rn: Ira Zbarsky & the US INS


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

Ira Zbarsky is a Canadian activist (for organic agriculture, appropriate
technology & native rights in particular) who was seized by the US
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on Dec. 4, 1999 because of a
1978 marijuana conviction in Canada. (The marijuana was being used for
medical purposes.)

After more than 2 months in detention without trial, Ira Zbarsky was ordered
deported yesterday. During those two months, Ira worked with other detainees
to call attention to deplorable conditions at the camp and to human rights
abuses there. He had hoped for a fair trial yesterday but the trial was
anything but fair. For me and some 2000 other people who have been following
this case it is now clear that the way the INS operates fits right in with
the way much of the US government operates: defiance of international law
and basic human rights, threats to the sovereignty of other nations, a net
effect of undermining efforts towards a livable world.

The excerpts from the press release and other information below will fill
you in on some details and provide information for those of you wanting to
follow-up on this.

all the best, jan
From: •••@••.•••
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 03:18:43 EST
Subject: zbarsky release 02.07
To: •••@••.•••


Canadian Consular Representative Pre-empted

February 7, 2000 -- Vancouver, BC -- Ira Zbarsky, the Canadian development 
worker detained since December 4, 1999, at an immigration prison in Texas, 
was ordered deported today by US Immigration Judge Tovar. 

Mr. Zbarsky said to Suzanne Rose this morning, "Judge Tovar told that me that 
he was deporting me without reading my evidence or hearing my arguments." 
Zbarsky added, "I have spent two months working under the impression that I 
would be given a fair hearing both for myself and for numerous detainees 
here. My experience today shows that that was a complete waste of time."

Mr. Zbarsky observed that he did not get a fair hearing. In fact, he reported 
that, "this morning at breakfast, two witnesses said that immigration 
officials were telling them at 7:00 AM that I was being deported tomorrow." 
This was, of course, before his hearing had taken place. 

Mr. Zbarsky's hearing time began at 10:00 AM local time, three hours in 
advance of the scheduled hearing time. John Morrow, the Canadian consular 
representative from Dallas, Texas, phoned the prison at 9:00 AM to say that 
he would be present at the court by 11:00 AM, two hours before the scheduled 
time of 1:00 PM in order to ensure that he could personally witness Zbarsky's 
hearing before the judge. But by 11:00 AM, Mr. Zbarsky had been ordered 
deported and his hearing was over. 

Lazar Puhalo, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, and a 
member of the Human Rights Institute of Canada commented, "The Zbarsky case 
raises serious questions about American regard for Canadian sovereignty. It 
also raises questions as to how freely American authorities can access 
records on Canadian citizens in Canada. The United States consistently shows 
a callous disregard for international law."

Ira Zbarsky, a Canadian citizen, has been at the US Immigration and 
Naturalization Service (INS) Port Isabel Service Processing Center, Los 
Fresnos, Texas (aside from short periods in other jails) since December 4, 
1999. Mr. Zbarsky has been detained as part of a US Immigration "removal 
process" based on a minor Canadian conviction that occurred 22 years ago.

Nathan Selzer, the INS abuse researcher for Proyecto Libertad and the 
American Friends Service Committee, has been working with Ira Zbarsky to 
document the abuse in the US INS system. "While the conditions of the [US] 
detention centers and prisons, where approximately 35,000 immigrants are
held on any given day, are cause for great concern for me and many others, I 
have equal if not even greater concern for the million people who reside in 
deep south Texas along the border, a quarter of whom (if not more) live in 
constant fear given the intense militarization within our community. I am 
very grateful to Ira for his efforts within the camp, as this fear can only 
be overcome via trusting relationships, as he has developed with many during 
his detention. ... I don't expect things to be resolved tomorrow, but slowly, 
'poco a poco', through the concerted efforts of persons of good will and 
those most impacted by the harshness of US immigration policy, we will change 
our societies," said Selzer.

Suzanne Rose, co-ordinator of the support for Ira Zbarsky, said, "We are 
appalled by what we continue to learn about the US INS -- its systematic 
humiliation of detainees, its systematic violation of their human and legal 
rights, and its mockery of due process in deportation proceedings. We expect 
the US government to comply with United Nations and other international laws 
for the treatment of all detainees, including migrants and asylum seekers as 
well as Canadian visitors such as Ira Zbarsky."

"We continue to call on the Canadian government to consider carefully its 
policies of sharing information with US police and immigration authorities, 
given that Canadian citizens can be detained in US prisons that violate 
United Nations principles on detainees and basic Canadian rights. We ask the 
Canadian government to ensure that it maintains policies independent of the 
US on criminal law, immigration law, surveillance of citizens, and the 
sharing of legal and criminal information with the US. And we call on the 
Canadian government to assist Mr. Zbarsky with any legal action he may take 
once he has returned to Canada, and help ensure the return of the truck he 
was driving and its contents," Rose added.


For more information, please contact: 
Suzanne Rose, Phone/Fax: 604-931-1396, Email: •••@••.••• 
Kevan Hudson, Phone: 604-274-1191, Fax: 604-274-1198, Email:
Steve Kisby, Phone: 604-323-0204, Fax: 604-323-0224, Email: •••@••.••• 
Nathan Selzer, Proyecto Libertad, Phone: 956-425-9552 
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Email: •••@••.•••


February 7, 2000 
By Suzanne Rose

Ira Zbarsky is a Canadian citizen, who resides in Vancouver. He was raised in 
 Montreal. As a young man he worked on a kibbutz in Israel. In the 1970's and 
 1980's, he organized the cooperative production and distribution of organic  
food in the Interior of British Columbia (BC), Canada's western-most  
province. He has a special love for orchards and farming. Mr. Zbarsky has  
devoted many years to green issues: the permaculture, organic food,  
cooperative and bioregional movements, and Green politics. He has served as 
external secretary for the Green Party of British Columbia and for the Green  
Party of Canada. He has also supported aboriginal issues. 

Mr. Zbarsky has spent the last ten years working with Mayans in Guatemala and 
 Southern Mexico. He is the project director for SAPED (Shuswap Association  
for the Promotion of Eco-Desarrollo), a registered  Canadian charity formed  
in 1990 and based in Vancouver, BC. SAPED's goals are to promote  
community-based, ecologically-responsible and culturally-respectful  
development, using principles of mutual aid, appropriate technology, energy  
conservation and permaculture.

For much of the year, Mr. Zbarsky is in the Western Highlands in Guatemala  
and Mexico, working with several Mayan coalitions, each serving many  
community groups of Mayans. These people are working with SAPED through Mr.  
Zbarsky on projects such as natural plant dyeing, medicinal herb gardens,  
livestock shelters, hand-crank roof tiles, tree nurseries, greenhouses,  
pedal-powered grain grinders, energy-conserving stoves, sewing and typing  
academies. He is also assisting with setting up an indigenous rights and 
training center and a natural agriculture center in the region.  

Ira Zbarsky was returning from work in Guatemala and Southern Mexico when he  
was arrested and detained by US Immigration on December 4, 1999, at Roma,  
Texas. At that time, the truck he was driving was seized. It was carrying  
textiles from Guatemala and organic coffee from Southern Mexico, to be sold 
in Canada as part of a fair trade exchange. Although Mr. Zbarsky has  
travelled through the US many times, he was this time detained based on a  
conviction which appears in a computer database which the US  Immigration  
officials were using. Mr. Zbarsky was convicted in 1978 for possession of  
marijuana (for medical purposes). His fine in 1978 was $25.00, which is so  
low that it suggests there were mitigating circumstances. 

