- January 2011
Local family faces deportation
Interview from WIP News Service
READ BELOW FOR INFORMATION ON THE KEEP ZAHID HOME RALLY!
The following is an interview of Zahid and Ann Chaudhry, a local couple facing deportation proceedings in January. This is an extended version of the interview printed in the Jan 2011 WIP.
If I could start at the very beginning, how did you come to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces?
Zahid: Well, I used to come here quite often, sometimes twice a year, in summer and winter. Mostly I used to spend my summers here with my cousin, uncle and aunt in Washington. My uncle was a professor and scientist at Central Washington University, and he used to have his summers off. (And my uncle is not just an uncle - he's a close buddy.) So we used to hang out all summer long, and travel all around Washington, Oregon, Idaho and B.C. And then, on my last trip like that here over a decade ago, I fell in love with my dear friend - I still call her "dear friend" and she's my wife, but you have to be good, close friends before you can be a good spouse. And then the rest is history.
In early 2001 a recruiter started talking to me, and said "National Guard is different from the Army." And indeed, before 9/11, it was very different. It was only there for stateside emergencies like fires, floods, landslides, & earthquakes. And you serve your state, mostly. Of course now, it is very different. Nine, ten years later, it is very different from what it used to be and what its original intended purpose was. Since I love to serve, and my motto in life is "love and serve all humanity". So I said, "Yes, let's do that." As you can see, that's why I joined.
So I was National Guard, and then yes, I was activated into the Army. That happened later. You have no choice. They call you, you get that phone call to report, and you report. If one does not follow orders, then one goes to military brig, so you better follow orders. I joined the National Guard, but eventually it evolved and changed and laws changed and how it is governed is changed, and now it is deployed much more than Active duty Army. So now, it is a very different world from what it used to be.
And weren't you also a volunteer fire fighter?
Zahid: Yes, I was Ready Reserve for Yakima Fire Department. I used to carry a pager 24/7 for years, and that pager went off a lot. If you look at the stats for the whole state, Yakima has a lot of fires in winter, because poor people are trying to heat their homes with older kinds of stoves, with wood and that, and in older homes. The Fire Department was advertising, asking for help, and I said "Well that sounds good. Where do I sign up?" And I did, and I loved it. I used to respond to fire emergencies- sometimes three fires a night in the winter. And it's extremely cold - bitter, unforgiving winter in Eastern Washington. But you gotta do what you gotta do to help out your fellow firemen & human beings.
People have seen and said that the picture on my Facebook is unique. "You're wearing the fire department hat, but you're in an Army uniform." I had finished my work for the day with the Army, and I was coming back home in my car, and my pager went off. I said, if I go home to change, then go to the fire department, then respond to the fire scene, that would be too late. So I just went straight to the fire scene. That happened a few times.
But I loved helping out. And the families, whose homes are burned, of course you help them out, you try to calm them, help them any way you can - give them water, give them blankets, and all of the stuff. It's basic humanity, which is in all of us, to help and love each other and support each other when times are difficult.
Tell me when you got injured? I understand that was during your service at some point?
Zahid: Yes, we were serving for Operation Iraqi Freedom. If I hadn't gotten injured, I would still be in the National Guard, because I loved it so much. I have loved not only the people of this country, but also the Army.
I had some injuries over here at Fort Lewis, because we were deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and in a hurry up and accelerated mode. We went to California, we went to Oregon, we went to Eastern Washington, we went to the Seattle Armory, which doesn't exist anymore, and some other places. And we were picking up stuff, packing, and sending, and doing all sorts of stuff. During this time, I had a few injuries I knew, and a few injuries I didn't know, because I was unconscious. I found myself here at North Fort Lewis, in the old barracks. When they talk about the Walter Reed foul-up, it wasn't a one-off thing. It was happening all over. I was not in a hospital, I was not in a clinic, I wasn't at Fort Lewis, I was in North Fort Lewis, the old Second World War barracks - old shaky, dilapidated barracks. The irony was, I was in the same barracks my father was in for the Second World War. They were there until just recently; they demolished them to build new ones.
And then you were released not long after that.
Zahid: Yes, yes.
Under honorable conditions?
