Mohammads released from jail

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Former Spain Park track and field captain Imad Mohammad, 18, and his mother Sana Alsayed, have been released from the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, La.

The two Hoover residents of Palestinian decent have been detained by the U.S. government since Jan. 12. Word of their release came to Imad’s father Mohammad this afternoon.

“As soon as I got the phone call, I got in my car and started driving,” Mohammad said in a phone call, around 6 p.m. while driving through western Mississippi.

Moments later, the call was interrupted with a call from Imad and Sana. They were in a cab headed to a local motel.

“They’re in shock. They don’t believe that they’ll be seeing me. They’re not going to believe it until we’re in the car and headed home,” Mohammad said after he called again.

Mohammad plans to arrive in Jena by 10 p.m. He said if Imad and Sana are tired, then they will stay over night, but will most likely get something to eat, buy some new clothes and get back on the road.

The release was ordered after U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus looked into the case.

“Mr. Mohammad visited my office yesterday and as a result of that visit and an e-mail from a Spain Park faculty member, we made an inquiry to the Immigration and Customs Department based on humanitarian reasons,” Bachus said in a statement. ” It was determined that a release of the family members from detention was appropriate.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents posed as Hoover police officers when they detained Imad, Sana, and father Mohammad at their Hoover home Jan. 12 at 6:30 a.m.

The three were picked up on warrants of an invalid visa, while Imad’s five brothers and sisters were left behind, including 17-year-old brother Amin, a Spain Park offensive lineman.

The family was allowed one adult to return home as guardian of the five children and decided that Mohammad would return in order to run his Hoover cell phone business to pay the bills and provide for the family.

“I don’t want my kids to end up on the street,” Sana told the Reporter in a collect call from jail Tuesday.

Douglas Cooner, the family’s immigration attorney, said he will withdraw a federal lawsuit on Thursday that called for their release, since the case is now moot. In addition to the writ of habeas corpus filed by Cooner, he filed an emergency stay with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“The government has bowed under the pressure of the federal lawsuit and largely because of the publicity that the family has generated,” Cooner said. “I will continue the case with the board of immigration to get the asylum claim reopened and redecided. Otherwise, they’ll be released and keep going through the status. My goal is to try to get it reopened and get them granted asylum so they can begin their path to citizenship.”

Numerous letters were written by friends of the family and Spain Park faculty that taught Imad. The story broke in the media late Monday.

“I’m proud of (the Reporter), I’m proud of this county and everybody,” Mohammad said Wednesday. “Thank you is not enough. You’ve brought a mom to her kids again. God bless you.”

One of the faculty members, Imad’s 12th grade English teacher Burgin Matthews, was elated to hear the news.

“It’s really made my afternoon,” Matthews said. “A lot of people have been very emotional over this so it is a big relief that they are coming home.”