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'Trouble at El Centro'

June 19, 1985

Your editorial (June 10), "Trouble at El Centro," on the El Centro detention facility seriously mischaracterizes the issues and reflects what appears to be a bias against the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the immigration laws in general.

You state, as fact, that, "Once the strike had started, officials first isolated the handful of inmates who were suspected of being strike leaders, then began transferring them to other immigration facilities without informing their attorneys or relatives that they had been moved." These things did not happen, and are precisely the matters that the plaintiffs failed to prove to U.S. Distrtict Judge David V. Kenyon.

It is because they failed to prove these matters that the judge did not grant the temporary restraining order they had sought. The evidence in court demonstrated that only two inmates were transferred to other INS facilities during he week of the strike. The evidence further demonstrated that those inmates were transferred to San Francisco and Los Angeles because they had hearings scheduled at those locations.

Both aliens are Iranian nationals who, to our knowledge, did not participate in the strike. Your statements could not have been more wrong, and could have been easily checked by reference to the official court record.

Your editorial also makes the misleading statement that, "Additionally, officials at the detention camp had denied some attorneys access to inmates who were their clients just before the strike began." The fact is that for two days, all visitation at the facility was canceled because approximately half the inmate population refused to move from the recreation area. The facility was locked down, just as any federal detention facility would be during a time of inmate disturbance.

Your editorial then waxes poetic on the injustice of "spiriting away people in custody without giving them access to attorneys or notifying their families." Stirring words, but nothing more than words.

There is an apparent tendency for some to believe anything they hear that is critical of the INS. I would expect a publication such as The Times to take a more responsible approach, and check the facts before basing its editorial views on assumptions of fact.

The INS has a tough, usually thankless task to perform in enforcing our nation's immigration laws. If you are going to turn the INS into a "whipping boy," at least get your facts straight first.

ROBERT C. BONNER

U.S. Attorney

Los Angeles

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