WASHINGTON — A Dutch citizen with AIDS spent his fifth day in a Minnesota lockup Thursday as U.S. immigration authorities remained undecided on whether to waive a law and let him attend an AIDS health conference in San Francisco that ends Saturday.
An immigration official in St. Paul, Minn., said he had recommended Hans Paul Verhoef's release but that a higher-up in Washington would not complete his review of the decision until today.
Verhoef, a 31-year-old resident of Delft in the Netherlands, was arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service Sunday night under a 1987 law barring AIDS patients from entering the United States. He admitted that he has the deadly disease after the drug AZT was found in his luggage at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, where he had stopped en route to the AIDS conference.
Being Treated 'Fairly Well'
In a phone interview from the state maximum-security prison where he is being held, Verhoef told The Times Thursday night that he is being treated "fairly well" and that sympathetic prison officials had taken him out to breakfast at a restaurant.
"The INS people are the bad guys," he said. "I told them they should put their energy into a worldwide program to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus and not into laws that don't work."
He also told INS officials that "this law is like trying to stop water with a fishing net. There are thousands of people traveling across the water with the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection."
The 1987 statute added AIDS to a list of seven communicable and infectious diseases that are grounds for barring a foreigner's entry into the United States. INS maintains the law applies to all those arriving here, but others claim it was not meant to cover tourists.
Verhoef's detention sparked protests that it violated a World Health Organization agreement on travel by AIDS patients.
Thomas J. Schiltgen, INS district director in St. Paul, said he recommended approval of a waiver because Verhoef had met three tests: "the danger to the public health is minimal, the possibility of spreading the disease is minimal and no costs are to be incurred by the government."
An appeals hearing was set for this afternoon in St. Paul in the event the waiver is rejected in Washington.