1. Alright Saad, can you give us a summary of who you've been working with these past few months?
Well for the past several months I've been working with a man named Mr. Ralph Isenberg who's based in Dallas, Texas. He's not an attorney but the way he handles immigration matters is definitely of the best that I've ever seen. Now Mr. Isenberg and I communicate everyday and it's pretty common that we talk for several hours at a time. He insists that I fully understand what's happened to me and my family so that I can respond to all the nasty and misinformed comments out there that are directed towards me and my family
2. Now what do you want to say to the people who direct these nasty comments at you and your family?
To clarify to everyone: my mother, my father, and I were never illegal immigrants. We came to the United States in 1994 on visitor visas when I was three years old. My father feared returning to Bangladesh because he was involved in politics there, so he filed for political asylum. It was only when his asylum was denied, that we became out of status. Now being out of status is not the same thing as being an illegal immigrant, there's a clear distinction there. We always paid taxes, we always abided by the law, and we always lived just as normal citizens would have lived. Our legal counsel at the time told us to stay in America at all possible costs until our I-130 petition my uncle filed for my father had been approved. In the mean time, my father never lied about his name, nor did he forge any document while we waited for the petition to be approved.
3. And what about your father working with ICE?
When I was seventeen, my father was briefly detained. When he was released, he was put on a supervision order that required him to report to ICE every month. He was working with the ICE office in Dallas and they were trying to help us out. They extended our time to stay in the United States so that I could finish high school and they wanted to extend our time again so that we could receive our green cards that had already been approved. An ICE Supervisor named James Smith agreed to extend time for my dad. My dad's case officer was Phillip Martinez.
4. So ICE was helping you along to get your green cards, but what went wrong?
In November 2009 my father called ICE to report to them, just like he did every month, but this time he was assigned to a man named Officer Todd Lyon. Now Officer Lyon was bitter, rude, and pretty racist. He knew we had approved green cards because our other ICE officer had marked them on our files, but he and Officer Martinez chose to ignore the fact that we were supposed to get an extension. And instead Officer Martinez called my father and told him to stay where he was because "he did not have time to mess with him" and that we was sending Officer Lyon to detain him from our home. Now my father did nothing wrong, he could have fled from our home, he could have gone somewhere else, but he stayed there because he knew he didn't want to break the law.
5. Now all the articles we've seen so far have mentioned you and your mother going to Canada, what can you tell us about that?
Now before any of this happened, my father was able to get ICE's permission to seek refugee status in Canada. He knew he had to have a backup plan if he was unable to remain in the United States and ICE knew it was dangerous for us to go to Bangladesh, so they granted him permission to go to Canada. Officer Todd Lyon completely ignored anything that was promised to my father and insisted on detaining him and taking him to jail, even when his supervision order said that the family could stay in the United States.
6. OK so your father was detained and this is what caused you to and your mother to have to go to Canada alone?
Yeah this is exactly what forced my mother and me to go to Canada ourselves. We did exactly what ICE instructed us to do and we left voluntarily. We were not deported. My mother and I just assumed that my father would be joining us soon. And at the time, things were moving so quickly that we never even contemplated what would happen if Canada rejected us. We really needed my father at the time because he was always the one to handle immigration matters. When my mother and I were being interviewed, we didn't even really know how to answer the questions and so we had no idea what would happen once we got rejected.
7. What happened after the rejection from entering Canada?
Well for lack of a better statement, I was now at the mercy of ICE. Mr. Isenberg likes to refer to ICE as a "rogue police force that makes their own rules up as they go along." I can certainly testify to that. ICE failed to recognize that I was still a minor under immigration law which clearly states that adulthood occurs at the age of 21.
8. So ICE broke the law?
Yeah, ICE should have recognized that my status as "an accompanied minor" ended the second I was separated from my parents. ICE had a legal obligation to treat me as "an unaccompanied minor". An unaccompanied minor is handled by the US Department of Health and Human Services, not ICE. They had no right to detain me and the law is very clear on this. Unaccompanied minors have rights, and one of these rights is legal assistance. I asked for legal assistance and instead, ICE threatened me and refused.
9. What other things did you ask ICE about?
I asked ICE multiple times to be able to talk to my mother and father but all of my requests were denied. I told ICE I wanted to file for political asylum because they were about to ship me off to a place where I have no memory of, to a place where I don't even know the language, to a country where I don't even know a single person living there. I expressed this fear to ICE pretty clearly.
10. What did ICE say to this?
Every person who's subject to deportation has the right to file for political asylum. I was not given that right. Instead, ICE told me "Because we are deporting your father, we are going to deport you and your mother as well." Now see, that's not how the system works at all. ICE lied to me and I know that if they had given me over to the US Department of Health and Human Services as required by law, that my case would have been handled a lot differently.
ICE knows that every attempt is made to reunite "unaccompanied minors" with family and ICE knew I had an uncle in New York City that was more than willing to take care of me. But instead, they felt the need to throw me in a cell with sixty adult males; many of these males were hardened criminals. Now the threat of being abused by one or more of these people was very real.
Seldom did a day go by that someone didn't make an inappropriate comment directed at me. Being referred to as "fresh meat" wasn't something I was prepared to deal with. I simply stopped existing for 42 days and hid in my bunk for days on end.
I was handcuffed and strip searched.
One second I am a student studying electrical engineering and the next second I am treated like a criminal. I did nothing wrong. No human deserves to be treated the way I was treated, especially in the United States of America.
Follow Saad Nabeel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesaad