US immigration authorities said they were "dismayed" after losing their second court decision against fugitive Rebar founder Wang You-theng (
Wang was provisionally freed from the San Pedro, California, facility south of Los Angeles after a Board of Immigration Appeal judge last Friday threw out the government case against Wang, who fled to the US from Taiwan in January and was arrested and detained after a failed attempt to flee prosecution in the US in February.
It was the second setback in the case for US immigration officials. On March 28, an immigration judge ruled against the government in its original bid to keep Wang in detention, US officials said. But at the US government's urging, he was kept at the facility while the government pursued its appeal.
Details of the case had been kept secret by a gag rule issued by the immigration judge. But now details are emerging as the do-not-disclose rule has apparently been lifted.
In both cases, the courts ruled that Wang had not technically left the US in February, when he flew to Singapore en route to Myanmar, only to be denied entry by Singaporean authorities and sent back to Los Angeles, said Virginia Kice, a spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in Los Angeles.
In the first ruling. the court said that "even though he was out of the United States for several days," he "never legally departed the United States," she said.
The appeals board upheld that, saying "he never technically in the eye of the law left the United States," she said.
"Obviously, we are dismayed about the outcome and we are reviewing our legal options," Kice told the Taipei Times.
When Wang originally entered the US, he did so on a valid visa with his Taiwanese passport.
After he arrived in the US, Taiwan revoked his passport and his visa was considered to be void.
But, since he did not technically leave the US, as the appeals court decided, the government could not argue that he re-entered the country illegally.
Wang's movements will be closely monitored while the US government decides its next move, Kice said.
Kice would not go into details of the government's plan. But she said that although Wang was "no longer in ICE custody," the case "is still a matter for immigration courts at this point."
Wang's lawyer, R. Wayne McMillan of Pasadena, conceded that while Wang is free, "the case is still pending. It is still in litigation," although Wang has been "successful [in his case] before the Board of Immigration Appeal."
He said the court decision was signed last Friday, and that his office received notification on Monday, a day before Wang was released.
McMillan said his client would not try to leave the US while the case against him continues.
"He doesn't want to. He's perfectly happy here," McMillan said.
Taiwanese officials in Washington were still trying to find out details of the court decision on Wednesday, Stanley Kao (
Kao said that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) found out about Wang's release on Tuesday morning from Taiwan's Los Angeles office, and has been in touch with "various agencies" in charge of US law enforcement since then.