Zahid: Of course, of course. I have several medals, as you can see. National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal W/M Device, Army Service Ribbon and other medals and stuff like that. At Fort Sam Houston, Texas I was Platoon sergeant, Class leader, Bay sergeant, Drill leader - these positions go to four different soldiers & are not concentrated on one soldier, except in my case. As Platoon sergeant, I was not only in charge of four squad leaders, but also all their soldiers. As Class leader, it was on the academic side. As Bay sergeant, I was taking care of the soldiers' barracks and their (buildings & soldiers) needs. Our Drill team won all the competitions. I did the best I could. During all the months in Texas, I was told if you put in extra effort and took on extra burden and work you'd received awards and recognition. I was told weeks before graduation of this course that I'd receive awards for my extreme hard work. I was utterly surprised when all my squad leaders received awards and medals and not me. When I asked, I was told that they ran out of printed certificates for awards and medals for me. Then, when they asked for volunteers, I always raised my hand, because (chuckles) I didn't know any better. I had no idea.
When did you first apply for U.S. citizenship?
Zahid: That's interesting you ask that. First, I applied two times in 2003, and INS said they lost my application. Of course, they didn't lose the filing fees. They cashed that.
But then I applied in 2004, and we had an attorney helping us, and I paid filing fee again. Then I found out months later I shouldn't have paid for them, because if you apply - not for N400 for citizenship, but military N400 - there's no fees. The fees are waived for soldiers. But, in 2004, we paid that again. And my wife wrote several letters to get that returned back, but it has never been forthcoming.
Yes, so two were lost, and we filed again in late 2003 / early 2004, and they received it in March, and they said "Okay, we'll start the processing date from April 1, 2004." Because it was not N400, it was military N400, it should have been expedited, and it has special privileges, which I have yet to see for me.
Seven years of expedited service.
Zahid: Thank you very much. And I remember, some soldiers with me applied, including some Christians from the same region I'm from in Asia, and it was a Friday, and they were told "We'll have your ceremony on Saturday, just come along" and they were given their citizenship ceremony. The next day! So I've seen that with so many soldiers, but I don't know why it didn't happen for me.
Now, your average reader might assume military service under honorable conditions would guarantee citizenship.
Zahid: Yes, and in that regard, the U.S. is not alone. Nearly every country has some sort of law or preferential treatment for their veterans for citizenship. Whether it be on the books or not on the books, they all have that. Not only that, next month will be our 10 year anniversary.
Zahid: Thank you. Married for 10 years. And I am eligible for applying on that basis as well.
Ann: He qualifies for citizenship based on "married to US citizen".
Zahid: We have two children, and four grandchildren, and a family. And my uncle was invited by the government 27 years ago as a scientist. And my family has lived here for that long.
Ann: He qualifies under that (family ties) basis also.
Zahid: Family ties.
But then, if you qualify under all these basis, and you served under honorable conditions, and if that guarantees citizenship, then ... What's the hold up?
Obviously, you probably don't have an explanation.
Zahid: I don't, I don't. People ask me, and I say "The answer is blowing in the wind."
Where did your problems with immigration start?
Zahid: In our case, the officer in charge of the volunteer program at the Yakima Police Department was a guy named Gary Belles. If you Google him, you'll find a lot of wonderful stuff about him. Like, he's the guy who said on record that we didn't kill enough Japanese in the Second World War, and we should have killed more. And he calls all Hispanics "wetbacks," and you don't want to know his views on Muslims, or Native Americans for that matter.
There was an investigation, and small Yakima city spent about half a million dollars to protect him. That small little city has poured out so much money, just on him, to protect him and all that. Now he doesn't make those comments, but he was the judge, jury and executioner for wonderful Yakima police officer Tony Ramos. Belles is the one who fired him, he's the one who carried out the investigation, and he's the one who justified it. His friends and family had quite a deep self-serving history of hatred, and he goes to the fringe groups in Yakima County, and lies to them outright blatantly that he works for the Department of Homeland Security, and this and that. He actually brought Sheriff Mack from Graham County, Arizona, to the Yakima Convention Center, and they had a wild get-together there. I applied in the spring of 2001 and by June he made a decision that I would never be hired because I was Muslim. You see that I could not sell my blood & sweat & hard work for free because I am a Muslim, and he told everybody I would not be hired because I'm Muslim.
