December 18, 2004: Headlines: COS - Marshall Islands: Service: Crime: Homeland Security: Immigration: Grand Forks Herald: Jimmy Mote spent that time under house arrest at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Marshall Islands: Peace Corps Marshall Islands : The Peace Corps in the Marshall Islands: December 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Marshall Islands: Service: Crime: Homeland Security: Immigration: Bismark Tribune: RPCV Bob Cress helped get Jimmy Mote released after almost one year in custody : December 18, 2004: Headlines: COS - Marshall Islands: Service: Crime: Homeland Security: Immigration: Grand Forks Herald: Jimmy Mote spent that time under house arrest at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Friday, December 24, 2004 - 4:43 pm: Edit Post

Jimmy Mote spent that time under house arrest at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina

Jimmy Mote spent that time under house arrest at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina

Jimmy Mote spent that time under house arrest at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina

Marshalese man freed from jail after immigration dispute


Associated Press

BEULAH, N.D. - Jimmy Mote remembers spending last Christmas sobbing in a Minnesota jail. He'll spend this one with his family, still questioning why he lost a job, a home and a year of his life.

Mote, 34, says he was the victim of racial profiling by an overzealous government ignorant of its own immigration rules. The Department of Homeland Security says Mote's history of kiting checks and other misdemeanor crimes made him a candidate to be sent back to his native Marshall Islands.

Mote's problems began in Bismarck on Nov. 18, 2003, when he tried to get a driver's license. He ended up in jail for more than six months, then was under house arrest until Dec. 2, when a federal judge allowed him to rejoin his family.

"I'm relieved," Mote said last week, scratching his ankle, hairless from months of wearing an electronic bracelet used to track offenders on house arrest.

"I stayed in my room and cried last Christmas," Mote said. "This one should be better."

Mote said his incarceration cost him his job as a construction worker, his Mandan home, two vehicles and a year away from his wife and three children.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is made up of five small islands and 29 coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. The United States took control of the islands after World War II.

The Marshall Islands became independent in 1986, but its government has a "compact of free association" with the United States, which allows islanders to visit America as they please as long as they stay out of trouble with the law. The country still uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.

Mote says his right to be in the United States was lost on workers at the North Dakota Transportation Department who issue driver's licenses. He said he showed officials his Marshall Islands passport when he went to get a license last year, and knew immediately there were problems.

"They didn't know where the Marshall Islands are," Mote said.

Officials confiscated his passport, and told him to come back later that day to pick it up. When he did, he was arrested by Border Patrol agents at the driver's license office.

He was handcuffed in front of his wife and their 3-year-old son, he said, and he overheard one of the agents say he "looked like a terrorist."

Agents jailed him in Bottineau, a Border Patrol point, for about a week before transporting him to a jail in Chaska, Minn., where he spent more than six months, unable to post a $1,500 bond. Immigration officials contract with the Carver County Jail to hold people suspected of immigration violations.

Jim Rumple, a state Department of Transportation license supervisor, said he was suspicious of Mote's passport. "It looked altered," he said.

Mote's lawyer, Sheila Stuhlman, said the passport had never been altered. She said her client was singled out because of his race.

"He is not a completely innocent victim. He has a criminal history. But I believe there would never have been a problem if he looked like me - I'm white," said Stuhlman, who works for the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, a Minneapolis nonprofit for indigent people with immigration problems.

Mote had a total of five misdemeanor convictions in North Dakota, including writing bad checks, driving without a license and assault, said Tim Counts, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Minneapolis.

Mote originally was charged with staying longer than his visa allowed. Counts said that charge, which led to publicity about the case in the Marshall Islands, was the result of a computer error and was later dropped.

At the same time, Mote was facing other deportable charges.

Legal immigrants can be deported for crimes that involve "moral turpitude," Counts said.

"He had five," Counts said.

Federal officials centered their deportation case against Mote on two cases of check kiting, including writing a check for $10 on a closed account.

Mote was charged with the $10 check kiting crime in 1994, and convicted in 1998. He said he paid a fine of about $300 and spent a few days in jail in Bismarck on that charge.

Immigration Judge Kristin Olmanson ruled on Dec. 2 that Mote was guilty of moral turpitude on the $10 check kiting charge, but she allowed Mote to stay in the United States since he is married to a U.S. citizen and has three children.

Mote has since applied for permanent citizenship, which cost him about $500 in filing and legal costs, he said. After his release, he joined his wife in Beulah, in central North Dakota, where she has relatives. They live in a small apartment.

His wife, Jeanette, an American Indian of Arikara descent, said she has never trusted the government and believes her husband was jailed in error. She said his old criminal charges resurfaced as an excuse to "cover up the fact they messed up."

The couple met while attending college in Arizona a dozen years ago, and married a year later. They have lived in both Nebraska and North Dakota.

Stuhlman, Mote's lawyer, said his incarceration in Minnesota cost more than $18,000, which does not include investigative costs or the time he spent under house arrest.

Mote spent that time at the home of Robert Cress, a Peace Corps volunteer in the Marshall Islands some 30 years ago, and his Marshalese wife, Margina.

Cress said Mote got his name through Marshalese citizens in the Minneapolis area.

"He called us out of the blue," Cress said.

Cress said Mote told him that he was being held because of a bureaucratic snafu, but never mentioned his criminal history.

"That bothers me, in retrospect," Cress said. "But because of the minor nature of the offenses, we probably would have let him stay here anyway."

Cress helped Mote get in touch with the Marshall Islands' embassy, which had refused his collect calls while he was incarcerated.

Mote, a carpenter and construction worker, earned his keep by helping Cress with home-improvement projects.

"It looks like he wants to put it behind him," Cress said. "We're glad to get him out of our hair."

Stuhlman and Cress said Mote's easygoing nature may have worked against him during his yearlong ordeal with the government.

"A foul word never came out of his mouth and he never raised his voice," Stuhlman said.

Cress said that's part of the Marshalese culture.

"In general, they are able to shrug off life's vicissitudes," Cress said.

Cress said Mote's case shows that the newly formed Department of Homeland Security needs to improve in its handling of immigration problems.

"They could have dispensed with his case within a week, but it took them a year, at great expense to taxpayers," Cress said.

Counts said Mote can still be deported if he is found guilty of serious crimes in the future. Mote said that won't happen.

"I want to get a new job and start all over again," he said.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.

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Story Source: Grand Forks Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Marshall Islands; Service; Crime; Homeland Security; Immigration



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