How ICE Illegally Deprived Saad Nabeel of his College Education

The Sophomore Who Isn’t

By Greg Moses

DissidentVoice / CounterPunch / TheRagBlog

As the 2009 graduates of Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas begin their sophomore year of college under new stresses of time and study, they do not forget that their classmate Saad Nabeel never got to finish the first semester of his freshman year. And Nabeel’s immigration advocate Ralph Isenberg says the young man’s abrupt deportation last year was so unfair and illegal that he should be immediately restored to his college career in the USA.

Thanks to Nabeel’s energetic internet campaign seeking return to his American homeland, the young man’s deportation has been covered by reporters in Texas, Germany, and India. His open letter to President Barack Obama was recently published at The Huffington Post.

Pinak Joshi is one of Nabeel’s best friends and was able to take calls during some of the cruelest days of detention last year. Joshi is a sophomore in Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he is already doing independent experimentation on prostate cancer.

“Although I’m proud of all that I do, it is a very strenuous weight to hold at the age of 19,” says Joshi via email. “What happened to Saad showed me that this is a privileged kind of stress. Being a sophomore in college has changed how I look at the world. Thanks to my research experience and coursework, I’m more thorough with my responsibilities and I’m able to think about complex problems analytically.”

“Saad is missing out on all that,” says Joshi. “He’s missing out on the ridiculous volume of math problems he would get as an engineer. He’s missing the laughs, the good times, and the beauty that is in the struggle of leading a scholarly life. He’s missing out on making new friends and building a network that could help him in the future. Most of all, he has been denied the opportunity to pursue his dreams.”

At the College Station campus of Texas A&M University, another close friend of Nabeel, sophomore engineering student Chris Anderson, finds himself already caught up in three-day bouts of homework and tests.

“Being a sophomore in college is more than just a title of what age I am,” says Anderson, “it means that I was able to make it through a whole year on my own. Being able to manage a tough engineering curriculum while still having time to do other activities has helped teach me how to prioritize and manage my time better. If I hadn’t had these skills coming into my sophomore year then I would be behind and struggling in my classes.”

“When Saad’s first semester of his Freshman year of college was disrupted he lost not only his grades which he spent so much time and effort to keep up, but he also lost the whole Freshman experience and the ability to prove himself as an independent person,” says Anderson. “College is about more than just getting a degree, it’s about learning to grow as a person and getting that life experience, but because our government decided to deport him and interrupt his education he is missing a year of his life that he will never get back.”

In Bangladesh, Nabeel struggles with living conditions quite different from the college apartments that he enjoyed last year while attending the University of Texas, Arlington on full scholarship for engineering.

“It is very hot and humid here,” says Nabeel in a draft script that he is preparing for an update to his YouTube page. “The temperature is constantly above 100 degrees outside. The apartment I live in has no air conditioning. To make matters worse, the electricity stays off for upwards of 9 hours a day. Then there is the pollution. The air can make you sick here and some days I can barely get out of bed. I have also suffered several bouts of food poisoning. I hope you can better understand why I am so anxious to get home. Bangladesh is not home but rather a nightmare that I hope soon ends.”

To get his American dream back on track, Nabeel has been working with Dallas businessman and immigration advocate Ralph Isenberg. After a recent review of Nabeel’s case, Isenberg is arguing that US immigration authorities contradicted themselves when they first separated Nabeel from his mother and then failed to treat him as an unaccompanied minor.

On Isenberg’s reading, immigration law defines minors as younger than 21. Therefore, when Nabeel at age 18 was separated from his mother, immigration authorities should have transferred him to Health and Human Services (HHS), where he would have been entitled to education and legal representation, both denied to him under supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Saad’s detention was unlawful and ICE knew it,” says Isenberg via telephone. “Immigration law defines a minor as 21 years old or less. And there are two types of minors, accompanied and unaccompanied. Saad coming to America at age three was clearly an accompanied minor the whole time.”

ICE authorities in New York separated Nabeel from his mother on the day before Thanksgiving, 2009. ICE then detained the 18-year-old in an adult facility and refused the young man’s requests to communicate with his parents who were both under ICE detention. ICE could have allowed communication between the young man and his parents. They could have transferred the younger Nabeel to detention with his father in Haskell, Texas. Or they could have released the 18-year-old to the care of his uncle in New York.

