EARLY ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON in October 2006, Shahed Hossain had just finished a hard week of remodeling kitchens in Laredo. Before heading back north, Hossain and his boss, Pablo Orozco, and coworker Daniel Kilos decided to make a quick trip over to the other side. In his 11 years in Texas, Hossain had never been to Mexico. empty rozco Mexican Corona Everything that I know Plus, O had a box of full ttles crate. So Orozco got and everything that I learned, bo to exchange for a back to the border. drove I learned from Texas.” his beer, and they At about 2:15 that afternoon, after waiting in a short line of cars, Orozco rolled down the driver’s-side window and pulled his American passport and Hossain’s Bangladeshi passport and Texas driver license from the glove compartment. The border guard peered into the van, first at Orozco and Kilos in the passenger seat, and then into the back seat at Hossain. He handed Orozco his passport back, and Kilos, a citizen, explained that he’d left his at home in Fort Worth. The officer held up the Bangladeshi passport and asked to whom it belonged. Orozco gestured over his shoulder to Hossain. Hossain and Kilos were directed into an office next to the crossing, and Orozco was told to wait in the car. Inside, the two young men were led into a small room by a border guard whose chest badge read Gambaro Valvidias. After patting them down, Valvidias asked the two young men if they were citizens. Yes, they said. Valvidias asked Hossain how he’d become a citizen and, according to Valvidias’ account, Hossain said he did not know because his father had done all the paperwork. In the process Hossain realized he’d misspoken and corrected himself. “No, hold up, no, I’m not a citizen, I’m a resident, sir,” Hossain remembers saying. Hossain had lived in the country for more than half his life, with his documented immigration status tied to his father, a mechanical engineer who left Bangladesh for fear of political violence and gained political asylum in 1993. Three years later, Shahed and his older brother Sheehab landed in New York WATCH President Obama’s immigration speech at txlo.com/obamaimm n the night in October 2006 that Shahed Hossain left his fam ily’s house in Haltom City, near Fort Worth, for a long drive to Laredo, his mother, Habiba, cooked dinnerchicken and rice and okra picked from the garden. She piled her son’s plate high and watched him eat. Then she took his Bangladeshi passport from a drawer and handed it to him, leaving his green card safely stored away. The 21-year-old had a penchant for losing things, and a green card is not a thing to lose. She hurried him out the door and into the white utility van in the driveway, where his boss waited. “I’ll see him in a week,” she thought. Like every other time he’d set off for work trips all over Texas, she figured, her younger son would return to the house where he grew up with his brother and his parents and the dog. That night was the last time Shahed Hossain’s mother would see him free in United States. Six days later, Hossain was locked up in a privately run immigration detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border. He spent more than a year there before he was shackled, loaded onto a plane and flown to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hossain is Texan through and through. He walks with a swagger and speaks with a hint of drawl. He and his best friend passed middle-school evenings scurrying down to the creek to catch turtles. On highschool weekends, when they weren’t working at the ice-cream drive-in, they’d escape the suburban lull to go gar fishing. He played freshman-year football and dated a young woman whose mother is an accountant at a major defense contractor. “Everything that I know and everything that I learned, I learned from Texas,” he says. “I love Texas.” Texas is far away now. Hossain lives with his grandmother, passing solitary days raising carrier pigeons, growing an orchid garden and searching for work, mostly in vain. “I wanna be back home. This is my, what they say, motherland,” he says, leaning forward and laughing in a wooden chair near his small garden alcove. “Back to the motherland! But this is not my home. My home is over there. My home is in Goodnight Circle.” He looks down at his feet and pauses. “That was my street name.” Had Hossain carried his green card that day, he would now be a citizen like the rest of his family. Instead, a confused run-in with a border guard landed him with a charge that leads directly to deportationone of a batch of federal laws in recent years that have built a massive deportation dragnet. Hossain was among 319,000 people deported in fiscal year 2007; in the last year, more than 390,000 were deported, matching the record number of expulsions the government administered in President Barack Obama’s first year. When Obama entered the White House, he promised to push a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill in his first year. Doing so, he apparently calculated, would require a compromise. To garner bipartisan support for opening new paths to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., the president, congressional Democrats and key Beltway advocates came together around a strategy: They would endorse a hawkish buildup of deportation and border security in hopes of creating space for broader reforms. In a major speech on immigration last July, the president outlined his approach, vowing to “improve our enforcement policy without having to wait for a new law.” Almost two years into the Obama presidency, however, no bipartisan support for a broader bill has emerged from this hawkishness. In fact, the few Republicans who once backed immigration reform have fled. Worse, the Democrats’ would-be political trading game conceals a larger, more troubling fact: Even if the strategy eventually works, the “comprehensive” scheme Obama supports will undermine itself with its deportation dragnet. None of the leading immigration-reform proposals coming from Washington Democrats would have prevented Hossain, or others like him, from being deported.
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