Despite the fact that Nazi war criminal Jakiw Palij was ordered removed from the United States in 2004, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it has been unable to follow through for more than a decade.
And while there seems to be little trouble ousting run-of-the-mill undocumented immigrants -- even U.S. war veterans -- Palij will likely spend the remainder of his life in his comfortable New York home.
During the first three months of ICE’s 2018 fiscal year, the agency deported 56,710 people, 46 percent of whom had not been convicted of a crime. This year, ICE expects to deport 209,000 people (PDF). It is highly unlikely that Palij will be among them—even though Palij is a war criminal, the last Nazi war criminal living in the United States.
Who is Jakiw Palij?
Palij came to the U.S. in 1949, omitting his Nazi history from immigration forms, and later was granted U.S. citizenship. During the war, Palij was a guard at the Trawniki labor camp, which also served as a training ground for "Operation Reinhard" -- a plan for the extermination of every Jew in German-occupied Poland.
“During a single nightmarish day in November 1943, all of the more than 6,000 prisoners of the Nazi camp that Jakiw Palij had guarded were systematically butchered,” Eli Rosenbaum, head of the Justice Department’sOffice of Special Investigations (OSI), said after the ruling. “By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis.”
Why is Palij still in the United States, having been stripped of naturalization in 2004?
Apparently no other country will take him:
As Rosenbaum told The Daily Beast in an email, “Unfortunately, the governments of Germany, Ukraine and Poland have declined to admit Palij and no other nation has agreed to accept him.”
The situation becomes far more incredulous when ICE has been able to deport so many others who have lived far more honorable lives than Palij.
On Friday, a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan was deported back to Mexico.
Miguel Perez Jr., 39, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8, according to the Chicago Tribune. Perez, who held a green card, attempted to retroactively gain citizenship as a veteran but was denied due to a felony drug conviction.
Perez mistakenly believed that he automatically became a citizen when he enlisted, according to Slate, a fate that has befallen a number of veterans who have arrived in the U.S. and then joined the military in a quest to become citizens.
Once returned from active duty, Perez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.
“After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs,” said Perez last month. “But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable.”
In 2008 Perez was caught attempting to sell two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with the incident. Perez was being let off early when he was then transferred to ICE custody for deportation.
This is when Perez discovered he was not a U.S. citizen after all, but when he attempted to gain retroactive legal status, he was denied due to his lack of "good moral character".