At no point during their 15-year immigration saga in America were the Nabeel family “illegal,” explains the younger Nabeel in his upcoming YouTube video. They arrived with visas in 1994 and were very close to finalizing Green Cards in 2009. It was not the application of immigration law that forced the family to Bangladesh in 2010, but the misapplication of law by authorities who misused their powers.

“There is no gray area in the law,” explains Isenberg. “Unaccompanied minors must be handed over to HHS. ICE knew it, but refused to do that. They took a minor and put him into an adult detention facility without protections of law that minors are entitled to. There are halfway houses for unaccompanied minors. HHS has definitive responsibilities to provide education and social services. Saad was denied all that.

“When Saad asked for help he was called a security risk. ICE not only could have but should have paroled Saad to his uncle,” says Isenberg. “I dare say had that happened he would have never been deported. ICE broke the law by ignoring Saad’s request for political asylum while detained. They broke the law, put him in jail, threw away the key, put him on the plane, and there was no due process whatsoever.”

On a sweltering day in late August Nabeel received an email with a link to the just-released Taylor Swift video. When he clicked on the link he was informed that the video was not available for viewing in the Bangladesh region.

“It sucks,” he emailed, “because I had tickets to her concert twice but couldn’t go because my parents said, ‘we don’t know if immigration will extend our time that long’.” The family were living lawfully and obediently according to the directions that ICE had communicated. What else could keep the young Nabeel from twice buying his Taylor Swift tickets in advance?

Of course, eight hours after the first email a second one arrived from the computer saavy Nabeel. In all caps it read “just watched it, greatest music video ever!” How do you get to be more of an American kid than that?

A Grito for the Living Present by Ramsey Muniz

El Grito de Diez y Seis de Septiembre

Once again we celebrate the ultimate importance of this day in our history as a race. We are celebrating the truth of our ancestors who has made it possible for us to express to this world who we truly are and the reasons why freedom and justice continue to be a part of our lives.

It is written and told that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, during the early morning of September 16, rang church bells and called on our indigenous ancestors of Dolores to rise from oppression, darkness, hunger, and injustice to proclaim to the world the independence of their nation. Sacred destinies from past writings constantly reveal that we as Mexicans, Hispanics, and Latinos would continue to rise until freedom and justice would become a part of our daily lives.

Within a period of months, Hidalgo’s people had swelled to 100,000 strong – the largest army raised since the Aztecs (Mexicas), our ancient ancestors who made possible this uprising with hoes, machetes, clubs, outrage, faith, and a most spiritual desire for liberation that no one in the world would take again. In reality it is called the love of liberation.

It is historically written in ancient writings that we as a people and race would continue to rise and take back our God-given freedom and justice. On October 12, shortly after September 16, the battle was joined at Las Cruces, against the strong forces of the Spanish government. The entire world became aware that our people had risen from the ashes of injustice, slavery, oppression, and imprisonment, demanding the return of their land. Hidalgo, announcing for seven months the time to rise, was captured in Chihuaua. He was shot and decapitated by the Spanish government.

Here I remain confined in oppressive prisons maintaining the honor, valor, and courage to share that our history has just begun. Throughout the Southwest we seek political and spiritual power like never before. We witness the confinement and oppression of our sisters and brothers, concluding, as written in our ancient writings, that we would return to our promised land and share “El Grito de Dolores” from our hearts.

It is written that as we seek freedom and justice, the power of our spirituality will be present unlike before in the 21st century. This spiritual power is the rebirth of our search for God-given human rights and land.

Know who you are and what people before you died for. Always remember that our history is far from becoming a thing of the past. It is more alive, more contentious, and demanding than ever. A famous late Hispanic professor once stated, “A living present time cannot exist if the past is dead. Our history is the past, and very much alive in the present.”