But after 9/11, he went to the FBI to...
Ann: He told the FBI that he would bring Zahid in for a second - a fake second employment interview. And he admitted in deposition this year it was all a ruse.
Zahid: This is his own deposition, Gary L. Belles.
[Zahid presents a bound legal document, about 200 pages long.]
Zahid: It's pretty long, huh? It's nothing compared to what I was subjected to. I was interrogated for seven hours, she was interrogated for eight hours. We were separated. And when I was interrogated, "FW" - FW is a swear word in Australia - But it was Frank Wilson, who made derogatory comments about women before the interview started. In a hope that I might slightly agree with him or make any comment along those lines and he will take that out of context & run with it & blow it out of proportions to use it for my character assassination. And then he had his boots, his shoes in my face, as he was asking me questions.
Ann: Most Americans don't understand that reference.
Zahid: In the Middle East, a shoe in the face is the ultimate disrespect. So he was thinking I was Middle Eastern. These are the people who are assistant Attorney General, but they have no clue or idea. I mean, their ignorance level is shocking. I'm from Asia, not the Middle East. But he was just trying to rile me up, trying to intimidate me, trying to make me upset. He said to me, the best money he ever spent was on attorneys against his own wife, so he wanted to get me on that line, against women, and then take it and run with it, and all those things. I mean, how could somebody say such a thing, even if you loved somebody even once. And you don't love them now, but you loved somebody a long time ago, and how could one make such a derogatory statement toward that once loved one and all women in general, like Frank Wilson did just before the recording started. It was just shocking to me. They were trying all sorts of tactics to put words in mouths.
Ann: He made comments off the record during mine too, during the break. He made comments about women to the guy from Office of Immigration Litigation.
Zahid: Trial attorneys came from Washington, D.C., all the way to Yakima, just for that! From the Office of Immigration Litigation. Of course, it's a very expensive exercise for American taxpayers, just to paint us with a tar brush, or to make a very simple case complex, or to justify their crimes against us or save face. It's really now, just a face-saving exercise. Jesus was crucified because somebody had to save face. Nothing's changed.
So, you were interrogated as well as Zahid?
Ann: Yes, I was interrogated by the FBI at my work. They came and they flashed their badges very quickly, and that's not something you expect, to have people show up at your job flashing badges and such, intimidating the other workers. And they said "Well, you know why we're here." And I said, "No, I don't." I assumed that because, at my position at the fairgrounds, I handled payroll and various different things, and preliminary tax forms for the fairgrounds. I thought it had something to do with where I worked, you know. And then it turned out to be about Zahid, and they were asking all sorts of weird questions & putting words in my mouth. They wanted our computer, and I said "No, I don't think so." Like Zahid said, they had all sorts of weird questions, and they were very intimidating. Especially Agent David Hendricks said "Well, you know they don't let him near any weapons," and I sort of laughed to myself, because Zahid had jut telephoned me and told me it was going to be a long day & long night, because he was the guard at the arms room.
Zahid: At the arms room. I would call her on the weekend and she would say "What are you doing?" And I would say, I'm guarding the arms this weekend. So...
Ann: And now David Hendricks is saying "Well, they don't let him near any weapons." Riiiiiight.
Zahid: So bluffs and lies, all along. Our justice system, judges have said it's okay for them to lie, but you cannot even make a slightest mistake; that would be a Federal felony. So if they ask you what time you were there, and you said you don't know, and they say "No, no, approximately. Approximate." So you tell them "about 6 o'clock," when it was 6:01. Now, you have just committed a federal felony, because you lied to a federal officer. It is just amazing.
