A delegation of New York state lawmakers are petitioning President Donald Trump's Department of Justice to deport from the United States a former Nazi concentration camp officer who has been living in Queens for more than a decade, according to a copy of a formal petition letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
More than 85 members of the New York State Assembly, led by Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, sent a formal petition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, asking that his Justice Department "do everything in its power" to remove former Nazi officer Jakiw Palij from the United States.
The lawmakers allege that Palij served as a Nazi guard at the Treblinka death camp, where he facilitated the death of "thousands of innocent men, women, and children" who were murdered by the Nazi regime "and thrown into pits," according to the letter to Sessions. He also is accused of acting as an "armed guard" at the Trawinki Nazi training camp, where Adolf Hitler's war forces trained to exterminate Polish Jews.
Palij has been found guilty of immigrating to the United States under false pretenses. Palij allegedly claimed he was "a farmer and war refugee" on his citizenship applications and did not disclose his ties to the Nazi regime. He was granted American citizenship in 1957.
While Palij's citizenship was stripped in the early 2000s, after his Nazi past was disclosed, he has yet to be deported, despite a nearly 10-year long campaign by state lawmakers and others to see him booted from the United States.
"After the revelations about his past became known, he was subsequently stripped of his U.S. citizenship, which was obtained illegally and under false pretenses," the New York lawmakers write. "His deportation order was upheld by the courts in 2004. As of today, he remains a resident of Queens, walking about freely in our country, breathing the same air we breathe."
Hikind, who has spearheaded efforts for nearly a decade to see Palij deported from America, told the Washington Free Beacon that he is confident President Trump will take action on the issue.
Hikind is reaching out to Trump administration officials and hopes to see the issue raised with Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust.
"This is something that is part of my DNA," said Hikind, whose family members perished in the Holocaust. "Getting justice for those who committed genocide, I don't care how old the perpetrator is. This is someone living in America enjoying our freedom, which he deprived from so many people."
Efforts to deport Palij have been complicated by the refusal of countries such as Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to take him back.
Hikind said he is confident that the Trump administration can convince these countries to shift their stance.
"I'm confident this administration is going to do the right thing," Hikind said. "They will show everyone what the right thing to do is. We're never going to rest."
The lawmakers write that Palij's continued residency in the United State is an affront to all of those who perished in the Holocaust.
"The rights and freedoms we enjoy in America should not extend to those who helped facilitate the death of so many innocent people," the lawmakers write in the letter to Sessions. "His presence here mocks the memory of so many who perished."
The lawmakers "respectfully request that the Justice Department do everything in its power to remove this individuals from the United States," according to the letter. "It is imperative that someone responsible for Nazi atrocities be held accountable for his crimes. While his victims can no longer seek justice, we should."