The denial follows four incidents in recent weeks in which Irish green card holders with U.S. criminal records have been questioned after arriving at Logan and ordered to appear before an immigration judge.
The individuals concerned had been under the impression that the matter of their records was separate and distinct to their immigration status.
Additionally, immigrant advocates in Boston said they had detected a general increase in the number of arrivals from Ireland who had been turned back at Logan airport in the last couple of months.
The issuing of summonses for court appearances and the entry refusals come against the backdrop of post-9/11 tightened scrutiny at the nation’s entry points and a Supreme Court ruling allowing the government to hold legal immigrants who have committed serious crimes in jail while they await deportation hearings.
The four individuals questioned at Logan were all released because their cases had been resolved before the courts some time ago. However, the individuals do now face potential exclusion from the U.S. under retroactive parts of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
Paula Grenier, spokeswoman for the Boston Office of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which comes under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, said the individuals were not questioned at Logan because they were Irish.
“There is no way a targeting of Irish nationals or a specific carrier,” Grenier said. “All commercial airlines are required to supply an advance passenger manifest and this is checked against a data base.”
She said that this system had been operating for the last year and it was merely coincidence that the four cases involving Irish nationals had arisen in recent weeks.
Grenier added that even though the four individuals had been permitted to pass through the U.S. immigration facilities at either Dublin or Shannon Airports, this did not mean that they had been fully cleared to reenter the U.S.
“Pre-flight inspection does not mean pre-clearance,” Grenier said.
The government could re-inspect anyone at anytime before the person was totally cleared for entry to the U.S.
Grenier said that criminal issues from a person’s past were relevant even years later though the matter of admittance to the U.S., or refusal of entry, was “not a done deal.”
“Immigration judges will look at the merits in each case and a judge can grant relief,” she said.
Grenier said that once court proceedings took place, an individual who was being allowed remain in the U.S. would be given a copy of the judge’s determination in the case.
She said it would then be “unlikely” that an individual granted relief would experience travel problems in the future “because we will have the necessary information.”
Meanwhile, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision applies to legal immigrants facing deportation who have already served prison sentences for serious offenses. The decision upheld a part of the 1996 act which had been in dispute. The case for upholding the act in its entirety was brought before the court by the Bush administration.
News services reported that thousands of legal residents, currently free on bond and fighting deportation as a result of criminal convictions of widely varying seriousness, could now be jailed.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in speaking for the majority, stated that Congress, “justifiably concerned that deportable criminal aliens who are not detained continue to engage in crime and fail to appear for their removal hearings in large numbers, may require that persons . . . be detained for the brief period necessary for their removal proceedings.”
The dissenting minority argued that permanent residents enjoyed more rights in deportation cases than illegal immigrants.
The court decision came just days after Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a legal opinion, stated that most illegal immigrants can be detained indefinitely without bond if the government determines that national security is at risk.
The opinion was requested by the Department of Homeland Security in the context of an ongoing asylum case.