Ann: And that's the way they do in the depositions. They want to put words in your mouth. They say "Just give me a guesstimate," or "Just estimate it" or "What's your best guess?" And it was very clear that we'd said one thing on a previous form or application, and they were trying to get us to say, like Zahid had said "On this one you said it was 6 o'clock," and the next time you say it's 6:01. And they can blow it so much out of proportion, & they make you believe that you just lied to them. Or "There you said it was light blue, and here you just said it was blue." It's so trivial, it's so insignificant, but they'll blow it all out of proportion. They'll take it out of context. And they'll keep harping on that thing. Whatever that is. "Oh, you lied over here, because before you said it was this, and now you're saying it was this." And they'll harp on that, and harp on that, and harp on that, and repeat it over and over again until it's like it's the only thing, and it's such a terrible thing.
At the same time as fighting against deportation attempts, you continued applying for citizenship?
Zahid: We did all that, and then our name was in the endless name check loop over and over. We got all the excuses, hurdles and delaying tactics you're given for a very long time. Eventually, we filed a suit against the government to make it right.
Ann: A writ of Mandamus. We started hearing about others who were also having that same type of problem, and this was a remedial action that was being tried in order to get that through that process. And because, what we learned was that the government was delaying by not giving the citizenship test, or the civics test, the questionnaire. As long as they didn't do that, as long as they did not give that test, they were not held to any timeline. Once that test is given, they have 120 days in which to make a decision. But as long as they can keep people over and over again in a name-check loop indefinitely, unless somebody pushes the issue.
Zahid: After a delay of some years, they eventually gave me the citizenship test, on U.S. history and everything else. And of course I aced it 100%. So ... yeah.
Ann: But they ended up denying him anyway.
Zahid: No, they denied it. It was tit-for-tat because I sued them. Before that, I was a legal permanent resident, and I could live here, but I could not be a citizen. I couldn't vote or run for office. So, just to teach me a lesson or something. We're talking about self-serving bureaucrats - selfish and self-centered. That's what they did. They said, okay, we're going to deny you and put you into deportation proceedings. What for?
The case is very simple. The facts are very simple. But sometimes, self-serving bureaucrats have to make it very complex. They sent people from O.I.L., trial attorneys paid very well by the American taxpayers. They sent trial attorneys all the way from Washington, D.C., trying to do a witch hunt, or trying to make the case as complex as possible, or trying to paint us with a tar brush. And that shows their desperation. So desperate to do the wrong thing, but they're not so inclined to do the right thing.
People say, do you consider yourself a victim? No, I am not the victim. If there is a victim, it is the American public, and their tax dollars wasted to carry out injustice.
Speaking of them making the situation more complex, can you tell us anything about this "misdemeanor" the government keeps referring to?
Zahid: Well, let me ask you something - Do you remember everything that ever happened to you in your entire life?
Zahid: Neither do I, nor I think do most people; we all forget sometimes. And that's what happened to me. I had forgotten this whole thing until reminded of it on our 2-year interview, only because somebody went on a zealous crusade to justify their hateful actions.
What happened is back in the 90's, when I lived in Australia, I was a taxi driver. I was finished with my shift late one night, ready to take the cab back so the next driver could start his shift. A man and a woman were trying to get a taxi, but no one was picking them up. They got in front of my cab and wouldn't move. So I'm a caring guy, I picked them up when they said they were just going a little way. What they told me was "just a short distance" turned out to be a very long cab ride, over two hours. I was concerned about my safety with such a long drive. Even today, you know, this year, there were reports of tens of Indians getting their stomachs slit just because of who they are! This year. So "white Australia policy" hasn't changed much from when I was there.
The woman was let out first and after more driving, the man had me stop in a neighborhood. When I stopped, he called me a racial slur and threw his passport at me, and it hit me in the face. He said he was going inside to get the money, but he never came back out.
I was fired when I got back to the taxi company, because I was late getting off my shift and the next driver couldn't start his shift. Even though, I did not get paid the metered fare, I still had to pay the metered fare to the owner out of my pocket, and I also had to pay the other driver's shift, and I lost my job. Now, you decide who's the criminal and who's the victim in this scenario.
I went to several local police stations trying to get them to take action with the passport and get my fare. But I was told it was a personal matter, they wouldn't do anything about it.
Some other older drivers took the passport and did whatever they could to shed light on the subject and bring it to the media's attention, that this is what's happening to poor taxi drivers who are trying to make a living. But eventually, they gave up and gave the passport back to me.
