After her father was released Dec. 22 from a nine-month detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 8-year-old Sanjana Hussain said she had the best New Year’s ever.
“I feel happy because my dad’s back and now it’s a happy family,” Sanjana said.
Taimur Hussain, a 53-year-old Bangladeshi national who now lives in Astoria with his family, was arrested in March and held for months despite not having a prior criminal record.
Through the help of Jackson Heights activist Mohammad Rashid and numerous elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Hussain was granted a six-month deferral of deportation and is working to get a work permit.
“He’s very grateful to these people,” Rashid said.
Taimur Hussain and his wife, 43-year-old Sabiha Mahmud Hussain, told their story through Molly Anjum, who translated for them. Hussain grew up in Bangladesh, but he fled the country due to political reasons with his wife and their daughter Rezwana, who is now 19.
“It’s not a safe place for him and his family anymore,” Anjum said.
The Hussains came to America in 1995 on a visitor’s visa. They lived in Elmhurst for a few months before settling in Astoria and had two other daughters in the United States: Sanjana and now-13-year-old Sabreena. Hussain worked in restaurants as a chef, but was unable to get a steady job due to his immigration status.
Because they did not understand much about the system, they did not know what steps to take to get legal status. In 2009, they tried in earnest to work out Hussain’s immigration issues, but Hussain was arrested.
Hussain said he was not mistreated during his nine months with ICE. He was able to pray and was served halal food and no one was cruel to him.
But he worried about his family.
Mahmud Hussain said she felt completely hopeless and shattered when her husband was detained. She put a lot of money into meeting with attorneys and often relied on loans from friends.
Sabreena’s grades also dropped and she was often absent from school due to the immigration fight.
“It was very hard for me and my family,” she said.
Their fortunes changed when Mahmud Hussain met Rashid. Rashid, who introduced her meet to many different people who could help her as well as her current lawyer, Naresh Gehi. Gehi held a press conference with Mahmud Hussain, Sabreena and Sanjana pressing for Hussain’s release Dec. 4.
“It’s like an angel from God that she met with Rashid,” Anjum said.
In November, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Intro 656A, which prevents the city Department of Correction from holding undocumented immigrants without a prior criminal record for ICE.
The Hussains said they were thankful to ICE officers who released Hussain and all others who assisted in his release. Hussain hopes to get his papers, work hard and pay taxes, and Mahmud Hussain wants to work as well.
“All these years he thought he didn’t have a voice, and all these people stood up for him,” Anjum said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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