October 4, By Tara Law
U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have urged the State Department to deport a former Nazi guard who is living in Jackson Heights.
The lawmakers addressed a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Oct. 4, demanding that he deport Jakiw Palij, 92, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades.
The senators noted that Palij remains in the country despite being stripped of his citizenship in 2003 and then ordered to be deported.
Palij is still in the country, in part, because Germany, Poland and Ukraine refuse to accept him, according to officials. Nevertheless, say the senators, the deportation process has gone on for too long.
“Removing Mr. Palij from American soil will send a message not only to the citizens of New York, but to the entire world,” the letter read. “It will make clear that the United States does not condone hatred and will not shelter those who have committed atrocities against innocents.”
Palij was a guard at the Trawniki death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during 1943.
After WWII, the Polish-born Palij came to America claiming he was a farmer, and was granted citizenship in 1957. Once his past was uncovered, he was subsequently stripped of his U.S. citizenship, which the government claimed was obtained illegally and under false pretenses–triggering the deportation process. His deportation order was upheld by the courts in 2004 but Palij remains a resident of Queens to this day.
In 2003 Palij told the New York Times, he never killed anyone during the war. He claimed that at the age of 18 he was taken to the camp and forced to work as a guard and wore a different uniform than the Nazis. Although the federal government never accused him of being directly involved in the killings, it claimed that as a Nazi guard, he ”directly contributed to their eventual slaughter” by preventing the victims from escaping.
Calls for Palij’s deportation have received bipartisan support. In June, almost 90 New York state assembly members addressed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to demand Palij’s deportation. In August, New York’s congressional delegation addressed a letter to Tillerson asking him to take action.