By Naeisha Rose
Riaz Talukder, an undocumented Bengali immigrant who lives in Jamaica and was facing deportation Monday, received a six-month reprieve to reseek asylum in the United States after nearly 75 people from immigration groups came out to support him at a press conference on the steps of the Federal Building in Manhattan.
“I am happy to be going home with my family, and with all these people who are my family and my community who came to support me,” Talukder said after a hearing in the Federal Building with ICE.
About 20 of the supporters went so far as to accompany Talukder inside the building to the meeting where immigration officials were going to possibly deport Talukder, forcing him to leave behind his two American sons who are under the age of 16 and his cancer-stricken wife, according to Lucy Herschel, the spokeswoman for Jackson Heights Immigration Solidarity Network.
“We got the best possible outcome today,” Herschel said. “He has to come to Federal Plaza in six months, but it is not the same kind of check-in where he could possibly be detained. He is allowed to stay while his motion to reopen his asylum case works its way through court.”
Talukder, 50, a cab driver who has no criminal record and has been paying taxes during his 36-year stay in the United States was brought here when he was 13 years old by an uncle in 1981, and after President Ronald Reagan issued the 1986 Amnesty Law, he signed up for it and qualified to stay, according to the spokeswoman.
After visiting Bangladesh in the 1990s, he was threatened there by the Jamaat Islami, a fundamentalist party in the country, according to Talukder.
Unfortunately, Talukder had bad legal representation in New York and his immigration paperwork was mixed up. He was issued a deportation order in 1999, which his former lawyers failed to even notify him about, according to Herschel.
Talukder was detained for seven months in 2010, when his elder son, Rafi who was 8 at the time, had to be the man of the house, according to the boy.
The father of two was later released and granted a stay of deportation and told that once his son was 21, Rafi would be able to file for him to become a citizen. In the meantime, Talukder said he checked in with ICE annually.
“This is the ultimate nightmare for children,” Herschel said. “Someone could take your parents away.”
“Hearing your mom cry is one thing, but hearing your dad cry is another thing,” said Rafi, 15. “He’s supposed to be hope.”
With the Trump administration’s tougher stance on immigration, Talukder was told in October by ICE officials at what had become a monthly check-in to have a passport and a one-way ticket back to Bangladesh, a country where he no longer has relatives, according to Herschel.
“Of all his 80 relatives who are citizens and green card holders [who live in the U.S.], he is the only who hasn’t gotten status,” Herschel said.
Also at the event supporting him was the Desis Rising Up and Moving organization, a South Asian advocacy group with offices in Jackson Heights.
“He is not asking for a favor. He has spent 36 years building this country, this city, and his community. This is Riaz’s home. And our communities can come out to support and defend each other,” said Kazi Fouzia, the director of DRUM.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose