Khalid’s Story: A Wife Opens Up About Immigration Anxieties in America

by Beth Brotherton/Guest

As a U.S. citizen and a wife of a peaceful and compassionate documented Muslim immigrant, I fear for my husband’s safety and our future in the wake of a Trump presidency. During his campaign, President-elect Trump promised to immediately deport 2-3 million immigrants and indicated he would consider implementing a Muslim registry. On Fox News, one of Trump’s supporters proclaimed the internment of Muslims was a possibility during his presidency. Any of these measures would do serious harm to both my husband and me. My virtuous and devoted husband has been traumatized and grievously victimized by a punitive prison industrial complex: both within the criminal and immigration judicial systems. I cannot imagine my husband being threatened and further traumatized– yet again-­ with detention/incarceration and permanent separation from his family in the U.S. Furthermore, due to my family situation and health issues I would experience extreme hardship if my husband and I were separated. My husband

Khalid has been in a state of “immigration limbo” for eight years with no legal avenue to adjust his status. We have been married for almost ten years with no resolution to his situation in sight. Both my husband and I have professional jobs. I work at an academic college library and my husband is a supervisor and electrical engineer at a successful local business. Because he came here legally, he has a social security card, pays taxes and pays annually for a permit that allows him to work legally in the US.

I cannot accurately convey how much my husband has helped and supported my family and myself. When my mother was seriously ill in 2013 he was a devoted and compassionate son-in-law: helping my mother whenever she fell, going on errands and offering emotional support to my grieving and overwhelmed father. My mother passed away in January 2014, leaving my father alone with no other living relatives except myself and Khalid. My husband assists my elderly father: moving heavy objects, accompanying him to medical appointments, and completing various yard and household tasks for him. This October, when my father had surgery to repair a hernia in the abdominal region and the removal of numerous cancerous tumors in his intestines, my husband was right by his side. In fact, it was Khalid who escorted my father home from the hospital when I was incapacitated due to a foot injury. Additionally, Khalid was indispensable last April when I was hospitalized for two months with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and life threatening infection. He visited me every day I was in the hospital, comforted and encouraged me when I was scared and depressed. When I was finally released he cared for me: helping me with self-care, cooking our meals and changing my extensive wound dressings twice a day, every day. Without him I would not have been released from the hospital early nor recovered as completely as I have. Being an only child, diabetic and prone to infections, I have no one other than my husband to rely on if I become ill or incapacitated. For this reason — and my abiding love for him – I legitimately fear the incoming administration will separate us forever.

My husband’s story is complicated and I will explain his situation as briefly as I can. Please read the entire article to get a full understanding of the complexities of his immigration case and the urgency of our dire situation.

My husband was born in India in 1968, but at an early age his father moved the family to Kuwait in order to secure a better paying job as a civil engineer. When Khalid was 18 he applied and was accepted at Oklahoma State University to pursue a major in electrical engineering. He secured a student Visa and arrived in this country in 1987. His original directive was to obtain his degree and return to his family in Kuwait-, but future world events would ultimately alter that plan.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, my husband’s family fled their home and became migrants in various countries around the world. After many years, one sister eventually went back to Kuwait only to find the family’s home destroyed by heavy Iraqi artillery. Consequently, Khalid was left without a home and the grim prospect of dropping out of college to fend for himself. His father, fearing for his son’s safety, encouraged Khalid to stay in the United States, at least until there was a stable home to return to. Thinking he would return to his family once the war was over, and not having much money for living expenses, Khalid did not have the resources to hire an immigration lawyer to extend his Visa. By the time he realized he was never going to reunite with his family overseas it was too late to petition for an extension.

In 1991 he moved from Oklahoma to Utica, New York. While in Utica, he obtained employment as a taxi driver. In the summer of 1993, while filling out some paperwork in his cab, he was threatened by four individuals: individuals that Khalid felt meant him physical harm. In order to defend himself he shot a gun into the air. He was not aware that gun laws varied from state to state, so he did not know New York State required guns to be registered. Residing in Oklahoma, he was familiar with that state’s permissive gun laws and assumed they were similar in New York. No one was injured in the incident, and no property was damaged. Despite being threatened by these individuals and cooperating with police, Cal was arrested. No other arrests were made that night.

The District Attorney agreed to lower the charges to third-degree reckless endangerment; a minor infraction that did not result in jail time. However, the presiding judge refused to take the plea. Khalid’s court-appointed lawyer failed to show up to the sentencing so there was nothing he could do to effectively defend himself or alter the judge’s mind. Thankfully, the gun violation was dropped but my husband was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment. He served 4 months of his 6 month sentence due to good behavior.

