The New York Daily New September 29, 2011 (morning)"I've always considered myself as American as anyone else," Habib said.Her suitcase is packed, but a Queens teen facing deportation Thursday spent what could be her last hours in America hoping she doesn't have to go.
"I know it's real," said Nadia Habib, 19, a Stony Brook University junior and Bronx High School of Science grad who came to the U.S. as a baby.
"It's been really hectic and nerve-racking with my family," she said. "The past three weeks I feel like I've had to grow up a lot."
Habib was set to report with her mom, Nazmin, to Federal Plaza by 11 a.m. this morning to be deported to Bangladesh, leaving behind her dad, a green card holder, and her three siblings, who were born here and are U.S. citizens.
"I could be literally leaving everything I know," Habib said. "Leaving would mean being separated from my brothers, my baby sister and my Dad."
She and her mother each can bring just one piece of luggage, weighing only 50 pounds."There's no way I can fit everything," said Habib, who said she just threw in some clothes and shoes - finding it impossible to pack up her whole life to go to a country she never knew. She doesn't even speak Bengali. [Ed. Note: Lie]
"I've always considered myself as American as anyone else," she said.
The family's Woodside home was full of neighborhood friends, trying to calm her mother and praying that the two will be able to stay.
"I have never seen her [my mom] crying so much as in this past week," Habib said.
For a decade, Habib's mom has been trying to reopen their bid for asylum. But on Sept. 10, the pair got a letter from the feds saying they had to leave.
Their lawyer, Aygul Charles, put in a request on Monday with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop the deportation - and asked that Habib and her mother be allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons.
"There has not been an official response," Charles said. "It's coming down to the wire."
The Habibs' case is especially compelling, Charles said, because the feds recently said they would follow new deportation priorities and focus on booting immigrants with criminal records.
Officials are reviewing 300,000 pending deportations and plan to let some law-abiding immigrants with ties to the U.S. stay temporarily and get permission to work.
An ICE spokesman would not comment on the specifics of the Habibs' case but said deportation priority decisions are made on a "case-by-case basis."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) office has been talking with ICE on the family's behalf, said spokeswoman Angie Hu.
"We expect that ICE will fully and fairly consider the family's request," said Hu.
Just a few days ago, Habib, who is studying psychology and wants to be a drug researcher, was trying to focus on midterms. But during a weekend drive around Stony Brook with friends, she broke down and cried.
"I thought, this could be the last time I see this certain part of sky," she said.
Nadia Habib and her mother, Nazmin Habib, are not being sent back to Bangladesh just yet.At an immigration hearing in Federal Plaza on Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to review the Habib's case and decide whether to reopen it, their lawyer said.
The women, who live in Woodside, Queens, are to report back to the immigration agency in three months and remain under an order of supervision requiring them to notify immigration authorities if they intend to leave the state for more than two days, their lawyer, Aygul Charles, said.
Ms. Charles said the Habibs “could still be deported any day,” but she added that she thought the director of the New York office of ICE, Christopher Shanahan, “recognizes that it’s a sympathetic family.”
Officials at the immigration agency said they could not comment on an individual case without a privacy waiver from the Habibs, which was not immediately available.
Nadia Habib, 19, and her parents came to the United States in 1993 when she was 20 months old. Her father now has a green card and her three younger brothers, all born here, are citizens, but Nadia and Nazmin Habib overstayed a tourist visa and have been trying to reopen their case and press a political asylum claim since 2000.
All morning in front of Federal Plaza, friend and supporters had held up signs and protested for the Habibs not to be deported and the family split up. Nadia, a psychology major at Stony Brook University, was swarmed when she left the court building.
“I’m very excited, nervous,” she said. “I’m just going home to chill out.”
The New York Daily News September 20, 2011Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas is one of the most famous undocumented immigrants in the country - but the feds have made no move to kick him out.
Like Vargas, Miguel Gulfin came to the United States from the Philippines as a child and has built a life here. The two men even have the same lawyer.
Unlike Vargas, Gulfin is embroiled in a deportation fight and could be sent back to a country he left when he was just 7.
"He [Vargas] is too hot an item to handle," said Jose Teodoro Mallonga of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represents both men.
"But they're quietly trying to deport this young boy."
Vargas, 30, a former Washington Post reporter who lives in New York, wrote about his illegal entry into the U.S. in a splashy New York Times Magazine essay.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has left him alone.
"Unlike Miguel, I'm not in deportation proceedings," Vargas said. "How do I feel about that? In many ways, it underscores just how broken the system is."
Gulfin, 27, an auto mechanic, learned he was undocumented in October 2005, when he and his parents were rounded up in an ICE raid and held for six months.
He and his parents are under a Sept. 30 final deportation order.
"I'd have to start all over. I don't know anyone there," said Gulfin, who recently got an associate's degree from Brookdale Community College.
"I just want to live my life. I'm just a guy from Tinton Falls, N.J."
The journalist and the repairman met last week at the Manhattan launch of an interfaith campaign backing the federal DREAM Act, which would give green cards to immigrants who came here as kids and attend college or join the military.
Though the bill is stalled in Congress, the Obama administration recently outlined new rules prioritizing deportations.
It said some immigrants - such as students who would qualify under the DREAM Act and other law-abiding residents with ties to the U.S. - should be allowed to stay temporarily and work.
The feds are reviewing 300,000 pending cases - but it isn't clear if the Gulfins will be
Mallonga filed an appeal with New Jersey's ICE legal adviser, but has not received a response.
