LatinaLista — The story was all too familiar — a young, bright college freshman studying electrical engineering on a full scholarship at a local Dallas university suddenly caught in the rusty wheels of federal bureaucracy, otherwise known as U.S. immigration policy, and deported back to a country he barely remembered — but only after spending 42 days in detention separated from both of his parents.
His name is Saad Nabeel and until November 2009, Saad called the U.S. home. In fact, it’s the only home he’s ever known since his parents brought him to the U.S. from Bangladesh when they were seeking political asylum.
For reasons still unclear, the family was deported because the paperwork wasn’t finished:
After a decadelong wait, a visa petition had recently been approved for his father. But the family already had an outstanding deportation order from 2002, when Nabeel’s father lost his last appeal for political asylum and moved the family to Frisco.
They were granted a yearlong extension in 2008, after Nabeel went to get his driver’s license and the family’s status was recognized. Nabeel was allowed to finish his studies at Frisco’s Liberty High School.
When the visa approval notice came through last fall, Nabeel’s father went to the authorities to request several more months to complete the process. But since his time was up, he was arrested.
The backlog that exists in immigration courts, which includes courts considering political asylum cases, is at an all-time high. It’s up 82 percent over ten years ago when Saad’s father first started the political asylum request process.
That a person and/or his family must be deported because the government can’t fulfill their end of the bargain to review cases and render a verdict in a timely manner, given the time constraints put on immigrants requesting asylum, is a travesty of justice.
Yet, the federal government’s ineptitude to do their job and then blame the asylum-seekers is only one of several bad practices that the Dept. of Homeland Security needs to review and correct, if they want to retain their credibility among an increasingly skeptical U.S. populace.
In the YouTube video that Saad made (it follows the entry), he recounts for his friends and supporters what happened to him once he and his mother were denied asylum in Canada after leaving the Dallas, Texas area.
Each was put into a different detention center in upper state New York while his father was placed in a detention facility in Texas. Saad was placed in a room with 60 other men and held there from late November until his deportation in early January.
Then he was “forced” to sign a paper saying that he wouldn’t return to the United States for ten years. He was told that if he did not sign, he would be criminally charged.
Saad, being an educated young man, understood the threat levied against him. If he didn’t sign, he could be “conveniently” lost in the U.S. penal system with no way to get help — legal or otherwise.
So, he signed and now from a small apartment in Dhaka, where he can’t stomach the food nor the extreme pollution, he wants to fight the U.S. Immigration Courts for reinstatement into the United States. He wants to finish his education and live his life in the only country he has ever known.
Unfortunately, the odds of that happening do not look good.
“I can guarantee you, nothing will be waived,” said Salim Sheikh, a Bangladeshi immigration lawyer working in New York who reviewed Nabeel’s case. “Once a deportation order is made, the government usually doesn’t want to reopen that proceeding to adjust it. They want to teach people a lesson. That is the way it is.”
Experts say that the only real hope Saad and his family have in returning and completing the asylum process is if a congressperson introduces a private bill on their behalf.
So to help Saad, over 4,000 of his closest friends have signed on to Facebook and created the Bring Saad Nabeel Back Home to America page.
They’ve posted a petition that people can sign, a letter that can be copied, filled in and sent to a congressperson and even Oprah Winfrey.
Yet, the real tool to help students like Saad is for Congress to pass the DREAM Act but until that happens each student’s case will be championed one-by-one by their friends, families and sympathizers until the Obama Administration realizes that the one area that desperately needs the kind of change he promised during his campaign — he has yet to fulfill.
How many deserving students will this country lose due to an ineffective and unfair process of selecting who gets to stay here and who has to leave?
Nabeel kept a journal while in detention. At the end of November, he scribbled: “For 15 years of schools and straight A’s, I go to jail? I thought in America, intelligence was rewarded.”
On New Year’s Eve, he wrote down a lyric from the Beatles that kept playing in his head: “What have I done to deserve such a fate?”
It’s a question that needs to be asked until an answer is given.