In the aftermath of 9/11, my husband was unmarried, Muslim, and had residential ties to Kuwait: one of the flagged countries suspected of housing terrorists. Based on these factors, Khalid was incorrectly identified as a suspected terrorist. He secured an immigration lawyer to present his case to the immigration courts. The judge presiding over Khalid’s immigration case in 2003 determined that he was deportable based on his one conviction of reckless endangerment. If reckless endangerment was considered an aggravated felony then the judge would have been correct. However, “reckless endangerment is considered a crime of moral turpitude.” In order for a crime of moral turpitude to be considered a deportable crime, the individual in question would have to “commit one crime of moral turpitude within five years of arriving in the States or– failing to qualify in that regard — would need to commit two crimes of moral turpitude.” (information taken directly from the book by Mary E. Kramer entitled Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity, p. l85)

My husband’s situation did not qualify as deportable based on these criteria. Consequently, my husband’s lawyer remanded this decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The BIA agreed that the one crime of moral turpitude was not deportable. Additionally, they determined that he was eligible for asylum, a form of relief the immigration judge denied him — unless his crime was considered a particularly serious crime. Subsequently, the immigration judge proclaimed that Khalid’s “crime” was a particularly serious crime and therefore, he was denied asylum. Once again, he appealed the decision to the BIA. They agreed it was a particularly serious crime, which denied him asylum, but did not concur deportability based on the conviction alone. In essence, the BIA denied him asylum but did not proclaim the crime as being a deportable offense in itself. Despite the BIA’s reluctance in issuing a deportation in a detention facility in Batavia, New York. He languished in detention for over eight months, despite having legal papers, a valid passport and repeatedly imploring the detention officers to return him to India.

After eight months of imprisonment, the Batavia Detention facility released my husband from detention and allowed him to go back to some semblance of his former life while his case continued in the Second Circuit court. My husband’s employer helped him find and pay for an immigration lawyer. His employer also welcomed him back to his former position in their company.

In 2008 judges in the Second Circuit court denied Khalid’s third appeal, stating, that they did not have the jurisdiction to overrule the BIA’s rejection of asylum. However, in a surprising turn of events they did issue a deportation mandate based on overstay. Over the next few months Khalid and I wondered anxiously when he would be seized by ICE officials, detained once again and deposited in India-a country he has not seen for 34 years. We went to Homeland Security offices once every three months for over a year thinking we would be separated.

In 2009, we were told by Khalid’s deportation officer at the Albany offices of Homeland Security that they had lost all three of the passports Khalid had in his possession. Because of this error, India refused to issue the travel documents that would enable the US government to deport my husband. We were told there was no way to legally rectify his immigration status because in order for Khalid to adjust his status immigration law required him to travel to India and petition for a Visa from there (a visa based on our marriage). Since India would not issue the travel documents he was therefore in a state of “immigration limbo” for the rest of his life. This would essentially render him a stateless and particularly vulnerable individual.

We consulted another lawyer who said that we could file adjustment of status papers along with a hardship waiver and an 1-160 waiver that states the “crime”-since it was committed over 15 years ago-­ can no longer be held against him. Because we did not have the finances at the time to secure a lawyer we filed the forms ourselves after researching immigration law. Shortly thereafter we were denied with no reason given.

Seven years have gone by and we are still required to visit the DHS office in Syracuse every three months. The deportation mandate is still effective and DHS continuously threatens deporting my husband to a country (other than India or Kuwait where he has lived before and has family) where he has no ties and no knowledge of the language. If this happens my husband would be in a precarious and potentially life threatening situation. Since he has no passport he would not be able to petition to eventually return to the US and reunite with me, his wife. Additionally, if he was deported to a “third” country I would not be able to follow him because I need to take care of my elderly father in the US, in addition to having access to vital medical care due to my health problems. We would be separated forever with no chance of reuniting here or abroad.

There are many mixed-status families like my husband and I currently living in the US. Thousands of American spouses of immigrants are currently facing deportation and that number continues to grow everyday under President Obama’s history of mass deportations. These numbers are guaranteed to increase under a Trump presidency. Some of these families will be allowed to legally reunite after 5-10 years, based on their individual cases- if Trump does not change the existing laws. However, some are never allowed to return to the United States. This compels the American spouse and children to either remain apart indefinitely- sometimes forever–or to travel with the immigrant spouse to a country they are unfamiliar. Essentially they become US citizens in exile.

Please help me to make sure my husband and I do not have to make such an agonizing choice.

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