Then I got a call from the police, only because we had contacted them several times and given them my number. I thought, great! I'm going to get justice and set the record straight! So I go in, but they just took the passport and told me to go away. On my way out the door, another police officer was saying, "Where's he from?" Stepping out the door, I said, "What difference does it make?" Then a few of them came over and took me back in and tried to throw the book at me. They wanted my ID, and I just gave them my wallet. Well, by this time, I was driving taxi again with a different owner, and I had just found an American Express card in my taxi. I had called American Express to turn it in and get the finders' reward.
The police took the American Express card. The officer started yelling at me, accusing me of being in gangs and calling me racial slurs, "bloody wog" and lots of stuff. So he was bullying me and saying, "You don't have any record, so just go the court and say 'yes' to plead." I asked what does it mean? They said it doesn't matter, that's what you say. I was new to the country, the language, the slangs, and I neither understood the Latin nor legal jargon, or the legal system, for that matter.
Now, if I ask you something in a different language will you understand it?
Zahid: Well I didn't understand what "plead" meant; I don't know legal jargon or words. But I am a man of my word, so later on I went to the court, voluntarily, and said yes to pleading. I didn't know what that meant. That officer compared it to getting a parking ticket and said it wouldn't go on my record. I just wanted to get away from his accusing me and bullying tactics. So, I believed him in good faith. You know, police are always truthful, right? So, I was never arrested, I was never in jail, I was never in handcuffs, I was never told to pay a fine. The judge told me to go to the clerk and I was told to go do some community service somewhere, and that's what I did. I even did above and beyond because I've always loved and enjoyed doing something good for others.
So that's it. And I forgot about it. The INS said I didn't disclose it; but I did disclose it on my Military N-400 (Military citizenship application), and I thought it was important to be honest. And I even went to great lengths to get the documents from Australia and provide those to the INS, even after the clerk in Australia said there were no records, and they were ready to give me an official document saying that. I pushed them to check more. And I've tried to explain the circumstances ever since. But the INS wants to focus on what they want to focus on, and never mind what the truth really is. They blow it way out of proportion. And it's one those things they just keep harping on: irrelevant, out of jurisdiction, out of context, exaggerated, wild speculations & blown out of proportion, which happened a long, long time ago.
As per law, Military citizenship has many more privileges than any other category. As the 9th Circuit has made a precedence time and again (as in the case of European terrorists who committed and admitted they did very severe, grave crimes), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that since it was not in the 12 month statute of limitation preceding their application for citizenship, it should not be considered or held against them. They became citizens of US! And I have tried so hard to do nothing but good work. Where's justice for me? And why do my family, friends, neighbors, community and people here in the US and abroad have to see this grave injustice going on for so long, and go through so much pain and heartache?
Do you think there's any racism involved in their campaign to deport you?
Ann: A loaded question. If it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, and it looks like a duck, chances are it's probably a duck.
Zahid: My wife reminds me constantly these days, if we were not living in Eastern Washington, and if there was no person named Gary Belles, we would not be in the situation we were in. That's at the heart of the matter. The Northwest Immigration Rights Project executive director, Matt Adams, said in October 2009, that on the surface it looks like they're trying to find all sorts of excuses to deny citizenship. He has never heard, in all his history of doing immigration that somebody's employment application was looked into.
Most of the people who work for immigration are very nice, very decent people. It is just some people who are pushed by other people who are not even working for Immigration, like Gary Belles, who pushed FBI, who pushed Immigration, who pushed airport security, who pushed IRS, and stuff like that. That's how it is.
Just imagine in your mind, a scenario where Gary Belles' has cheated on his taxes, and he goes to the IRS office, and he's talking to somebody higher up, and he goes "Hey, you're giving me a hard time! I'm Gary Belles! I work for the Department of Homeland Security! And there's this terrorist living in my town, go over his taxes and blahblahblahblahblah." So now the IRS has to look into it. In this case, Gary Belles has successfully shifted the focus from him to us. So whenever the light is shining on Gary Belles, he tries to use other minorities to divert it, and of course he gets away with that, and he has for 27 years. His 27 year history has been nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars. The little city of Yakima pays. And we were there, paying taxes, so we were actually paying his salary. Isn't that ironic?
