By Bill Parry
A Woodside family was left “devastated and heartbroken” when they learned Wednesday that their father and husband was deported to Bangladesh by ICE, according to their representative. Bablu Sharif, and eight other Bangladeshi men from Queens, were sent back to their home country just one day after his daughters made a tearful plea to President Trump to let him come home.
Sharif, 52, was the family’s sole breadwinner as a driver for Uber. He had sought political asylum when he arrived in the United States in 1992.
“I tried my hardest to help these men, but no one would help me help them and now they are deported,” said Mazeda Uddin, an activist who has worked with the Sharif family as well as 10 others from New York City. “I contacted the offices of every elected official and no one helped me and now there are 28 people who were born here in the United States who now have no father.”
Uddin received the news directly from ICE Wednesday morning and spent several agonizing hours informing the families she represents as the founder and chief executive officer of SAFEST, an educational organization for South Asians.
ICE did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“Over the last four months, at least 27 families have been torn apart in New York City, a so-called Sanctuary City,” Uddin said. “Most of the men were all hardworking family men with no criminal records with children born here. These men have been living and following the laws of New York City and our country for years and years, even in cases, for decades.”
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) was the only elected official to stand with Sharif’s family during an emotionally charged news conference Tuesday in Jackson Heights.
Simran Sharif, 18, and her sister Samiha, 14 are high school students, and American citizens, who grew up on 47th Street in Woodside.
They said their father arrived in the United States in 1992 and filed for political asylum but was not able to maintain the documentation as he had to “work and put food on the table” for his family, according to Samiha.
“Who will take care of us if he is deported?” she asked the day before it became reality.
Simran broke into tears as she read her statement.
“I don’t want to go to school anymore, my mom and sister cry all the time for my father,” she said. “I cry also, but I don’t want to cry in front of my sister. I don’t want to cry in front of anyone, because then people will not think I am a brave girl.”
Both sisters are undergoing mental health counseling while their mother takes medication for depression.
Ali Najmi, a criminal attorney and political action director of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor, said Sharif was apprehended by ICE agents in 2013 and issued a deportation order but was given a deportation deferment and issued a work permit by the Obama administration.
“Under President Obama these deportation were deferred for a purpose,” Najmi said. “He could take care of his kids and provide for his family and when these kids turn 21, they can sponsor him for citizenship. That was the intention behind deferred deportations under Obama. To President Trump — what are you doing?”
During Sharif’s annual check-in to renew his work permit on June 22 he was taken into custody at ICE’s Manhattan office and sent to a detention facility in Hudson County, N.J., where his family visited him every Saturday.
“It was not a nice place, they treated us like criminals,” his wife Ferdousi said. “It was very heartbreaking.”
He was later transferred to Louisiana and on to a detention facility in Florence, Ariz.
“He was in a small room with many people,” Ferdousi said. “He’s a very religious man and they wouldn’t let him pray.”
Less than 24 hours later, Sharif boarded a plane and was deported.
“This is an American family that is being broken apart by an inhumane policy,” Najmi said.
During the press conference at Smart Academia in Woodside, a tutoring center where the Sharif sisters were once students, owner and principal Mohammed Rashid offered to be deported instead of their father. Another activist, Alan Roskoff, volunteered to go on hunger strike.
“I loved Obama’s America, I do not love Trump’s America,” Roskoff said. “I want to go back to loving America.”
Assemblyman Kim learned of the Sharif deportation Wednesday.
“This is the reality for many immigrant families under this administration,” Kim said. “Mr. Sharif came to this country seeking political asylum, in search of a better life. He was detained while completing his annual check-in with immigration authorities. This will only push families further into the shadows, even taxpaying parents of American citizens, with no criminal records, who can no longer trust the government to not suddenly detain and deport them from the only place they call home. This is a sad day for all of us but none so much as Mr. Sharif and his family. Our thoughts are with them today.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr