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US Drug Conviction May Mean Deportation for Young Afghan

A federal immigration judge in Chicago says a man who came to America as a boy and grew up in Wisconsin can be deported to Afghanistan because of a felony drug conviction.

Mirwais Ali, 23, fears he will be tortured or killed if he is deported. He landed himself in trouble with the law when he was caught with marijuana in Wisconsin in 1999. It was the second time he had been caught with illegal drugs and he was sent to jail. When he was released this year, immigration officials began deportation proceedings against Ali because he never became a U.S. citizen.

Ali, his family, and attorney Taher Kameli say Ali has been in the United States for 20 years, does not speak the language of his native country and would be in danger if he was forced to go back to Afghanistan. "We do still believe that if he is sent back to Afghanistan the decision will be a death penalty decision," Mr. Kameli says. "We do believe that he is going to be killed by either the Afghan government or warlords who are against the United States."

Mr. Kameli says Ali fears warlords or others in Afghanistan might consider Ali an American spy.

Federal judge James Fujimoto says Ali and his family would likely face hardships if they move to Afghanistan, but says he sees no evidence Ali would be harmed. Judge Fujimoto calls the case a sad story of a young man who has been arrested and convicted of numerous crimes and now faces deportation as a consequence.

The judge did advise Ali's lawyers to ask the Immigration and Naturalization Service to delay deportation orders until Afghanistan becomes more stable. He also suggested Ali's lawyers ask the state of Wisconsin to throw out or downgrade the felony drug conviction, which could allow Ali to stay in the United States.

Ali's attorneys are expected to file an appeal within a month.