Young Syrian Refugee Returns to St. Thomas to Face Trial

The 18-year-old Syrian refugee who surrendered himself at a St. Thomas police station in March returned Monday to the island, where he is expected to face trial on charges of illegal entry into the United States.

Defendant George Soufan was allowed by a federal court to choose whether to be prosecuted in the jurisdiction where he was arrested.

Between the time he made his way into the territory with help from a trafficker and his Monday pre-trial appearance, Soufan was seized by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service and taken to an immigration detention center in Florida. By that time he had made an initial appearance in St. Thomas District Court and had been released on bond by U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller.

In the court filing that described the circumstances of his arrival on St. John, the defendant told authorities he came by boat from neighboring St. Martin after fleeing Syria with his father two years earlier. After Soufan’s removal from the territory in mid-April, Federal Public Defender Gabriel Villegas filed a series of habeas corpus writs in order to have Soufan prosecuted on St. Thomas.

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The effort showed some initial success when the defendant was flown back to the territory to answer a single-count indictment on illegal entry filed April 4.

By April 23 an order was filed in District Court, citing United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 3401 that said: “The court hereby designates Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller to exercise jurisdiction in this matter to the extent that Defendant George Soufan consents to such jurisdiction on the record.”

By Monday, Soufan’s consent became apparent. He and his lawyer complied with a court order compelling him to appear at a pretrial hearing. From there, he prepares for the start of a June 3 trial before District Court Judge Curtis Gomez.

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6 COMMENTS

      • Dear Average Joe ,

        There exists not , not even one single Syrian here in the USVI , meaning this young lad has no Family nor even friends of family here. I’m Israeli and I attest and assure you such. Although I’m glad we got tons of perhaps most humans are less than the average Joe as you are. Continue on with your offspring Joe .

      • Dear Average Joe anonymous – and so what if indeed he wants and receives free benefits. Any system is designed not by default but by purpose to be used. It can work for you or against you. What ever floats your boat. Stop acting and pretending like people owe you. People like you kid your self by really believing you are entitled to say or do as you please just because you pay some sort of taxes.

        If indeed you believe you are empowered , I just you camp at the legislator and voice your tongue. Other wise Kick Rocks because you shall never make a poop of a difference and all things will come to an end cause that’s how life grabs us by the horns either six foot under or some morons choose to have their ashes contaminate the ocean for a few minutes….
        Shalom

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