Imad, Amin rejoice with friends

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

Imad Mohammad and his mother Sana Alsayed returned home Thursday afternoon to a driveway full of media and an overjoyed family. After a long two weeks of detention and a day full of answering questions, Imad escaped to Waffle House with his brother Amin and close friends around 8:30 p.m. for their first attempt at resuming their lives, as they were Jan. 11.

“It’s been really hard,” said Amin, a lineman for the Spain Park Jaguars football team. “Me and my brother did everything all the time … My brother’s my best friend.”

Amin, 17, was in the middle of a football workout on Jan. 12 when his brother, mother and father Mohammad were arrested at their Hoover home by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Mohammad returned home to be with Amin and the four younger children that were born in the U.S. Imad and Sana were sent to the Dekalb County Jail, then Perry County a few days later and eventually the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, La., where they remained until Wednesday afternoon.

“All I remember (about the release) is the officer that actually handcuffed me to bring me to LaSalle is actually the one who released me,” Imad said.

Near the same time, in the final hour of the school day, Amin received a text message from Mohammad saying he was on his way to pick up Imad and Sana.

Mohammad hopped in his car, punched in the detention center’s address in his GPS and drove the near 400 miles to a motel near the jail where his wife and son were waiting.

“All I did was sit on the bed and wait for my dad to come,” Imad said. “I was waiting to listen for that door slamming outside the hotel room, and when I finally heard it, I jumped out of the bed and saw it was my dad. I just gave him a big hug.”

Then Imad said he watched and “just smiled” as Sana embraced Mohammad.

The three spent the night and returned Thursday, despite Mohammad’s plans.

“I knew he hadn’t slept the whole time that we were in jail, so I made him sleep,” Imad said.

Imad and Sana’s release was granted after Congressman Spencer Bachus’ office inquired about the detention on Wednesday.

ICE spokesperson Temple Black said the release was granted “due to humanitarian concerns associated with their minor, U.S. citizen children, coupled with the low likelihood of their removal to their home country.”

Why detained? Why now?

Mohammad brought his wife and young son to the U.S. after the Gulf War in the early ’90s, according to attorney Douglas Cooner. After the visa expired, the family applied for asylum. In July 2000, the asylum request made its way to the courts and an immigration judge in Atlanta issued an order for removal, according to Elaine Komis of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).

An appeal was filed in August 2000 and ruled on in April 2003 by the Immigration Board of Appeals, which affirmed the judge’s decision. Since then, the Mohammads went on living in Hoover not knowing the decision of the appeal, according to Imad.

On Jan. 12, 2009, ICE arrested the three leaving the question “Why now?”

According to an ICE spokesperson, the Mohammads’ case was one of many under systematic review in northern Alabama by a new Fugitive Operations Team. Such teams have made 34,000 arrests in the past year, according to Associate Press reports. A record 35,000 illegal immigrants have been deported during the same time span.

Battle not over

While Imad and Sana are now home in Hoover, their quest for citizenship is not over.

The family’s immigration attorney filed a motion to reconsider on Jan. 16, which is still pending with the Immigration Board of Appeals. Until a decision is made on the motion, Imad is going to go on with his life in America.

“As long as they can’t deport me, I am willing to wait as long as it takes to get citizenship,” Imad said.

He plans to take the semester off from Jefferson State Community College and become an advocate for the detainees, speaking out to his Congressmen and the media about the conditions of the facility and lack of medical attention given to the detainees.