The new guidelines don't apply to Vargas. Only those facing deportation can apply for work permits - and he's avoided contact with authorities and doesn't have an active case.
"These are all mixed signals," Vargas said.
He said he and Gulfin are part of the older generation of "dreamers" who came to the U.S. as children and were students when the DREAM Act was introduced a decade ago.
"We represent just how old the problem is with immigration," he said.
ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein declined to comment on Gulfin's case, saying the agency is deciding priority "on a case-by-case basis."
Mallonga said there is an obvious "disconnect" between what the feds are saying and what they're doing.
"We're going to fight this," he said.
The New York Daily News September 27, 2011Miguel Gulfin, who came from the Philippines as a child and shares a lawyer with Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, was rounded up in a 2005 home raid.
A New Jersey mechanic - who shares a back story and lawyer with high-profile undocumented immigrant and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas - has been given a one-year reprieve.
The feds postponed the deportation of Miguel Gulfin, 28, and his parents, which was set for Friday.
"It felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders," Gulfin said. "We have a chance to fight after all."Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning former Washington Post reporter, revealed he is undocumented in a celebrated essay - but the feds have not tried to deport him.
Gulfin, who also came from the Philippines as a child and shares a lawyer with Vargas, was rounded up in a 2005 home raid.
"The Gulfins are at least temporarily safe from deportation," said the lawyer, Jose Teodoro Mallonga of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Mallonga had asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to consider closing the Gulfins' case under new priority rules that allow some law-abiding undocumented immigrants with ties to the U.S. to stay.
Instead, ICE Newark field office director John Tsoukaris simply postponed deportation of the Tinton Falls, N.J., family for a year.
Gulfin said he'll take it. "I'm learning to count my blessings," he said.
And clearly not a "case-by-case" review.The WaPo September 29, 2011NEW YORK — The deportation letter arrived just as Nadia Habib was starting her junior year at Stony Brook University, its message straightforward and scary: Please report to our offices on Sept. 29, and be prepared to leave the country.
Habib, who moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh when she was a toddler, had known that she was an illegal immigrant since she was a teenager, her attorney says. But the knowledge that she would have to leave the country where she grew up — the place she calls home — was a horrible shock.
“It’s a crazy situation to be in for someone like her,” said her attorney, Aygul Charles. “To just kind of go through the motions and do the things that a normal college student would do, then have this letter sent to you that says ‘pack your bags.’”
Habib and her mother, Nazmin Habib, were granted a temporary reprieve Thursday as immigration officials postponed a final decision on their case, allowing them to stay in the U.S. for now. The two women arrived at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan for their deportation meeting prepared to say goodbye to their family and board a plane. But instead, they emerged from the courthouse smiling as about 100 supporters cheered and chanted “education not deportation!”
“We still have a lot of waiting and hoping to do,” Nadia Habib told supporters. “I’m just nervous. Tomorrow’s my birthday, so this is kind of a great birthday present.”
Immigration officials fingerprinted them, confiscated the Habibs’ passports and put them under an order of supervision, which requires them to meet periodically with an immigration officer while their case is being reviewed. They weren’t told when a decision would be made, though immigration officers said it was a high-priority case, Charles said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been working with immigration officials on behalf of the family, released a statement praising the decision not to deport them.
“I am thrilled that Nadia will be celebrating her 20th birthday tomorrow at home with her family and will be continuing her studies in the only country she’s ever known,” Gillibrand said.
The Habib family has taken a confusing legal path toward citizenship ever since they arrived in the U.S. in 1993 from Bangladesh with baby Nadia. Some details of the legal proceedings remain murky, as they have switched lawyers several times over the years.Charles was brought onto the case only a week ago, when Nadia Habib filled out an online form seeking help from the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an advocacy group that quickly took up her cause.
The problem began when Nazmin Habib became ill and missed a scheduled hearing in U.S. Immigration Court on April 26, 2000, according to a court document. The judge proceeded to conduct a hearing in absentia and denied her request for asylum based on past persecution in Bangladesh, Charles said.
When the Habibs tried to reopen the case by providing a doctor’s note, the judge said the note was not credible because the doctor was not found in the court’s registered list of physicians. Charles said this was a clerical error that was never corrected.
Nadia Habib’s siblings were born in the U.S. and are thus citizens, while her father successfully applied for his green card based on his relationship with his children, Charles said.
“His attorney at the time told him that he shouldn’t include his wife or Nadia in the application,” Charles said. “I’ve been told by other attorneys that that’s nonsense.”
Many immigrant children like Nadia Habib don’t learn that they are illegal until their teens, when they’re applying for a driver’s license or to college, Charles said.
The most famous example in recent memory was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who discovered he was an illegal immigrant in high school after emigrating from the Philippines in 1993. Vargas lied about his immigration status to employers for years until he wrote about his struggles in a magazine story earlier this year. He lost his driver’s license after the story was published, but has not been deported.
“This goes on throughout the country,” Charles said. “There’s so many kids in Nadia’s shoes.”The family was not available for interviews on Thursday, and Charles was unable to provide the names of their prior attorneys. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Luis Martinez said the agency can’t discuss the case without a privacy waiver.
Sara Martinez, 22, was among those who came out to support the family.
“The immigration system is broken and flawed,” said Martinez, whose own family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a baby.
Habib, who previously attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, told reporters that she would be returning to class Monday at the state university on Long Island.
“Obviously, it’s a roller coaster. I’m just really grateful to be able to stay here longer,” she said. “I’m just gonna continue doing what I’ve been doing, living my life as I have. And wait for an answer.”