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National Perspective | IMMIGRATION

Entry of Foreign Extremists Into the U.S. Raises Concerns

September 28, 2000|STEPHEN BRAUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Hendrik Mobus' American journey started at the airport in Seattle--and ended seven months later in an upstate New York immigration detention center. His travels along the way, in the company of several of this nation's most active white supremacists, have highlighted the growing ease and frequency of visits by foreign neo-Nazi extremists.

A spectral, long-haired German who forged a reputation in white power circles as a producer of "black metal" hate rock, the 24-year-old Mobus was on the run when he arrived in the U.S. last December. Convicted in 1994 in the strangulation of a teenager, Mobus fled Germany after allegedly violating his parole by demeaning his victim as a "'non-Aryan" and then making a stiff-armed Nazi salute in public. Both actions are crimes in his native country.

Gaining entry on a 90-day visa waiver, Mobus stayed with supremacist friends and roosted at the West Virginia headquarters of William Pierce--leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and author of "The Turner Diaries." The anti-Semitic novel was an inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh.

Mobus, who was apprehended last month by federal marshals, now faces deportation. He is asking for asylum to avoid what his supporters describe as political persecution in Germany--a porous legal claim that is only stalling his inevitable departure, federal authorities say.

"It's a concern that [extremists] have this kind of access," said Melvin W. Kahle, U.S. attorney for West Virginia. "Freedom of expression is something we always need to be mindful of. But this case shows there needs to be more scrutiny on those coming into this country."

Veteran observers of domestic extremist groups say the interlacing of home-grown racists with those from abroad is worrisome because of heightened evidence of shared resources.

Already, European white supremacists are turning to their counterparts here to set up Web sites that are illegal outside the U.S. Their growing tie "pipes the leadership here and abroad into each other," said Joe Roy, director of intelligence for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mobus' visit was the latest in a flurry of U.S. appearances in recent years by extremists from England, Scotland, Germany and South Africa, Roy said. Even more worrisome, he added, is the "possibility that assets in foreign countries may become available for groups here."

Mobus appears to have benefited from that financial backing. Both anti-extremist monitors and a lawyer who works for the National Alliance said Mobus' air fare was paid for by an American white supremacist. Victor Gerhard, a lawyer for Pierce's book publishing unit who has advised Mobus, said the U.S. contact had "sought his expertise in putting together record deals and paid for him to get over."

When the two men had a falling out, Gerhard said, Mobus headed east, finding shelter with white power music devotees and Internet contacts. In West Virginia, Mobus stayed at the 346-acre compound where Pierce distributes racist tracts and white power rock recordings. Both Pierce and Gerhard insist they had no idea that Mobus had overstayed his visa or was being sought by German authorities.

"All I knew was he didn't want to go back," said Pierce, who insists Mobus would be left alone by the U.S. government if he were "a Jew." Pierce is paying for Mobus' legal fight.

"The more these groups work together," Roy said, "the more it expands their base of operation and opens up the chances for recruitment."

Mobus has been incommunicado since marshals surrounded him Aug. 26 outside a restaurant in Lewisburg, W. Va. Accusing him of lying on a federal entry form about his criminal past, prosecutors at first had planned to extradite him.

But a warning by Mobus' court-appointed defender that he would challenge extradition on the grounds that it could not be used for political crimes forced the government to shift gears. On Sept. 11, 10 days after Mobus wrote President Clinton to ask for asylum, prosecutors dropped the extradition request, opting to deport him instead.

Held at an Immigration and Naturalization Service detention center in Batavia, 30 miles east of Buffalo, Mobus faces a deportation hearing next month. His asylum request could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

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