vietnam.

His family and friends noticed how much he'd changed after his returned and later learned he had Chronic Post Traumatic Disorder, a condition well documented at the Veterans' Hospital. In Vietnam, he was a medic and Williams would be exposed to lots of blood and blood products. He was diagnosed with a liver disease. 

People who have been in wars will tell you, one day of war could have a life time affect and will take a toll on anyone's mind; very true in Williams' case.

Not being properly debriefed by the U.S. Army, it was no surprise Williams would run afoul of the law. He was arrested for being in possession of marijuana. Later, he would plead guilty to manslaughter-- a  man had pulled a gun on him in a 1983 confrontation; he claimed self-defense in that case. He ended up serving two years in a Florida jail. This was way before before the immigration laws that whereby people are deported after serving time.
Yet, from a humanitarian point of view, Williams should have never been under any immigration status or under the purview of ICE. His post-Vietnam years saw him being treated for various ailments. Williams was still being treated at Veterans' Administration Hospitals under the care of different doctors for injuries he sustained protecting the United States when he was deported like a common criminal.   

Immigration agents appeared in Williams' jail cell at 3 A.M. a few months ago, like thieves in the night. He was dragged to a waiting van, drugged by sticking two needles in his buttock and one in the arm; he was then whisked off to a cargo plane and off to Guyana. 

Before being thrown out of the US, Williams had reached out to Major Owens, then a US Congressman. "I went to Owens and he said it was not the right time to put in a deportation bill because the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives," Williams told me.  The staff at Owens' office, rather than helping to halt the imminent deportation, kept talking about Williams' past encounter with the law. 

Williams was let down by many others.  Jorge Guttlein, his first attorney, failed to submit timely court documents to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals causing his motion to stay deportation to be dismissed.  From his jail cell, Williams filed a complaint with the 1st Department Disciplinary Committee against Attorney Guttlein – a decision is still pending.  Guttlein refused to respond to inquiries from this newspaper. 

Some family members believe Deportation Officer Francis Kemp went after Williams with a personal vengeance. "Mr. Kemp called me at my mother's house and said that my brother was going to be deported," recalls Sandra Williams, the Vietnam Vet's sister. "He said, 'I don't care if you cry he's being deported and there's nothing you could do.'"

The family hired the law firm Wilens & Baker, P.C. to get Williams out of the Freehold N.J. prison and stop the deportation – the firm would later fail both tasks. 

On August 8th, 2006, Williams reported the immigration office as he had done, once a month, since 1999.  However, on that date, he was sent off to Freehold New Jersey and incarcerated at Monmouth County prison facing deportation.

In late August, the Black Star News made inquiries to the prison about Williams' physical conditions.  This action prompt Deportation Officer Kemp to suddenly notified Williams' family that he would be deported in 48 hours. 

Attorney Linda Kushner, who was assigned to Williams' case at the time at Wilens & Baker, filed her own motions to stay the deportation, which were denied.  She called the Black Star News as well as other newspapers and politicians as she worked tirelessly to get the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit Williams' stay motion.  Kushner would later say, we were the only media to respond.

By November 6th, Kushner who solely handled Williams' case was no longer employed with Wilens & Baker. Had she advocated too vigorously on behalf of Williams? This bizarre move occurred days before Williams' very important November 8th, immigration deportation hearing. This hearing was scheduled months in advance. ICE did not take Williams to this hearing, clearly trespassing on his rights to due process.  

The very next day, November 9th, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals revisited Kushner's motion to stay the deportation, which the three panel judges denied. 

November 11th, Veterans' Day came and left.  It was the early morning of November 13th

that former United States Army Private Lawrence Williams was deported to his birth place – Guyana.  No one from Wilens & Baker notified his family. 

The Black Star News contacted Wilens & Baker for answers. "I'm not going to make any comments about Attorney Kushner and yes, someone from the family was notified and I took over the case," claimed the firm's spokesman Attorney Spiro Serras. Remarkably, he also added: "I'm not familiar with Williams' case."

Ironically, in 2004, Wilens & Baker were sanctioned for the exact same complaints Williams' family has raised.         

After Williams' incarceration, the Black Star News made several requests to interview him at the Freehold N.J. prison.  The prison's press visit policy was stonewalled and the visit never occurred.  Staff at the prison refused to release a copy of their press visit policy.

One high ranking staffer told the Black Star News in a telephone conversation, "You have to make your request to Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  They are the ones who can approve an interview.  If they say, OK, we would be glad to bring the inmate to the city and save you from making the trip all the way out here."  He refused to give me the prison's warden name. 

Ironically, the warden turned out to be none other than a disgraced former New York City Correction Commissioner, William Fraser.  He retired with a lucrative city pension after being caught sealing city property he used to repair his home and for using city employees on paid city time to fix his pool.

The prison authorities unilaterally decided to prevent our direct contact with Williams.

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the general public has a right to know what's going on when it involves governmental offices and the agencies failed to answer the FOIA request to this day. Remember how we used to ridicule Communist China? US governmental agencies now openly defy the nation's laws. 

The Harlem Vet Center located on 125th Street is trying to get Williams returned back to the United States.  However, Williams is having a hard time getting medical documentation filled out by the doctors in Guyana. He's being asked to pay thousands of dollars for Army medical forms he needs to be filled out. 

So the US government wouldn't help Williams – and Guyana officials at the embassy failed him miserably. His family wonders how long he can survive without the medical care he was receiving here.

Columnist note: If you tuned in to Black talk radio WLIB 1190 AM with Imhotep Gary Byrd’s, “Mind flight,” which once aired Monday thru Thursday mornings from 12:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M., and are like most of us – ‘tired of being dumbed-down because of a lack of news and information in your community and around the city.’  Tell WLIB management, “I want to listen to the old Black talk radio program listed above.  One day is a disservice to our communities,” contact: Deon Levingston, Vice President and General Manager, WLIB Radio, 3 Park Avenue, New York New York 10016; telephone – 212-592-0426.  Send me your response and any reply and I will print it in this column.  Let’s stay informed.


Watch Manhattan cable channel 34 or
www.mnn.org channel 34 every Sunday at 7:30 P.M. for news updates and other articles.  You have any comments contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story.  Email: [email protected] or [email protected]; call (212) 481-7745.  Write to: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423.  Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

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