Deported and Denied

It’s absurd really how the immigration debate has been commandeered by people who have messaged this issue as though “brown” is only Mexican, and “the border” is the only way people cross into the U.S. Evidence of this can clearly be seen in dirty political ads that are coming out as the countdown to Election Day approaches November 2nd.

The truth is, the history of immigration in the U.S. is complicated. And the current history of undocumented immigrants as well as deportation of immigrants is just as complicated. For Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package, many different issues should be addressed besides just building a wall. Colorlines Magazine put out a fascinating and well-made report this week about a Bangladeshi youth that was deported out of the U.S. after authorities were not satisfied with how he responded to the question, “Are you a citizen?”

Shahed Hossain was a Texan to the core. He spent most of his childhood and adolescence just outside of Fort Worth, dated a young women whose mother worked as an accountant for a military contractor, went fishing on the river with his best friend and held a weekend high school job scooping ice cream at a breakthrough near his family’s house.

The young man had a green card and was soon to be a citizen, but he was removed from his home over a trifle: He accidentally told a border guard he was a citizen rather than a permanent resident, thus triggering automatic deportation….In the three years since Hossain was deported, over one million others have been removed from their homes as well. [colorlines]

Happy Columbus Day, y’all.

This entry was posted in History, News, Politics, Video by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

25 thoughts on “Deported and Denied

  1. Wow, that’s horrible – like a really strange hang up to get deported for. Remember when we got in some trouble by the Mexican border, Tazzy?

  2. That genuinely sucks, but you have to be a fool to “mess up” with the border patrol. I’m not sure what it is about that job, but they appear to be the most dour, chitinous, corrupt, and cynical humans in America short of Teabaggers.

    Be smart and transparent with the border guards, fellow brownfolk. I also find flirting with same-sex guards seems to compel them to be done with you quicker.

  3. Even for citizens, you can only tell border guards to jump in the proverbial lake after establishing that you are a citizen with a passport. Our border guards ask questions which assume that everyone is a criminal. This is a result of having borders and the convention of birthright citizenship–two things that liberals and many conservatives consider sacrosanct. One solution, since those things are not going away anytime soon, would be to raise the requirements (standardized testing) for working in any capacity on either border or int’l airport–so spiteful dimwits like Garza don’t get a chance to ‘stick it’ to their preferred ethnic bogeyman.

    If you are a citizen, contra paul, do not be “smart and transparent.” follow this guy’s advice: http://knifetricks.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-am-detained-by-feds-for-not-answering.html

  4. I don’t see how accidentally answering wrongly could get him deported. There was no particular need for him to lie that he was a citizen. He was a legal resident. I remember standing in line at the DMV and an clerk came by and asked me if I was a citizen. I distractedly said yes. She asked me again and then I corrected myself. These things happen. I have the feeling that there is more to this story.

    • 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(3)(D)(i) - “Any alien who falsely represents, or has falsely represented, himself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act (including section 274A) or any Federal or State law is deportable.”

      There really isn’t any more to the story. Our immigration laws are that insane. Amazingly, the statute does not contain an intent requirement, so an innocent mistake will get you deported. There is one exception if you reasonably did not know you were not a citizen and your parents became citizens when you were a child. So an innocent mistake at the border, tax form, loan application, or just about anything can get you deported regardless of how long you’ve been in the United States.

      Also, he is barred from coming back to the United States for life – 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii).

    • John, from your name, I’m guessing that you are white – or you look white. In the eyes of the INS, that makes all the difference. Speaking from experience as a clean cut but dark-skinned US citizen who always seems to get “randomly” stopped when leaving or entering the country.

  5. This is really unfortunate, and really sad.

    One motivation that Shahed Hossain might have had for impersonating a US citizen could be that he was not carrying proof of his immigrant-visa (i.e. green card) when he was stopped by the border guards. AFAIK it is a requirement that all immigrants and non-immigrants visa holders carry the proof of their legal presence in USA. For some strange reason this requirement is more stringent for green card holders, I was advised/admonished by an immigration agent at the port of entry that I should carry my green card in my wallet right next to my driver’s license and not at a safe place in my house.

    That said if all the immigration law enforcers get as strict as this Garza guy more than half of ‘wattos’ from San Antonio will be deported to Mexico (including some extended family members of Garza himself)

    BTW: You don’t have to cross the borders to encounter a checkpoint – most of the southern states have several checkpoints 30-40 miles INSIDE the US borders.

  6. Wow, this is so sad…and totally in the vein of “Happy Columbus Day”… @Anoop: Do you know what constitutes as a “child” for that exception you mentioned, become one of relative’s friends just got deported because when his family moved over here years ago, he thought his dad got citizenship for the entire family but apparently he didn’t for his son, and now he can’t come back, and had like a ridiculous 5 days to get out of the country…

  7. If you are a citizen, contra paul, do not be “smart and transparent.” follow this guy’s advice

    Are you actually trying to get people detained and harassed? That may fly for a white guy at SFIA, but things are little different for brown folks on the Texas border. If you have the time and compulsion to prove a trifling-ass point, sure, by all means piss the Feds off. I can guarantee they can find a reason to hold you if they really want.

  8. Texan to the core my azz. If so he should’ve known better than to pretend to playoff as a citizen….dumbazz.

  9. I can’t believe that people are talking about lying, pretending to be gay and being contrary in dealing with the border patrol. Paul, you must not be gay so feel comfortable “using” same-sex flirting as a way to get your way. It may have been easy for you, but many gays face harsh treatment most places…the border isn’t a place to mess around (pun intended).

    Besides, these kinds of things can get on one’s record on entry and make life difficult later on, esp. during the citizenship interview. Despite the notion that Americans are quite tolerant of queers, they ask questions about homosexuality to weed people out.

