A Dutch man with AIDS remained jailed in Minnesota under a
federal immigration law that has been cited to bar up to 15
travelers infected with AIDS virus from entering the United
States in the last 16 months.
Hans Paul Verhoef, 31, of Rotterdam has become a symbol for
critics of an immigration law that lists infection with AIDS
virus as one of eight "dangerous and contagious" diseases that
can keep tourists and immigrants from crossing U.S. borders.
"It is plain dumb," said San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos.
Verhoef's case has received special attention in the Bay Area
because Verhoef, an AIDS prevention worker, was on his way to
San Francisco for the 11th National Lesbian and Gay Health
Conference that opened yesterday in the city. People affiliated
with the conference plan to demonstrate on Verhoef's behalf
San Francisco also will host the premier AIDS gathering next
year - the international conference of 1990 - and its
organizers are worried the Verhoef case will set a dangerous
precedent that will keep people with AIDS from attending the
"Of course, it would be deeply embarrassing to us if people
attending our conference would be humiliated in this same
manner," said Dr. David Werdegar, director of the San Francisco
Department of Public Health and a member of the planning
committee for the 1990 conference.
San Francisco Health Commissioner James Foster said it is
"absurd" to think San Francisco or any city in the United
States could host the international conference as long as
people with AIDS from other countries cannot attend.
"I will urge the international committee to seek another venue
outside the United States if this is not resolved," Foster
The immigration law took effect in December 1987 after Congress
passed an amendment pushed by Senator Jesse Helms, R-North
Carolina. The Helms amendment added the human immunodeficiency
virus that causes AIDS to the health conditions that can keep
people from entering the United States.
Although the law requires immigrants applying for residency to
undergo medical tests for the diseases, enforcement of the
"no-disease" requirement for tourists is more hit-and-miss.
"We don't ask people if they've got AIDS as they walk through
the line. It's not something you can tell by looking into
someone's eyes," said Richard Norton, associate administrator
of the Immigration and Naturalization's examinations branch in
"But if we have evidence, we must act on it," said Norton. "The
law is even-handedly applied when we have reason to think
someone is infected."
In Verhoef's case, the evidence was the fact that his baggage
contained AZT, the drug used to treat people infected with HIV.
When questioned, he told U.S. Customs personnel he had been
infected with the virus.
HANDFUL' OF CASES
Norton said there have been "only a handful" of cases in which
HIV infection resulted in someone being detained at the border.
Another INS official estimated that 10 to 15 people may have
been barred from entry in the 16 months that the law has been
"We are locked into a certain course of action if we find
someone has one of the contagious diseases on the list," said
Norton. "We don't have discretion in the matter."
Verhoef has two chances to be allowed into the United States,
either through a waiver to be considered by an INS official in
St. Paul or through a ruling by an immigration judge.
If Verhoef loses on both fronts, he will face deportation. An
immigration judge could also allow him to withdraw his request
and voluntarily return home.
DE SF; PROTEST; AIDS; US; IMMIGRATION; HANS PAUL VERHOEF