ST. LOUIS -- A ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the government to deport a former Nazi concentration camp guard who settled in suburban St. Louis 50 years ago.
The high court on Monday let stand an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in June that the government can deport Michael Negele, 83. It denied his appeal without comment.
Negele, a native of Romania who lives with his wife in St. Peters, could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.S. immigration laws allow deportation of anyone who assisted in Nazi acts of persecution, but Negele had argued he was not involved in atrocities.
The Department of Justice said that during World War II, Negele guarded civilian prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin and at Theresienstadt, an internment camp in Czechoslovakia.
Negele policed the exteriors of both camps with a German shepherd trained to attack prisoners who attempted escape, the Justice Department said.
Attorney Warren Hoff Jr. said Tuesday that Negele is not in good health and doesn't fully comprehend the legal issues. He said his client is handling the news "as best he can," and that his family is "dealing with issues of his age."
"This is an unfortunate situation for him, given his age, and for his family members, who are the ones who will bear the brunt of it," Hoff said. "This man was very young and essentially drafted into the service of the German Reich."
Hoff couldn't say what lies ahead for Negele, and whether his wife would join him if he is deported, adding "it's up to the government."
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said the next step is to confer with the Department of Homeland Security on possible deportation of Negele. "It's not automatic," he said, adding that his health could be a factor. Sierra couldn't say where Negele would go, but noted such people typically are sent to their country of birth.
Negele, a Romanian-born ethnic German, entered the United States in 1950 on a visa he obtained in Germany and became a naturalized citizen in St. Louis five years later, finding work here in a machine shop.
In July 1999, the U.S. District Court in St. Louis revoked Negele's citizenship. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Negele's petition for review in February 2001, and deportation proceedings began a month later.
Since the creation of the Justice Department's special investigations office in 1979, it has won cases against 95 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution. More than 170 people have been barred from entering the country.
The office's mission, which up to now has focused exclusively on the Nazi era, was expanded recently to include the prosecution, revocation of citizenship and deportation of foreign-born torture suspects.