Mohammad A. Islam, of Sunnyside, was picked up by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Feb. 10, having lived in America for 21 years as an undocumented foreign resident.
His wife, Lipiara Begum, left with three small children, two of whom are 18-month-old twin girls while the other is 5 years old. Begum is due to be sworn in as an American citizen — an unfortunate timing, as she could have been the person to sponsor her husband for a valid visa.
After exhausting his legal options, Begum worked to locate organizations and individuals who could assist her and her family to make the arguments necessary to provide her husband a temporary reprieve of removal. As he is being held in detention in New Jersey, and of her own effort, she contacted Mohammad Rashid, a civic leader in Jackson Heights.
Rashid contacted elected officials, such as U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). Despite the tireless work being done by the offices of these officials, the due date of Islam’s deportation back to Bangladesh is approaching.
Islam has previously filed for political asylum, due to the ongoing violence against opposition party members in his country — the cause, he says, for his departure from Bangladesh years prior.
As chairman of the Woodside Neighborhood Association, and having worked previously on advocacy in similar cases, I joined with Rashid to develop a final strategy in preventing the removal. I took the initiative and contacted ICE to beg it to use its enforcement authority to release Islam into the custody of his family while his new legal representatives review his case.
I wrote, “Mr. Rashid and I were both equally touched by this tragic set of circumstances. Our goal is to preserve the family unit, reunite a husband and wife, father with his three dependent children. We are not asking the government to rewrite the laws of the land, we are simply stating that, other than Mr. Islam’s illegal entry into the US, he has formed deep community-at-large ties, many close friends, and a family, all of whom are as American as apple pie.
“Ms. Begum is a strong, devoted mother and wife, and her focus and energy gives myself and Mr. Rashid hope that we can convince ICE that Mr. Islam’s detention runs counter to the message we here in Northwest Queens want to send to our brothers and sisters.
“Without Mr. Islam, the family has no means of financial support, no promise of tomorrow, and without intervention, this family of Americans will be destroyed. We do not burn the town to save it.”