Czech immigrant dodges U.S. deportation for four decades
Czechoslovak criminal claims he's stateless to avoid being deported from States
Posted: February 6, 2013
Courtesy Photo: The Boston Globe
Ivan Václavík, who emigrated to the United States in 1974, makes his latest court appearance in Brighton, Massachusetts, hearing a case about a restraining order against him.
An immigrant who has been charged with more than 100 crimes in the United States is avoiding deportation because he argues his Czechoslovak homeland no longer exists. Ivan Václavík, who first arrived in America in 1974 on a student visa, is frustrating law enforcement officials as he continues his one-man crime wave without the prospect of being forced out of the country.
The charges against Václavík, who has been dubbed "Ivan the Incorrigible," so far range from petty shoplifting to felony theft, and he has reportedly been imprisoned three times. According to The Boston Globe, he has assaulted a complete stranger at a Starbucks, broken into a hotel and accosted an 11-year-old girl near a pool, telling the frightened child, "Come in here and see your daddy."
Tim Knoetgen, the victim in the Starbucks assault, says Václavík appeared angry and glassy-eyed when they walked into the coffeeshop, and later exploded at his elderly mother.
"When we got there he was screaming, yelling, ranting and raving. … We thought he was just a lunatic," he told The Boston Globe.
The 65-year-old has also apparently been involved in numerous nasty disputes with roommates, landlords and neighbors, with one woman taking out a restraining order against him after he allegedly tried to enter her bedroom dressed only in his underwear.
American authorities first tried to deport Václavík in 1976, just two years after he arrived in the country for a legal three-week stay. Since then, immigration agents have repeatedly failed to remove him from the United States, each time having to eventually release him instead.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says its most recent attempt ended because the Czech Republic did not provide the necessary travel documents, and the Supreme Court has ruled that immigrants generally cannot be detained for more than six months while awaiting deportation.
"Given that ICE was unable to obtain the necessary documentation from the Czech Republic to carry out his removal, Mr. Václavík has been released from ICE custody on numerous occasions based upon the Supreme Court's ruling," said spokesman Ross Feinstein in a written statement.
But Czech authorities argue they are also hamstrung by Václavík's refusal to accept his Czech nationality. "U.S. authorities requested issuing of the travel document for Mr. Václavík several times, and the situation is always the same: Mr. Václavík has refused to be a Czech citizen; he states that he is a 'stateless' citizen," says Martin Dvořák, the consul general of the Czech Republic in New York. "Unless his 'Czech' citizenship is proved, the consulate is not able to provide him with the Czech travel document. We have sent him to complete some documents in order to confirm/refuse his 'Czech' citizenship, but he does not collaborate."
According to The Boston Globe, neighbors described Václavík as "charming and persuasive." He is reportedly "so well-versed in English and the American justice system that he sometimes writes his own legal motions. In a lawsuit filed to get out of immigration detention in 2003, he argued that he became 'stateless' after Czechoslovakia split in 1993."
"He wrote that he 'loved America' and came to the country after the Soviet invasion of his home country in 1968, and boasted, 'They already know I cannot be deported,' " the paper wrote.
The Czech consulate in New York says it is trying to determine if Václavík (who is believed to be from Prague) is in fact a Czech citizen but won't say why the process is taking so long.
Dvořák says the consulate has also referred Václavík's case to a competent authority in the Czech Republic, but the Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry did not respond to questions from The Prague Post about the case by press time.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Prague also declined to comment, saying the embassy could not discuss individual cases.
"If you're not going to enforce immigration laws, then people can get away with this stuff and there's no recourse," said Chris Pedersen, one of Václavík's many shoplifting victims who did not realize the serial offender had been ordered deported but never left. "Sometimes, you've got to stand up and be counted at some point and say 'I'm not going to tolerate this anymore,' " Pedersen told The Boston Globe. The store owner claims Václavík tried to offer him money in court to drop the charges, but the offer was refused.
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