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NC Case Illustrates Immigration Power Abuse

July 19, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's a story that seems like it was ripped from the script of a TV movie, but for a North Carolina immigrant this tale of abuse sheds light on the many challenges immigrants face when the system breaks down. As part of a plea agreement, a Durham immigration officer admitted to threatening a woman with deportation if she did not have sex with him. The officer, Bedri Kulla, met the immigrant and single mother on a social networking website, where he claimed to be a flight attendant.

The woman's lawyer, Marty Rosenbluth, who is a staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, says the woman was put in a drastic position.

"She quite innocently met him for coffee and when they met for coffee he pulls out this badge and says, 'Oh, I work for immigration and if you don't go on a date with me I'm going to have you deported.'"

Kulla, who himself is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Canada, lost his job and will be sentenced on August 12 after being found guilty of a federal civil rights violation and two counts of blackmail.

Rosenbluth said the story was hard to believe initially, but easy to prove since Kulla used his real picture on the social networking site, showed up at the woman's workplace, and sent multiple emails. At one point during his pursuit, Kulla appeared at the victim's place of work, holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a deportation notice in the other.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice routinely handles immigration issues. Rosenbluth says it's not uncommon for people to take advantage of an immigrant's situation.

"It is a really clear cut example of how, you know, people just think they can do whatever they want to folks who are undocumented, but she stood up and said, 'No, I'm not going to be a victim, you're not going to do this to me.'"

The woman is now eligible for U.S. citizenship through a special provision for victims of crime.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC