What Justice Demands: Free the Ibrahim Family Today!

On the occasion of Sunday, New Year’s Eve, Eid ul-Adha, 2006

By Greg Moses

“21 criminal aliens, fugitive aliens, and other immigration status violators” is how the Dallas office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) counted booty in a web-posted press release last Nov. 3 following two days of arrests.

Two months later, three families from that pre-election roundup remain in jail, of whom only one person—a teenaged boy—stands convicted of crimes, and that 17-year-old young man sits alone, pissing blood, in isolation from his parents and four siblings, because he is being held as a minor in an adult jail at Haskell, Texas.

For all the rest of the members of the three families, none, as it turns out, has been identified as either criminal or fugitive. They were only a handful of “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” coming to America with passports and visas, working with attorneys to secure asylum through legal means, going to work, to school, and in some cases getting married or pregnant, trying to live and make life in ways we all know.
But they were all Arab, and it was election time in the USA. Never mind that seven of them were school children, or that one of them was a newlywed bride, recently graduated from college with honors, or that another was pursuing college on and off, planning to be married, or that the six parents worked hard and kept their families close. They were Arab, after all, and it was election time.

I still get emails from people telling me “we should send them all back”, and these are emails from precisely the kinds of voters that such a roundup was meant, and is still meant, to appease. Thirteen percent of Americans think Bush is a hero. And with these three Arab families, the President repays his loyalists for the way they stick.

But I also get emails from others, many more others, who say, “my God, what can I do to help.” And these are the majority of voters, to be sure, thank goodness. And for most of the voters, these three families–Ibrahim, Suleiman, and Hazahza–are just the kind of people that neighbors are made of in America. They try, they fail, they try again, they succeed. Family troubles come, and to some families they come hard. But we know them, if we know any neighborhood at all.

One of the email supporters, Rita Zawaideh, has mobilized the Arab American Community Coalition, and a call to action has been circulated to free the Ibrahim family, whose toddler daughter needs them out of jail now and back home.

Really, it’s the simplest thing. Free the Ibrahim family. Free the pregnant mother so that she can take proper care of herself and her coming son. Free the kindergarten daughter who shares a bunkbed with her mother. Free the two sisters who share another cell nearby. Free the teenage boy who calls his uncle every day from the T. Don Hutto jail in Taylor, Texas. And free the father, too, who is kept 300 miles away, at Haskell.

That’s it. Free the Ibrahim family today. It can be done very quickly by anyone along the chain of command from the White House to San Antonio ICE. And if you’re listening, Mr. President, you can do it with the stroke of a pen. Those voters who would make a fortress of America? You’ll never have need for them again. But your conscience is something you really can’t leave behind.

The New Year is a traditional time for politicians to set people free. Let the Ibrahims go back to their neighborhood in Texas, where they can gather themselves as a family and get some rest, together.

[Note: recommended listening: Lyle Lovett, “That’s right, you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you, anyway!”–gm]

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