Tragic would be a better word.
Zahid: Thank you, tragedy is a better word.
Did you have supporters in Yakima?
Zahid: Oh, surely! Wonderful people, lots and lots of wonderful people in Yakima. Awesome neighbors! I had the best neighbors anybody could wish for. I had the best neighbors ever. I feel and I find myself so fortunate and so lucky to have neighbors like that, so wonderful. And so many great friends. I would trust them with my life.
Unfortunately, there's a small minority that gives the whole community a bad name. Or it's a small minority that has too much power and wants more. Gary Belles wanted the police chief job so many times. He wanted a detention center for ICE to be built in Yakima so badly and, you guessed it, of course, he would have loved to have the top job.
Was it Gary Belles who put you on the no-fly list?
Zahid: Yes. He did his best to get me into as much trouble as he could. It seems to us as though the more tyranny he can cause on innocent people, he feels more righteous.
So yeah, our taxes were audited, took us seven years just for one year, and other years' taxes were also audited. Go figure where that came from. And every time I traveled, anywhere, I have no problem in the country I travel to. But my own country, which I love so much, and served, and continue to serve in different ways now, when we come back to our own country, we have problems. We get held back hours and hours, and I get asked very strange questions. Sometimes you feel they're putting words in your mouth. But this is what's been happening. Injustice is injustice, and wrong is wrong. If we accept it, it will only become more prevalent. So we need to say it's not right, and to do something about injustice, to make it right.
So eventually you ended up leaving Yakima. Could you talk about your departure?
Ann: It just became very, very clear, even before the depositions, that we... It really hit home to me last fall, last November something, when we found out that Gary Belles had gone to the Yakima county militia and fringe groups around Yakima, and he was riling them up against minorities, against Muslims, Hispanics, against whatever is convenient. It's so crazy. And then we found out about it, at first we laughed, and then we were shocked, and then we said "Oh my gosh, this guy hasn't dropped it yet"
Zahid: Nine years later.
Ann: It was very difficult, very hard for us to leave, but we had to take our safety into consideration above that.
Zahid: For our own safety. Can you believe that? This is 2010. How will this go down in history? People are so afraid of the police they have to relocate. These are the terrible times we are going through. This year, 2010, will go down in history in America that it became acceptable and popular to carry out hate crimes against Muslims. It became acceptable to voice and act on anti-Muslim hate in our country. What began as hate in the blogosphere crashed into mainstream media and onto Main Street America. Whether it was protests and attacks in mosques, old political candidates using fear-mongering to score election victories, we have seen an uptick in hate and hate violence. I'm always optimistic it will get better. But in history, there is a lesson all humanity learned from the Inquisition, which is "Who's watching the guards?" And that question is important right now. Who's guarding the guards? People who have the discretion to change peoples' lives, their futures, I mean, who's watching them? Who's guarding them? What happened to the checks and balances?
Ann: And we have ............... We have sold a lot of stuff in order to pay them. We ............. beggared our bank accounts, and ........... It's one thing if you have, you know, if you have income coming in, when you're working. He's not able to work, and I had to quit my job to be able to take care of him. So I don't have anything coming in.
And it's even gotten to the point where somebody has told us "Well, YOU could get something if you weren't married to him, and you had to care for him."
..... That's terrible.
Zahid: Yeah, it's shocking.
Ann: It shows a bigger issue with our morality as a nation, that, okay, you need to take care of your husband? Well I'm sorry, you can get a divorce and then you can get paid for it.
So we live as very simply as we can. In fact, we ordinarily wouldn't have these lights on. And ordinarily, we wouldn't have as much heat.
Zahid: Because you were coming. People who come into our home, they say "Man, I'm shivering!" And they're putting on two jackets and a hat. And that's true, because we only use what we can afford to pay.
And as she was saying, we sold family heirlooms. We sold a piano to pay attorneys. We sold lots of stuff. But, I guess this is ... the American way.
Ann: The furniture in this house is all donated to us. It's not ours.
Zahid: But, you live and hope - the great "hope" people voted for in 2008.
Yeah, didn't everything change?
Ann: I think one of the letters I wrote to the President, we finally got a reply eight or nine months later, something like that. "Sorry, we can't help you."
