[Stop-traffic] News/US: Smuggling case ends in mistrial

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Smuggling case ends in mistrial
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Oct 24 2000 - 12:07:01 EDT


Smuggling case ends in mistrial
By David Kidwell
The Miami Herald, October 19, 2000

The alien-smuggling trial of 59-year-old Jamaican Gwendolyn Fyffe ended in
a mistrial on Wednesday after a federal judge ordered DNA tests to
establish whether she is actually the grandmother of the toddler she's
charged with trying to sneak into the country.

Fyffe said she didn't know the girl was her progeny, and that she was
conned by her own daughter who provided a fake birth certificate and other
documents to persuade Fyffe to bring the little girl to the U.S. ``for a
friend'' on June 2.

Fyffe said her daughter, Debbie Barnes, had the baby out of wedlock and was
embarrassed to tell her mother the child's true identity.

Immigration officials spotted the phony documents at Miami International
Airport, and have had Fyffe, Barnes and the child in federal custody ever
since. Barnes pleaded guilty in September and awaits deportation.

Federal authorities said Fyffe knew what she was doing, that she lied to
airport officers and presented the false documents.

Prosecutors suggested the maternity issue could be a ploy to win sympathy
for Fyffe. She has brought Jamaican children to the United States on at
least two other occasions, records show.

A week into the trial, an exasperated U.S. District Judge Ursula
Ungaro-Benages concluded Wednesday that justice is moving too fast for
bureaucracy. Since the maternity tests usually take weeks, she discharged
the jury and ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service to test
both baby and mother immediately.

Ungaro-Benages placed blame for the hold-up on Barnes, who waited in
custody three months -- until Sept. 13 -- to come forward and claim the
child was hers.

If the tests prove Fyffe is the grandmother, U.S. prosecutor Richard Hong
has agreed to drop the charges against her as part of a pretrial diversion
program.

If she is not the grandmother, federal authorities will likely seek to
retry her on the smuggling charges.

Although Fyffe was allowed to post bond on the criminal charge, INS has
asked that she be detained at Krome Detention Center for deportation
proceedings while she awaits a decision on the criminal case.

Her attorney is expected to argue for her release before an immigration judge.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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Stop-Traffic is an open, facilitated, international electronic list
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for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) that addresses human
rights abuses associated with trafficking in persons, with a strong
emphasis on public health. The focus of Stop-Traffic is the
trafficking in persons into sweatshop labor, domestic servitude,
forced prostitution, forced agricultural labor and coercive
mail-order bride arrangements. Trafficking in people for forced
labor is an ever-growing worldwide phenomena that affects the health
and well-being of millions of women, men and children.
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