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Bloggings: Deportation - the battle between humanity and hate goes on, by Roger Algase

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The 7/20 ID issue has a link to a 7/18 article in the Huffington Post called "Americans Married To Immigrants Push For Reform". Among other items, it relates the story of Hope Mustakim, an American citizen married for the past year to Nazry Mustakim, a 31 year old immigrant from Singapore who was brought to the US legally as a child and has had a green card since 1992. Like many other people caught in the trap of IIRIRA, the harsh immigration law rammed through a Republican-controlled Congress in late September 1996 in the dead of night without debate, and attached to a "must pass" military appropriations bill barely over a month before a presidential election, Nazry is facing deportation because of a minor drug possession conviction dating from the time  he was a teenager. 

Even though he has been drug free for the past five years, according to the article, Nazry faces deportation because an immigration judge has no discretion to grant relief in this kind of case. Nazry is now in immigration detention and his American wife can only see him through a glass window. This is, certainly, a heart-breaking story, but many of us have become desensitized because  stories like this are so common. One does not even need a drug conviction to be guilty of an "aggravated felony" triggering mandatory revocation of one's green card and automatic deportation. A couple of drunk driving convictions may be enough.

Then why mention this story at all? "American family is broken up by draconian anti-immigrant law imposing drastic consequences for dark-skinned foreign citizen convicted of relatively minor offense years ago." What else is new? Forget that not only the rights of immigrants are involved in this type of case, but the right of an American citizen to choose whom to marry, something that the Supreme Court, in a different context, has held to be among our most cherished and fundamental liberties.  

Forget the injustice of tearing someone away from his family and banishing him from this country forever for a crime that, if committed by an American, would most likely result in nothing more than a short jail term at worst. We are all too used to this kind of inhumanity in our immigration system, to the practice of treating immigrants as if they were less than fully human, to make much of a fuss about it. There was a time in Europe when a child could be hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. Get over it. Life moves on.

The point of this comment, therefore, is not to reflect on the harshness and cruelty of the deportation action that Nazry Mustakim is facing, along with untold hundreds of thousands, or millions, of other foreign born people in similar situations. Instead, I will focus on only two aspects of the article. First, why was a harsh immigration law such as IIRIRA passed at the time that it was? Surely not for economic reasons. Has anyone heard about the "Great Depression of 1996?" I haven't. Maybe I have missed something. 

What about terror? Yes, that was a concern, and a legitimate one. The World Trade Center had been attacked in 1993. But it would be another five years from the passage of IIRIRA before September 11, 2001. IIRIRA had some anti-terror provisions, but that was not the main reason for its passage. The main reason, or at least one of the main reasons, was to trap immigrants like Nazry Mustakim, who was neither a terrorist, a violent criminal, nor posing any danger to society, for minor crimes, and use these minor crimes as an excuse to kick them out of the country. 

To put it plainly, IIRIRA was enacted in large part becasue of a white "backlash" over the fact that for the previous three decades, since 1965, America had started to welcome immigrants from every corner of the globe, regardless of skin color. Many articles and comments written at that time in the popular media, not to mention a book such as Peter Brimelow's racist anti-immigrant "Alien Nation", published in 1995, leave no doubt about that. 

The other point that is striking about the Nazry and Hope Mustakim story is the reaction to it among Huffington Post readers. As we all know, the Huffington Post is not exactly Fox News.  Far from being a right wing hate site, the Huffpost is considered among the more liberal publications in America, and is certainly sympathetic to immigrants. Otherwise, this story would not have been published at all. Therefore it is all the more shocking (if one can be shocked by anything in immigration today) that there were so many hate comments left by Huffpost readers in reaction to the story. 

Aside from the predictable comments of the "Criminal go home!" variety,  there was a slew of vitriolic attacks against Nazry for being an "illegal alien" despite the fact that he came to the US legally as a child and has been a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years.  Other comments attacked the couple's "fake marriage", even though there was no question that the relationship was genuine. As if to underscore that point, Hope Mustakim posted replies to many of the negative, hate filled comments, patiently pointing out Nazry's positive accomplishments - overcoming addiction, always having been in America legally, etc.

It is as if Hope Mustakim had to remind the other blog posters that her husband is a human being, something that neither they, nor our deportation-addicted immigration system, seem willing to accept. Hate vs. humanity - the struggle for immigrant rights continues.

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  1. Alan Andrews's Avatar
    "Otherwise, this story would not have been published at all."

    Good one. Bears out why one should always read widely.
  2. JoblessInJersey's Avatar
    Well, it seems everything is black and white for you, Mr. Algase.

    A person who disagrees with you is a selfish, racist, immoral, hateful person. What a terrible way to think about your fellow Americans.

    There's many millions of Americans who disagree with your views on immigration. So even an immigration lawyer like you in a city filled with immigrants, is in fact surrounded by "haters" every day.

    Frankly I have to question why encourage people to stay here. Wouldn't they be better off in another place besides terrible America?

  3. Roger Algase's Avatar
    The writer of this comment does not seem to realize that the immigration issue is not only about the rights of foreign born people, but about the rights of Americans too - to marry, employ and do business with immigrants. To give only one example out of millions, Hope Mustakim, whom I wrote about in my last comment, is a native born US citizen (who also happens to be white, along with her US citizen children from a previous marriage whom her about to be deported husband is helping to support) will be impacted just as much as her non-white husband, who has always been in the US legally, if he is deported for a minor drug offense committed many years ago.

    I am not saying, of course, that Hope Mustakim or her family are entitled to any greater rights because she is white. Absolutely not. What I am saying is that the Republicans who rammed IIRIRA through Congress fifteen years ago in the dead of night without debate cared a great deal about the skin color of Americas immigrants. So do the Republicans who are now passing anti-immigrant laws in former slave states and centers of racial segregation such as Alabama and Georgia, or in Arizona, the last state in the union to recognize Martin Luther Kings birthday as a holiday. That is why Nazry Mustakim is facing deportation now and his family is about to be broken up.

    What would deporting Nazry Mustakim, a long standing legal immigrant convicted of a minor drug offense that would be nothing more than a slap on the wrist for an American convicted of the same, do to make America more prosperous, safer or provide more job opportunities for people unemployed because of an economy which has been destroyed by eight years of Republican wars and throwing money away on the rich (if you are a Democrat) or three years of increased Democratic spending (if you are a Republican), but in either event, by policies made in America by Americans that immigrants had nothing to do with and should not be made scapegoats for? Will breaking up this family help Jobless in New Jersey find a job?

    Roger Algase
  4. Hope Mustakim's Avatar
    I had no idea you posted this article. I would've loved to have seen it back when it was written; it would have been so refreshing. It is quite a heavy toll those Huffpost comments made on my emotional well being. I was less hurt by their attack on me and Naz and moreso burdened and saddened by the callousness and hatred of my fellow human beings. However, now I am well and strong, and Nazry is HOME!!
    Check out our website for all the details.
    Ps- I actually don't have any children and was never married before Naz- so if you could edit that on your article, it would be swell! thank you!
  5. Hope Mustakim's Avatar
    And also, thank you for your heart for people and for justice. Glad to see there are still some of us left! lol!
  6. Roger Algase's Avatar
    Hope, I am deeply grateful for and honored by your comment. You are a great American hero and a shining example of what American values really mean. I am so glad to hear that Nazry is home! I will mention this in an updated blogging about your situation.

    I am sorry for my misunderstanding to the effect that you had allegedly been previously married, and had children from that marriage. I must have misread a news report about your case. I will correct this in my next blogging

    Has the removal case against Nazry been closed? Or is he home, but still awaiting a final decision? I assume that this is explained on your website. Can you post the link?

    As far as the vicious comments by the Huffpost readers are concerned, I ran into a similar situation recently when a letter of mine was published in the Washington Post concerning the American daughter of a friend of a friend of mine who was married to a Mexican. In her quite typical situation, unlike yours, her husband had come to the US without authorization and therefore needed a waiver of the 10 year bar in order to become a permanent resident of the US.

    He had to return to Mexico and wait for about a year for the waiver to be approved, as DHS had not yet announced its intention to waive the requirement of leaving the US in order to apply for the waiver. His 10-year old American born stepson (whose American mother had, in that case, actually been married before) relocated to Mexico to be with his father as well.

    As I mentioned in my WaPo letter, the young man, whom I met (along with his American grandmother - he has no Mexican ancestry himself) was very relieved and happy to be back in his own country after his stepfather finally got the waiver.

    When my letter was published - it resulted in at least a few (fortunately not too many) abusive online comments - directed against the American child! The gist of these coments was that since the boy had "chosen" to be born into a family which included an illegal Mexican, he had no right to complain about anything and deserved whatever hardship he may have gone through.

    I could not believe the vitriol directed against this brave young American man, who had chosen to live in dangerous circumstances in a foreign country whose language he did not know and which he had no connection with, just so his family could stay together.

    Unfortunately, i think that anti-immigrant and anti-minority hate is going to be a huge factor in this year's election, as unlimited right wing PAC money is poured into the effort to remove America's first brown-skinned president from the White House.

    Roger Algase
  7. Hope M.'s Avatar
    The removal case against Nazry was dropped- or rather, his application for "relief" was accepted at a preliminary Master Hearing (rather than his scheduled final Individual Hearing. Funny enough it was only a few days after AlJazeera reporters came into the facility to interview Naz (in front of 2 ICE agents of course.) I was so proud of him- he answered the reporter's questions honestly and without fear of what the agents may do or say to him or to anyone else (like, sabotage his case or make things really uncomfortable for him). He was willing to take that chance to let the public know what was going on in there and how his detention was an injustice. Our website is and you can view the complete AlJazeera documentary under the Media/Press tab.
    I kept up with the blog on our website and our Facebook group "we support Naz" so check it out for the details! There was a lot of cool things happening behind the scenes that we learned about after he was released.
    Once again thank you for writing this article! Life is good, back to being busy and now we are leading up the Waco Dream Act Alliance and traveling often to share our story with whomever invites us to. Today we were in Austin at a teach-in (called Breaking the Isolation of Detention). There was a GREAT turnout and we felt honored to be a part. We feel blessed to be able to share our experience to be used something GOOD
    PS- could you maybe edit your blog regarding me being previously married with kids? Lol. Thank you!!
  8. Roger Algase's Avatar
    Hope, thank you for the update. I have now edited my post from last year in order to correct the mistake you mention, for which I again apologize. All immigrants and Americans of good will owe a great debt of gratitude to you and Nazry for your efforts to tell others about your experience in order to help people who are still trapped in our Deporter in Chief's gulag.

    Our deportation system is, without question, the dark side of America. It makes a mockery of all the values of freedom and justice for which our country claims to be the leader of the world.

    How terrible that in November, Americans will have to choose between a president who is likely to continue all of the evils of this system (with maybe a very few token changes around the edges), and an opponent who is on record as having pledged to make the system even worse, if possible; and whose party is fighting tooth and nail to do just that at every level of government, as well as to take the right to vote away from minority US citizens.

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