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Advocacy of Communism Charged : Judge Decides Feminist Poet Should Be Deported

September 03, 1986|ELIZABETH MEHREN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A federal immigration judge in El Paso, Tex., has ruled that 50-year-old feminist poet and writer Margaret Randall should be deported on grounds that her writings advocate the doctrines of world communism.

Martin Spiegel, a judge in the Executive Office for Immigration Review, actually reached his decision late last week, but holiday weekend delays in the mails prevented Randall and her lawyers from learning of his verdict until Tuesday.

From her home in Albuquerque, Randall immediately said she will appeal the judgment.

"I am disappointed, of course," Randall said, "but this is just a battle. It's not the war."

Vows to Pursue Case

Her lawyer, David Cole of the Center for Constitutional Rights here, echoed Randall's sentiment, saying the decision would be appealed first to the Board of Immigration Appeals, "and if we lose there, to the federal court of appeals."

Nineteen years ago, while living in Mexico City with her husband and three children, New York-born Randall had relinquished her American citizenship in what she says now was an effort to secure gainful employment in Mexico. She later lived in Cuba and Nicaragua and made several visits to North Vietnam.

In January, 1984, Randall returned to the United States to assume a teaching position at the University of New Mexico. Now married to American poet Floyce Alexander, Randall was seeking permanent resident status, enabling her to stay in this country indefinitely.

Writings at Issue

In its charges against her, the government had contended that Randall's 40 books and extensive writings expressed political beliefs that made her excludable from this country under terms of the McCarren-Walter Act of 1952. That statute allows the United States to deny entry to any person who has been associated with communist or anarchist organizations or has espoused those doctrines.

Randall's case has attracted national attention. A group organized to support the author, the Margaret Randall Legal Defense Committee, numbers such prominent literary names as Edward Albee, E.L. Doctorow, Arthur Miller, Grace Paley, Studs Terkel, Kurt Vonnegut and Alice Walker. Along with that defense committee, the PEN American Center has joined with the Center for Constitutional Rights to file a still-pending federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the McCarren-Walter Act.

Immigration judge Spiegel said he was basing his decision in the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the judicial arm of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, on 2,744 pages of Randall's writings. He cited no evidence of Communist Party membership on Randall's part.

His decision referred specifically to at least two of Randall's books, "Spirit of the People" and "Cuban Women Now." Spiegel termed the latter book "consistent in its praise for the efforts of the Castro communist revolution in improving women's rights."

Lengthy Appeals Process

Although Spiegel himself fails to define the term "world communism," Cole said that under the statute "it means advocating the imposition of totalitarian dictatorships throughout the world by means of an international communist conspiracy."

While Spiegel's decision technically requires Randall to leave the country by Dec. 1, Cole said she would be allowed to remain with her husband and family for the duration of what could be a lengthy appeals process.

In Albuquerque, Randall said that "I'd hoped it would have gone the other direction, but my fighting spirit hasn't gone away.

"As we appeal it," she said, "I am going to go on with my life as usual."

Conceding that she was "a little surprised, yes," Randall stressed however that "I think this should be kept in perspective." When she learned of Spiegel's decision, she had just returned from a local hospital "where a student of mine is dying of cancer.

"People have things to bear," Randall said. "This is what I have to bear right now. I still feel it's an important fight, not just for myself, but for others as well."

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