How many letters have you written?
Ann: Oh, I've written hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters to everybody in the government that I can think of to write to. Obviously, starting with our own representatives, our own state senators, our own federal representatives, our governor, and on up to people on some committee for the VA - anything that might have any kind of a connection, and we've always been put off. "Oh, we don't do this, we don't get involved with this, we don't handle that, you need to go to somebody else, we're very sad for your problems."
Zahid: Lip service. If it was their own family, I'd see if they'd do the same thing. I wonder if they got this injustice, how outraged they would be. We can only have justice in this world if the people who do not suffer the injustice are as outraged as the people who are (suffering injustice).
What kind of legal representation do you have going forward into your upcoming hearing?
Zahid: We don't have any representation.
Ann: We do not.
Zahid: This is my legal representation. [gestures toward Ann]
Ann: We have tried following up on every lead that's given to us. There's people that are on a call-back list. So far, nobody's stepped up to the plate.
What's next for you two in your case?
Zahid: There are two separate tracks going on: citizenship and deportation. In District Court we have to appeal the Judge's decision and it's forwarded to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which comes under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Justice and rules of evidence and all those other things apply, and they can do a new review, they don't have to take the other court's word for it.
The immigration court, it shouldn't be called a court, a real court, because the rules of evidence do not apply and it's run very differently. The judge himself works for INS. He has to keep his employers happy. So basically what they do is they try to get cases out quickly and rubber-stamp whatever the department is saying.
So that's where we're going January 12th, and hopefully we'll get justice there, if they can find themselves and their deep heart and can see through the muddy-ing of the matter. The government has spent millions of dollars to muddy up a very simple matter.
Ann: And this is why we were so excited to have the federal district court case that was supposed to be going on this week (Dec 13th through 16th) in Yakima, because we were finally going to be able to be more than just a name on a piece of paper. When you have a name on a piece of paper, and that name is "Muhammad", and that's linked by media or whoever as being something bad, then every time somebody sees that name, and they don't connect it with a face, then they are predisposed to have negative opinions about it. So we were very, very excited to be able to have our time in front of the judge, to be more than just a name on a piece of paper, and to present our witnesses, to present our story. And so it was an incredible devastation back in October to be told that the judge had agreed with the department's summary judgment motion.
Without a hearing.
Ann: Without a hearing.
And shortly after our depositions in July, we talked to the attorney that we had at that time, and we mentioned a summary judgment motion, and we said "Well, you're going to do that, right?" And we were told, "Oh, no! That would piss off the judge. We don't want to piss off the judge." So when we discovered that the department brought a summary judgment motion, then we said "Okay, now we should do a summary judgment motion, they'll wipe each other out, and we'll be sure to get in front of the judge." However, we were told, "Oh, no. That's simply unheard of. We're not going to do that."
So we're just sitting back, basically allowing the department to have the upper hand, unfortunately, and our attorney telling us it's unheard of for a judge to make a decision on a summary judgment motion. Well, then he did. The judge did. And it's like, too little, too late.
Do you think it was bad advice on the part of your lawyer?
Or, I was going to say, do you think it really is unheard of, and the judge just gave you special treatment?
Ann: Well ... even if that were the case, I still think it was bad advice.
Zahid: But he did that because of his bosses. Robert Pauw.
Ann: That's true. He was definitely guided by the partner in the firm that he worked under.
Zahid: Mr. Robert Pauw wasn't very happy to take our case anyway. Didn't want to.
Ann: Did not want to.
Zahid: He told us several years ago when we went to his office, very first time, this is a guy who was a founder of immigration rights and this and that.
Ann: Northwest Immigration Rights Project.
Zahid: And his bio reads so glowingly humanitarian and warm-hearted and this-and-that.
Ann: And doing a lot of pro bono work.
Zahid: And he does this and that. And what happens is...
Ann: When we went to see him, he was not very forthcoming to take the case. He said, do you have a million dollars? And I said, of course we don't have a million dollars. And he said, "Can you go to Canada?" Why would we want to go to Canada? If we wanted to go to Canada, we would have moved there a long time ago. we want to live in the United States.
