SB1070 for Muslims (NSEERS) Lands DREAM Act Youth Behind Bars, Deportation Looming
by Prerna Lal
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration terminated NSEERS, a post-9-11 program that targeted and placed non-citizen Muslim men from over 24 countries in deportation proceedings. But the termination provides no relief for thousands of immigrants who face deportation as a result of the program. Hadi Zayed Zaidi, a Pakistani-American who was brought here at the age of 4, is one such immigrant who registered with the NSEERS program when he was merely 16 — a minor. Two weeks ago, ICE agents raided Hadi’s home and took him into custody. Hadi – now 25 — has been refused bail because he is Pakistani and faces imminent deportation to Pakistan, a country he has not seen since he was 4.
Shortly after 9-11, the Department of Homeland Security engaged in one of the most egregious cases of racial profiling in recent history. It established the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, requiring male visa-holders over the age of 16 from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries to register with local immigration offices. Around 84,000 Arabs and Muslim men registered voluntarily and over 14,000 of them were deported for complying with the program. 1,200 were arbitrarily detained without due process. Terminated in April of this year, the program did not result in a single terrorism charge or conviction! But the termination does nothing to address the plight of thousands of men who complied with registration and are now fighting deportation proceedings.
Hadi Zayed Zaidi is one of the many thousands who complied with the law and is now facing deportation from the United States. Hadi registered with the NSEERS program before the February 2003 deadline when he was barely 16. Within a few months, he was placed in deportation proceedings, along with his older brother and father. The family battled tenuously and his dad finally gained a green card last year. But Hadi and his older brother were separated from their father’s case and left without any immediate way to gain legal status. Their application for cancellation of removal was denied due to lack of a qualifying relative and they were ordered deported from the United States, condemned to living without their legal resident parents in a country that is foreign to them.
When the Obama Administration decided to scale back the NSEERS program that got Hadi and his family into this nightmarish quagmire, it should have come with reprieve from deportation for everyone ensnared by the program. However, instead of exercising prosecutorial discretion and granting a reprieve from deportation, ICE agents raided the Zaidi family home two weeks ago and took Hadi into custody. Hadi is now detained at the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, California and could be deported at any time. When his family tried to post bail for his release, officials at the detention center informed them that since Hadi was Pakistani-born, there was no bail for him. So much for living in a post-racial America.
In the interim, their lawyer has filed an emergency stay of removal for Hadi, and petitioned to reopen the case since Hadi can now use his Dad as a qualifying relative for cancellation of removal. But we need to get Hadi out of detention before he is deported. Please take action to help Hadi today.
Despite facing the prospect of removal from his home for the entirety of his adult life, Hadi is an accomplished young man with much to contribute to the United States. He was an honors student throughout high school and won numerous scholarships, making his family and community proud of him. Before he was detained for imminent deportation to Pakistan, Hadi was taking classes at West Los Angeles Community College and he hoped to transfer to a four-year university to gain a degree in either Industrial Design or Applied Mathematics. If deported to Pakistan, Hadi — who does not speak any Urdu — faces life in a country that is foreign to him and likely to treat him with hostility because he is an American.
Hadi is DREAM Act eligible and meets most of the factors listed in the Morton memo, which should merit a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion. He is neither a criminal nor a public safety concern. He has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. He is pursuing higher education and aspires to get a four-year degree. His grandmother is a U.S. citizen and his parents are legal permanent residents. He has no ties to Pakistan. Hadi has proven to be an American in every way and deserves the opportunity to continue with his studies and give back to the only country he calls home.
It is unclear what the Obama Administration stands to gain from deporting Hadi from the United States, besides contributing to the collective trauma, pain and suffering of so many Arab and Muslim-Americans who have been similarly discriminated against and deported in the recent past.
Prerna Lal is a law student at The George Washington University. She is the founder of DreamActivist and helped build a vibrant and historic activist immigrant youth community online, which has mobilized thousands into action nationwide. She focuses on social media, cultural studies, international political economy and development, critical theory, subaltern histories and South Asian diaspora studies. She also serves as a Board Member for Immigration Equality, an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT immigrants.
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