By Ivan Pereira
A Queens family is pleading with the federal government to release their patriarch, who has been in jail for more than eight months, since they say immigration officials have not formally charged him with any crime.
Sabiha Hussain and her two daughters — Sabreena, 13, and Sanjana, 9 — have been struggling since March after their father, Taimur Hussain, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to Naresh Gehi, the father’s attorney.
Gehi told a news conference in Jackson Heights Friday that Hussain, who like his wife is a Bangladeshi national, was not in the country legally after moving to the United States in 1995. But he said Hussain was trying to work out his immigration problems with the federal government and had not been convicted of any other crime.
“This is a man who played by the book after realizing his mistakes,” Gehi said.
The attorney has sent a letter to ICE and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), calling for Hussain’s release by citing several U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Zadvydas v. Davis. The court ruled in that 2001 case that people arrested for violating immigration laws could not be detained for more than six months “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.”
Hussain came to the United States on a visitor’s visa 16 years ago and tried to claim asylum, but was denied, according to Gehi. The attorney claimed his client has tried to clear up his immigration issues since then, but he was never able to get approval for his stay and was ultimately arrested by ICE in the spring.
Gehi said an immigration judge has not presented any evidence that proves Hussain should be deported back to Bangladesh, from which the attorney said he fled for political reasons.
Calls to ICE and Gillibrand’s office were not returned as of press time Tuesday afternoon.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed City Council bill Intro 656A in November, which would prevent the city Department of Correction from holding undocumented immigrants without a prior criminal record, pending conviction or other criminal ties for a longer period of time for federal immigration authorities. Advocates argued the bill would prevent families from being separated. The law has not yet gone into effect.
The Hussain family has been moving from apartment to apartment and staying with friends since Hussain, who worked odd jobs and was the primary caregiver, was arrested.
Both daughters were born in America and they fear they may have to go to Bangladesh if their father is not released.
“It’s sad,” Sanjana said. “We only talk to him over the phone.”
Gehi said he and his client are willing to work out any issues ICE has with his immigration status, but said the amount of time he has been behind bars is unnecessary.
“In this case, the judge can be sympathetic,” he said.
Rebecca Henely contributed reporting to this article.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.