    It is really sad about Shahed. If he had been honest or even said “I don’t know”, he might have avoided this situation. Of course, it is hard for some folks to just admit and say, “I don’t know.” It is ridiculous to penalize a teenager so harshly though, for a mistake, esp. one he corrected right away.

    My observation over time has been that many atrocities that are feared and perpetrated under a Republican presidency are often increased during Democratic presidency. Immigration is one of them. It’s all ass backwards.

    • There’s centuries of domestic politics embedded in immigration laws. Not completely arbitrary.

      If this Bangladeshi Texan guy had been a 101 year old woman, I doubt that this enforcement would be happening in exactly the same way.

  10. First of all this is totally messed up… I mean, for serious? A lot of people are saying they can’t understand how he said “citizen” accidentally… I can understand that.. I mean if I am feeling nervous, or sleepy, or having a bad day., I sometimes use the wrong word… it seems quite human to me. It’s not like he was not supposed to be here, he’s a legal resident!

    Dialgoue: Jerkface Borderwhatever dude: “Are you a citizen?” Guy: “What?, yes.. I…” JBD: “You’re a citizen???” G: “No I mean I’m a legal resident, I have my green card.” JBD “You just falsely said you were a citizen! You’re getting deported!”

    BTW, that 101 year old lady entered the country legally when a completely different set of rules were allowed… so it would be silly to compare them, since she didn’t break any laws, not even accidently.

    • Excuse me, but did you miss the part in the article that said the 101 yr old lady crossed the border several times, all life, until recently, claiming that she was a citizen? She stopped doing that only recently when they got tighter at the border. How’s that different from this guy who claimed he was citizen out of fear?

      • “She came to Texas in the arms of her mother, Ilaria Mendoza, when she was only six months old.

        At that time, it was normal for both Mexicans and Americans to travel across the border in either direction without being forced to show documentation .

        Ms Garcia’s single mother made a living washing clothes – and together they lived a quiet life in Brownsville.

        In 1940, the US Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, or Smith Act, which required all non-citizens already in the country to register with the government.

        She registered, along with millions of other immigrants, and received a Certificate of Lawful Entry card, issued to her on 4 April 1941.

        With the government-issued card in hand, she crossed the border to visit family and friends for decades without a problem.

        The card has now also made it possible for Ms Garcia to become a US citizen.”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11529577

  11. I disagree with Anoop’s reading of the law. There is no suggestion in the statute that it is a strict liability offense with no mens rea (intent) element within it. The very phrase “falsely represents” has a plain English meaning that requires knowledge that the representation is false, and the making of a representation that is itself deliberate. Mumbling something incoherently and in a confused, nervous jumble of words is not a “representation” under its simple dictionary definition.

    The Board of Immigration Appeals simply missed the boat in applying the law as written to the actual facts of this case.

    I don’t know why this hasn’t gone up yet to the federal court system, and will assume that’s in the works now. Once it does, I doubt a federal district judge or a 5th Circuit appellate panel would disagree with the argument that the statute requires an actual intent to deceive, and there simply can be no such intent (much less actual “deception,” except for approximately 2 seconds) in circumstances where a nervous, 21-year old legal resident coughs out the words, “I’m a citizen. No wait, I’m a resident, sorry, I screwed up.” The so-called “judges” sitting on the BIA get whacked down by the court system on a regular basis. I suspect and hope that will happen eventually in this tragic situation.

    • I hear you – it’s not my reading though. It is the position that the Department of State and Board of Immigration Appeals has taken. It’s not that they missed the boat here, the BIA has repeatedly taken the position that there is no intent requirement. Generally, this has come up with minors who made false claims. Even though everyone agrees that the child could not form the intent to falsely claim to be a citizen, they still slap them with a lifetime bar. You can read the blog of a couple separated for life because of a false claim to citizenship made as a child here – http://carlosandamy.blogspot.com/. The other statute penalizing false statements explicitly uses the phrase willfully. I don’t share your faith that the 5th Circuit would disagree with the BIA.

      • Well, State and the BIA don’t have the last word. The courts do. Time will tell who is right.

  12. This is really sad and shocking. And even if he did unintentionally say he was a Citizen, the fact is he was a lawful permanent resident. He could ahve been admonished and served some minimum time for not carrying his Green Card with him. But to deport him? Just doesn’t make sense.

    I hope he has recourse to appeal.

  13. thanks, sepia mutiny for re-posting this devastating tale of injustice. what’s equally as upsetting is that there are hundreds of thousands of people, each year, right here in the USA, who find themselves in situations just like mr. hussain’s–they are deported, their lives are ripped apart, in virtual silence. they have no voice in this fascist system. their stories do not get covered and if they are covered, they are quickly forgotten about or only half the story is told.

    here are some places where folks, who feel so moved to act upon reading mr. hussain’s story, can go to to make their own voices heard and give voice to the thousands who have suffered, unjustly, in silence at the hands of the US border enforcement system. these organizations do amazing work, connect with them, support them:

    http://www.deportationnation.org/

    http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/

  14. thanks, sepia mutiny for re-posting this devastating tale of injustice. what’s equally as upsetting is that there are hundreds of thousands of people, each year, right here in the USA, who find themselves in situations just like mr. hussain’s–they are deported, their lives are ripped apart, in virtual silence. they have no voice in this fascist system. their stories do not get covered and if they are covered, they are quickly forgotten about or only half the story is told.

    here are some places where folks, who feel so moved to act upon reading mr. hussain’s story, can go to to make their own voices heard and give voice to the thousands who have suffered, unjustly, in silence at the hands of the US border enforcement system. these organizations do amazing work, connect with them, support them:

    http://www.deportationnation.org/

    http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/