In the last weeks before the DREAM Act was defeated in the Senate, more and more undocumented students were “coming out” to reveal their citizenship status. Yet, as a New York Times article reported, these students were spared from being deported.
“In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood,” John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. “As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.”
Too bad this wasn’t policy when Saad Nabeel was deported.
I first learned about Saad’s story from my local news station. His parents had left Bangladesh and brought 3-year-old Saad to the United States. He grew up in North Texas as an American Muslim, as he likes to describe himself, but totally a Texan teen.
He had a group of friends he hung out with when he wasn’t excelling in school which lead him to receive a full scholarship in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas in Arlington. Then one day, his life completely changed.
November 3rd 2009 is a day I will never forget. My mother called me and told me that my father had been detained by ICE and that we needed to leave immediately to Canada to seek refugee status. Being an only child, I had to take care of my mother and go with her.
My mother and I were denied entrance into Canada and sent back to the USA as if we were common criminals. I was separated from my mother and sent to a detention facility where I was forced to live with 60 men, many of whom were hardened criminals.
At the time of Saad’s detainment, he was a minor and every time, he says, he asked ICE officials if he could have a lawyer he was threatened with criminal charges and told he would go to jail.
The really sad part to Saad’s story is that he and his family should never have been deported in the first place. The family had been approved to receive their Green Cards and were only waiting for them to arrive. Yet, that didn’t matter to the ICE officials who deported Saad and his parents to Bangladesh.
From the minute he arrived in the country of his birth, he wanted to come back to what he considers his real home. Because he doesn’t speak Bangla, Saad could not leave the apartment where he and his parents moved without one of his parents going out with him. As a result, he couldn’t make friends and was confined to the small apartment for his own safety.
The conditions in Bangladesh instantly appalled this American-raised young man until one day he couldn’t take it anymore. While riding in a rickshaw with his father down a crowded street, he saw a policeman beating three small homeless children with his stick. People had gathered around the policeman begging him to stop but he continued.
Incensed, Saad jumped off the rickshaw and before his father could stop him, yelled at the policeman to stop hitting the children — in English.
The policeman wheeled around and hit Saad squarely with his baton telling him to speak Bangla.
“Every time I speak English out in public, people stare and talk about me amongst themselves,” Saad says. “Saying just a few lines out in the open makes me a public spectacle. I did not expect to be singled out in a crowd and attacked for speaking English, the only language I know.”
More than anything, Saad has wanted to finish his electrical engineering degree. So, his parents arranged to have him enroll in the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Yet, any thought that this was merely a school dedicated to turning out degreed professionals soon evaporated for Saad.
During his orientation, Saad says that the 1,000 students in attendance had to make a declaration to God, the university and to Muslim law. Prayer was mandatory, as was going to mosque at 4 a.m., which he didn’t do and was reprimanded by the school staff.
“Religion classes were also mandatory,” Saad said. “In one course, Islamic World View, the professor suggested that the 9-11 attack was not supposed to be an act of terrorism but rather a method of getting attention of the Western world because America’s oppression in the Middle East was so great that they had no other choice.”
Saad also made the mistake of telling some people that he had Jewish friends back home in Texas. As soon as he unthinkingly blurted it out, he says some of the students who were Palestinians roughed him up.
His engineering classes weren’t going that great either. In addition to homework assignments, the professor was assigning quotes from the Koran to memorize.
The final straw for Saad was when he heard rumors that Al Qaeda was operating on campus. He did a little research and found that a past teacher at the university had been among the 12 arrested in the Detroit Christmas bomber case.
This news, that the university had ties with Al Qaeda, sent Saad into a panic, like only someone raised in the U.S. who lived through 9/11 can feel.
Saad immediately contacted Ralph Isenberg, a well-known Dallas immigrant advocate, who tells Latina Lista that Saad’s deportation and sending him to a country that is openly hostile to Americans was a gross injustice and an endangerment to Saad’s life.
When Saad is asked if he’s prepared to leave his parents behind to return to live in the U.S., he told Latina Lista that he was because the “U.S. is my home and Bangladesh is not.”
Isenberg is working to bring Saad back to the U.S. So far, he has created a website to explain Saad’s case to the public, arranged to have Saad removed from campus and relocated to a safe location while he talks to ICE officials to get Saad’s case expedited before Saad experiences anymore emotional trauma.
If ever there was a doubt that non-citizen children raised in the United States are not Americans, one has only to read the words of Saad Nabeel and watch the videos he has posted continuously since his deportation.
His passion, his desperation and his fear at being in a country against his will that is so totally foreign and hostile to him speaks volumes about the injustice of Saad’s deportation.
It’s clear Saad is an All-American boy fighting to get back to the only home he knows, but most importantly the only one in which he feels safe.