December 8-15 
After public complaint on his own behalf, Ira Zbarsky was transferred from  
jail to jail in shackles on arms and legs, and kept for 5 of those days in  
solitary confinement. Mr. Zbarsky's shoulder and back were injured when he  
fell while in shackles. 
December 22 
Mr. Zbarsky, plus 18 other detainees, submitted a letter requesting hot  
water, warm clothing, conjugal visits, among other concerns. He also  
requested help from outside the prison for a Muslim detainee from Burkina 
Faso, Fousseni Banao, and for visits by prison monitors. Mr. Zbarsky, after  
requesting access to his mail that day, was pushed by two guards against a  
metal pipe and cursed at. Mr. Zbarsky went on a hunger strike, requesting a  
written apology for gross disrespect and a general tribunal process for  
detainee complaints.  
December 30 
Mr. Zbarsky ended his hunger strike. Head supervisor Jesus Rosales agreed to  
the setting up of a tribunal process to hear detainee complaints.   
January 7-10 
Mr. Zbarsky learned of the beatings that had just occurred to Alex Seymour  
Kerr, a Jamaican detainee in the same facility.  
January 10 
 Mr. Zbarsky submitted letters to head supervisors Jesus Rosales and Yza  
Guirre, calling for an inquiry into the beatings of Mr. Kerr, the recognition 
 of the right of bail for Texas residents, and a complaint process for 
problems with heath services. He threatened to go on another hunger strike.  
Mr. Rosales agreed to the inquiry and to direct access to the medical chief  
Dr. Freeth for complaints. 
January 14 
Mr. Zbarsky submitted a letter to an INS guard for delivery to Mr. Rosales  
and Yza Guirre, requesting the ending of body searches when detainees leave  
the dining area. He was pushed around, yelled at, and cursed at by three INS  
guards. He then sent a letter to the head of the INS, Ms. Doris Meissner,  
asking for improved training of guards in order that they might treat  
detainees with respect. 
January 24 
Mr. Zbarsky has submitted with other detainees a letter requesting that male  
guards refrain from watching surveillance videos of female detainees. He also 
 started another hunger strike to demand from authorities that they put in  
writing their earlier promise to set up a tribunal process for detainees,  
given that they had not conducted an inquiry process into the beatings of Mr. 
 Kerr, who has since been moved out of the facility.  
January 25 
About 40-50 detainees meet publicly to plan a protest against the slow  
removal process. 
January 26 
About 30 detainees started a hunger strike and petitioned the authorities  
requesting the speed-up of the removal process through faster release,  
deportation, or access to bail, unless the person is considered a risk to the 
 US government or a flight risk.
January 27 
INS authorities promised to investigate thoroughly the cases of the strikers  
plus certain other cases. Several detainees are deported or released on bail. 
January 28  
Ira Zbarsky and one other man remained on the hunger strike, seeking that 
E.M. Trominski, a higher-level INS authority, investigate the systematic long 
 delays in processing detainees. 
January 29
Zbarsky was again placed in solitary confinement, inside the prison's medical 
February 1
Ira Zbarsky terminated his hunger strike due to medical reasons. He was  then 
released from solitary confinement. 
February 7
Before his hearing, Ira Zbarsky participated in a large public protest  
against unwarranted body searches. 

Mr. Zbarsky is documenting the incidents of abuse and disrespect that he is  
aware of. He is passing them on to Nathan Selzer [956-425-9552], a detainee  
abuse researcher with the Prison Monitoring Program of the American Friends  
Service Committee, of Philadelphia, and Proyecto Libertad, of Harlingen,  
Texas. He is  preparing documentation of the psychological abuse of detainees 
 for an INS psychologist. 

Issa Smith [703-620-0134] of The Muslim Immigration and Refugee Service of  
Washington, DC, is also supporting Mr. Zbarsky's efforts on behalf of  

Suzanne Rose has a summary of the relevant United Nations convenants and  
rules, and a list of websites pertaining to US INS prison abuses and  
violations of human rights.

Suzanne Rose, Phone/Fax: 604-931-1396, Email: •••@••.••• 
Kevan Hudson, Phone: 604-274-1191, Fax: 604-274-1198, Email:
Steve Kisby, Phone: 604-323-0204, Fax: 604-323-0224, Email: •••@••.•••
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 03:15:11 EST
Subject: zbarsky action #15

I have enclosed a letter about Ira's work, through SAPED. If you have 
specific ways to help SAPED, send an email to •••@••.•••. Ira will be 
very busy in the weeks ahead, so please be brief and focused.
He looks forward to resuming his work in the South.

The collect phone bill for Ira Zbarsky is over $500.00. It is billed to 
Denise Velay, my sister, whose house I have been staying in to do this 
campaign. If you can send a donation to help pay this bill, please make out 
the cheque to Denise Velay. Please mark it "Zbarsky collect phone calls" and 
mail it to 
Denise Velay, 818 Henderson Avenue, Coquitlam, BC V3K 1P2
As this is not a SAPED donation,  you would not receive a tax receipt, just 
our gratitude.

If you want to find out more about the immigration advocacy movement in the 
United States, here are the websites.
www.aclu.org            American Civil Liberties Union   
www.afsc.org            American Friends Service Committee  
www.amnestyusa.org          Amnesty International
www.irsa-uscr.org       Immigration and Refugee Services of America
www.hrw.org         Human Rights Watch 
www.lirs.org            Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
www.nnirr.org           The National Network for Immigrants and Refugees 
www.tifa.org            Texas Inmate Family Association
•••@••.•••      Immigrants Rights Movement
•••@••.•••        Muslim Immigration and Refugee Services

These are other websites you may find interesting:
www.canadians.org       Council of Canadians: sovereignty issues 
www.ccaft.org           Canadians Concerned about Free Trade
www.davidorchard.com        Canadian sovereignty issues
www.ins.usdoj.gov       US Department of Justice: INS law
www.lisn.net  leonard peltier   Support for Leonard Peltier: in US prison 
almost 25 years
www.thecompassionclub.org   Support for medical use of marijuana
www.torchlake.com       Ex-border guard for Port Isabel prison, who has
exposed abuse there

Thank you for all your support. As Ira Zbarsky has desired, we have managed 
to retain confidentiality of his legal plans, we have focused on the INS 
abuses, and we stayed out of the mainstream media almost to the planned press 
release time, January 12.
Thank you for your endurance: only two people have unsubscribed from  this 
list in the last 9 weeks.