Zahid: This is our country. My wife was born here. So many generations lived here. Everybody's here. I love it, I served it. I mean, "Can you go to Canada to live?" And that was, "if you don't have a million dollars to pay me." Coming from a big humanitarian.
Ann: That was very shocking.
Zahid: She cried right then and there. And that was the first time it dawned on my dear wife what the American legal system is all about. So... Before that, you know, you're raised idealistically, and everything is good, and good comes back, and you do good things and good things will happen to you...
Ann: That's very true. You're raised very idealistically: the police are there to help you, protect you, and the lawyers are there looking out for your best interest. Well, the police are there for power and personal gain & spending your tax dollars. And attorneys are after whatever money you might have left over, and then some.
When you're just a name on a piece of paper, it's easy to get overlooked. But if you get in their face, and you're an actual human body, it's not as easy for them to ignore.
Zahid: Their conscience, it might bother them getting to sleep at night.
Ann: And it's too bad we have to go to those lengths just to get justice.
Zahid: Just basic, simple justice.
And they cancel your hearing, your opportunity...
Ann: Exactly. Which is why we're doing an appeal of that.
What happens if your appeal succeeds?
Zahid: Then, the deportation court hearing, it just goes away. You just give them a copy of the decision from the higher court.
And it's done.
Zahid: Yeah, but it might take a year or two. But still, the judge in deportation court on January 12th can make a decision. They have an ICE office there and they have a detention facility right in the same building, on a different floor, so they can take you right there from the court, and that's what they do sometimes, in some cases. Or they give you 30 days to leave on your own, otherwise they come and get you at your home. So, that's nice of them, you know. They speak from a position of power, even when they're wrong, even when they can not see, they can't put two and two together.
I hate to even ask the corollary to if you succeed at this hearing, but if you fail at this hearing, do you have another appeal after that?
Zahid: No. This immigration court could do whatever they want.
Ann: The judge can make it right, but typically because he's working for... It's not separate from immigration. He works for the immigration department. So if immigration wants somebody out, what is that judge going to do?
Zahid: His employer. You know, insubordination. So that's where it is.
Zahid: So that's what you can see, in my speech in Washington D.C., or the one in Seattle. We need a comprehensive immigration reform, because the system's set up in a way that it cannot respond to moral crises. It can not provide basic relief. So, that's why.
What kind of changes would you like to see in the immigration system in the United States?
Zahid: I won't go into specifics, but I think it has to be a system that is responsive to human needs and provide basic respect to all human beings, and it doesn't demonize us.
Ann: Or demean us.
Zahid: Or call immigrants "aliens."
Like you're from Mars or something.
Zahid: Martians coming in.
Ann: "Alien number." Why can't it be an "immigrant number"
Zahid: Why not name? They have spent billions of dollars on IT services, in government. So why can't they say, it's a person, it has a name, and a date of birth. It's mental degradation, to tell people where you belong, because you don't come from the right birth canal, a royal birth canal. I see, I see.
Any final thoughts you want to share with everyone?
Ann: People need to wake up. This country was founded on immigrants. Basically, all of us came from immigrant backgrounds, except Native Americans. And everybody's human, and we need to treat each other humanely, not as cattle, not as some sort of a possession. People think, if they're not affected directly by it, it has no effect on them whatsoever, and that's not true. People who come to this country from other countries give to this country. And everybody else benefits from that as well. The jobs that those immigrants do, you know, we hear people whining about, "Oh, they're taking our jobs." But in reality, the jobs that many immigrants do, especially in agricultural business, are jobs that nobody else would do. It would be too far beneath them. So people need to get off their high horse and realize that they are cutting themselves off at the knee when they treat immigrants bad, and treat them differently, not humanely.
Thank you very much, both of you.
Ann: Thank you.
Zahid: Thank you.
Vigil on 1/12 in Seattle:
Keep Zahid Home!
Rally to stop the deportation of a decorated disabled veteran
Date: Wednesday, January 12
Time: Noon - 1:00
Location: Outside Seattle Immigration Court building
1000 2nd Ave (corner of Spring & 2nd), Downtown Seattle
Carpooling from Olympia. For more info, contact