In exile,
Ramsey Muniz – Tezcatlipoca

El Paso Restaurant Worker Wins $32,500 Settlement for Unpaid Overtime

Jose Luis Villarreal, an El Pasoan represented by Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project (PCRP), reached a monumental settlement with Los Gallegos Mexican Restaurant resulting in the payment of $32,500 in damages.

In February, PCRP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Villarreal (pictured above, front right) asking for thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime pay and other damages from the restaurant owner.

“I worked for Los Gallegos for nine years and always worked over forty hours per week. I asked the owner of Los Gallegos many times during my employment why he was not paying us our overtime hours,” said Mr. Villarreal, “In the end he fired me for standing up for my rights. In the restaurant industry, many workers are working from forty up to ninety-hour weeks without any overtime pay. It is time that restaurant owners pay their employees the overtime they deserve.”

After six months of litigation, Los Gallegos’ owner and Mr. Villarreal agreed to settle for an amount well over Mr. Villarreal’s unpaid overtime wages.

Mr. Villarreal, now a member of the local group, the Labor Justice Committee, is proud of the settlement. “People didn’t think I should fight for my wages. They thought it wouldn’t be worth the trouble and that I didn’t have rights. But this settlement shows that workers shouldn’t be scared of their employers. We can fight and we can win!” Mr. Villarreal exclaimed.

Restaurant employees must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is time and a half of the promised hourly rate.

“Mr. Villarreal was a victim of systematic and severe overtime violations. This settlement should be a signal to the rest of the restaurant industry in El Paso that it is worth it to pay overtime to your employees or you will have to pay much more in court costs and fees,” said Chris Benoit, an attorney with Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project.

Saad Nabeel: Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Saad Nabeel and I am writing to you from Bangladesh. Prior to my arrival in this nation, I lived in the United States for 15 years. My parents brought me to America at age three. It is the only home I know. I used to attend the University of Texas at Arlington with a full scholarship in Electrical Engineering. Through no fault of my own I was forced to leave my home, friends, possessions, and most importantly, my education behind.

November 3rd 2009 is a day I will never forget. My mother called me and told me that my father had been detained by ICE and that we needed to leave immediately to Canada to seek refugee status. Being an only child, I had to take care of my mother and go with her.

My mother and I were denied entrance into Canada and sent back to the USA as if we were common criminals. I was separated from my mother and sent to a detention facility where I was forced to live with 60 men, many of whom were hardened criminals. There was no privacy and I was forced to use the facilities and showers while fully exposed. I lived in constant fear of being abused. I was without food for upwards of 14 hours a day and received little to no medical attention. When I asked for legal counsel I was threatened with criminal charges and jail time in a Federal Penitentiary. To this day I still have nightmares about being detained. Everything my parents taught me about human decency was replaced with humiliation. Mr. President I hope you are as outraged as I am hurt by this ordeal.

Bangladesh is extremely hot and humid. We have no air conditioning as the power goes out every day. These power outages can last twelve hours or more. The air is heavily polluted and I get food poisoning every week from the poor quality of food here. Raw sewage flows in open drains in front of our apartment. I see people outside with mangled bodies dying on the street because of the heat and starvation. I see mothers practically giving their children away because they are unable to feed them.

I do not know the language and I fear going outside because I am different from everyone else. Speaking in English is an easy way to be targeted here. We cannot afford to live in a safer area. I have not left the apartment for 8 months. It simply is too dangerous for me to leave the apartment unless my parents go with me. I cannot attend school due to the language barrier. I do not know anyone in Bangladesh.

On top of all this, my parents are both ill and have been for months. My father suffers severe asthma attacks that make him bedridden on most days. My mother has post traumatic stress and cannot accept the fact that she is not at our home in Texas.

These events transpired after we were approved to receive our Green Cards. ICE forced my family to leave knowing that Green Cards were available to us. We have been waiting for our Green Cards for 15 years now.

Mr. President, you are the most powerful man in the world, all I ask from you is to bring me home. All I ever wanted was an education so I could become an engineer. I just want to go home and go back to college. Please don’t keep me exiled any longer. Please bring me home.

Saad Nabeel

The “DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama” is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. Cross-Posted at Citizen Orange. Posted at the Texas Civil Rights Review by permission of the author.–gm