Local Tibetan deported to Nepal
By Vanessa Miller (Contact)
A Tibetan national who’s been living in Boulder County for about a decade and has been fighting deportation for months was flown to Nepal in the middle of the night Wednesday, accompanied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, his attorney said.
In January, an immigration judge ordered that Namgyal Tsering, 35, of Lafayette, be deported to Nepal — despite his pleas for asylum and his fears that he’ll be arrested and persecuted there.
“It’s unlikely he will be permitted to come back to the country,” attorney Theodore Olsen said of his client Tsering, who has a 16-month-old son in Lafayette.
“I’m sure it was very distressing for him to have no idea what’s going to happen to him and knowledge that he won’t see his son for many years,” Olsen said hours after his client was deported. “I can’t imagine what he was going through on that flight.”
Tim Counts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said his agency doesn’t discuss details of a removal “until it’s complete.” The term “removal,” he said, encompasses the entire deportation process, from when a person leaves the United States to the time he or she arrives at the destination.
“And we have not carried out the removal,” Counts said.
Tsering’s flight was scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu at 1 a.m. today, Boulder time, his attorney Olsen said.
Tsering came to the United States from Tibet in 1997 — with a Nepalese passport he obtained using a false name and nationality — because Chinese authorities were after him for dissenting against their occupation of the country. He waited until 2002 to file for asylum.
His request was denied because he waited more than the allowed year to file the paperwork, and — although a judge ruled he shouldn’t be sent back to China — he was arrested in March under orders of deportation to Nepal.
Olsen said officers used his client’s false Nepalese passport to get him traveling documents to Nepal, even though a U.S. judge ruled they were fake and that Tsering actually is from Tibet.
Tuesday, Olsen filed a petition in federal court in Denver arguing that using the false passport is unconstitutional. He also requested that a hearing in the case be scheduled for today.
“But we couldn’t get it before a judge in time to stay the removal,” Olsen said.
A person who’s removed can’t return for 10 years, he said.
As Tsering was being ushered out of jail near Colorado Springs on Tuesday, he slipped another inmate the phone number for his infant son’s mother, Nyima Yangkey, and asked that he tell her what was happening.
Tsering then was taken to jail in Aurora, where he gave Olsen’s number to another inmate and asked him to call the attorney and tell him he was being flown to Los Angeles, Olsen said.
About 2 a.m. Wednesday, Tsering called Yangkey from the plane.
“He said he was on his way to Nepal,” Yangkey said. “He was really afraid. He said, ‘I guess I’m gonna be killed.'”
Tsering told Yangkey that he managed the call when officers stepped away and a fellow passenger lent him a phone.
“I told him, ‘Just pray,'” Yangkey said. “That’s all we can do.”
One of Tsering’s friends, Claudia Putnam, of Jamestown, said Wednesday that she planned to light candles at 1 a.m., when Tsering’s plane was scheduled to land in Nepal.
“If, by some miracle, he passes customs and is released on the street, I’m hoping he’ll find a way to call or e-mail using an Internet cafe,” Putnam said.
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