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Tino is a Croat citizen, from a small place near Sibenik. He came here in 1995, when he was like 18, 19 years old, working as a waiter on a cruise liner. Once in Florida he simply did not return to the ship and entered the US illegally.

He made his way to NYC, started waiting tables here, got an apartment, car, etc. - started a life here. He applied for political asylum. The INS claims that they denied his application, placed him in deportation proceedings and sent him a notice to that effect.

Tino claims that he never received that notice and was not aware of it. Rather, since the asylum case was not forthcoming, he decided to apply for status through sponsorship. Through that he got a work permit and he enrolled college (he is one semester shy of graduating Film studies at Hunter College). Unfortunatelly, the restaurant that sponsored him, went bankrupt.

Then on July 10, 2002 he got arrested for 'criminal tresspassing.' He and his friends were outrageously stupid and jumped over a locked gate in Brooklyn Red Hook harbour at 1 am on July 10 with an intent to film something for his film class.... What they got was a 'reality-TV' account of the Patriot Act application.

NYPD drove by, saw them on the wrong side of the fence, heard their accents and busted them as terrorist, kept them in detention for over 60 hours, called FBI and INS in, etc. FBI dropped the terrorist charges after investigation, but INS found 2 among 5 to be with no proper papers. One, from Belgrade was here on expired tourist visa, without a job. She accepted a paid trip back home without complaint.

Tino however - his life is destroyed, his school, his job, his life, that's all here: he decided to contest deportation and stayed for six months in prison awaiting deportation hearing, getting nervous, because he learned from fellow inmates that one can wait months, years for a hearing there. Meanwhile, what's going to happen with his school status, with his credit card debt, with his car, etc.?

And that all for one stupid mistake, for which an American college student would just get fined and/or put on probation! The expectations that young immigrants shall or will behave different than young Americans are unrealistic.

In December 2002, Immigration Judge refused to re-open Tino's case. His lawyers (Bretz & Coven) abandoned him, after he failed to secure the second payment. Currently, shortly before Christmass, he is transferred to Hudson prison, usually the last station for those awaiting deportation, before the INS deports them. We regret, that we couldn't help him stay here. We also join the chorus of voices in the U.S. that express their outrage with the new anti-immigrant sentiment behind the policies of the present U.S. Administration.

Tino was deported by INS to Croatia on January 7, 2003. Person in charge of his deportation was Andrea Quarantillo, INS New Jersey District Director; Telephone: 973-645-3634, Fax: 973-297-4848.

We will follow up once we get in touch with Tino in Croatia.

map and driving directions
43-32 22nd Street, Suite (buzzer) 301 in Long Island City, between 43th and 44th Avenue
subway to 23rd Street, Ely Avenue

This project was made possible by a generous grant from The New York Foundation