It has been a pleasure to be part of this support group. It has been 12 hours 
per day for 9 weeks, in a city, far from my home village. I have missed folks 
just stopping by for tea, sharing garden plants, community stories, a warm 
hug, or just the view of the eagles out at sea. I wish to thank those of you 
who sent me words of kind encouragement during one of the most challenging 
times of my life. 

You are an amazing cross-section of supporters. Perhaps over 2000 people 
around North America and Europe will receive this alert. Most of you are 
seriously  involved in fair trade, food security, forestry, green, human 
rights, indigenous, Mayan, medical aid, nonviolence, permaculture, and 
sovereignty issues. Thank you for taking on immigration and prison issues on 
Ira Zbarsky's behalf.
Thank you very much for your enthusiasm and indignation and concrete effort 
on behalf of the INS detainees. The combination of Ira's bravery and  your 
support has delivered a clear message to the INS --  just as non-land-owners, 
and people of colour, and women  have struggled for and obtained their civil 
rights, we expect non-citizens to gain their civil rights as well. . 

Nathan Selzer of Proyecto Libertad, who has been working with Ira Zbarsky, 
battles US INS abuse of detainees as a full-time commitment. He told me 
" Far too many in the U.S. and other "developed" countries accept such 
treatment as the standard and the norm as the punitive climate that has 
overcome the "first world" continues to gain strength. The powers that be 
are, and have been, decidedly against us in our struggle to have the right of 
human mobility recognized as the fundamental human right that it is. I don't 
expect things to be resolved tomorrow, but slowly,  'poco a poco', through 
the concerted efforts of persons of good will and those most impacted by the 
harshness of U.S. immigration policy, we will change our societies."

I am glad, and I believe you are glad, that we could lend a hand to this 

Suzanne Rose
for Ira Zbarsky
for SAPED and the Ira Zbarsky Support Committee
(604) 931-1396  •••@••.•••

Dear Reader

Thank you for your interest in SAPED and its work in Guatemala and Southern 

SAPED is a British Columbia-based registered charitable organization, founded 
in 1990. SAPED promotes: co-operative local economies, appropriate 
technologies, ecologically-based development, permaculture-based land use, 
indigenous cultural survival, and community-based organizations. The project 
director, Ira Zbarsky, has spent 10 years working with organizations in 
Guatemala and Chiapas. 

The people of the Central Highlands in Chiapas and Guatemala are Mayan 
peasants. They have traditionally produced what they need: shelter, food, 
medicine and clothing. They want technologies that respect their Mayan 
culture, restore their land base ecologically, conserve energy, and foster 
co-operation. They want economic self-reliance, in order to produce what they 
need, sell what they produce at fair price, and defend their own regional and 
cultural values. They want their own strong organizations to obtain 
resources, promote their values, and defend their leaders.

Throughout the Central Highlands, Mayans are experimenting. They work in 
community organizations on their own development projects. SAPED, through Ira 
Zbarsky’s work, has assisted with the following types of projects.
FOOD: greenhouses for vegetables, fruit orchards, livestock feed production, 
pedal-powered grain grinders and workshops
SHELTER AND CLOTHING: hand-cranked roof tiles, livestock shelters from scrap 
wood, plant-based fiber dying 
HEALTH: plant-based water treatment, medicinal herb nurseries 
EDUCATION: typing and sewing academies, community workshops
ECONOMY: revolving loan funds, production for local consumption.  
Mayans are dealing with cultural change on their own terms: making economic 
and technological changes without sacrificing  their own values and way of 

You can do the following:
· join SAPED: give $25.00 a year and receive the newsletter
· donate money to SAPED and receive a tax receipt
· donate tools: bicycle parts, sewing machines, typewriters etc.
· help raise funds: hold events, research donors, find outlets to sell Mayan 
crafts and coffee
· help spread the word: arrange meetings or slideshows
· provide needed information; for example, on plant-based water treatment

If you want to contact us...
* phone Kevan at (604) 274-1191
* email to •••@••.••• 
* write to SAPED, 818 Henderson Road, Coquitlam, BC, V3K1P2 Canada
Please send us your name and mailing address.
Email address is preferred for the newsletter list.