The chief judge of the US District Court in Boston lashed out at Congress yesterday, saying it has put a ''chokehold" on his court, stripping it of the authority to rule on deportation cases.
In a scathing, 107-page ruling, Judge William G. Young said he was prepared to halt the deportation of a Nigerian national, Frank Enwonwu, who contends the government promised he could stay in the United States after he was arrested on drug charges in 1986.
But Young said Congress, in a ''virtually unprecedented" attack on judicial independence, took that decision out of his hands in May when it passed the REAL ID Act, a law that makes it harder for immigrants to gain amnesty.
''How can this be in modern-day America?" he wrote.
Young said he is required by law to transfer Enwonwu's case to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Young argued that the new law endangers immigrants like Enwonwu, 56.
''Congress does not much care about immigrant aliens, even those who, after endangering themselves assisting our law enforcement efforts to stem international drug trade, are deported into the hands of the very drug traders upon whom they have informed," he wrote.
Young recommended the release of Enwonwu, who has been jailed for 303 days, while he awaits a final ruling from the courts.
Enwonwu, who attended Tufts University in the 1970s, contends he was promised a free trip back to Boston in 1986 by a Nigerian Army officer who wanted a guide to show him around the city. Just hours before his flight, Enwonwu contends, he was told to conceal bags of heroin in his rectum. He was arrested at Logan International Airport when customs officials detected the drugs. He later pleaded guilty to heroin importation charges and received a two-year suspended sentence.