Mother of Quinnipiac freshman is extended stay by ICE

By on August 28, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Samir Mahmud
Coverage by Jennie Torres, Jessica Ruderman, Amanda Perelli and Nicholas Slater.

Quinnipiac freshman Samir Mahmud, started his freshman year as the first in his family to attend college and unsure if his mother would be there to watch him go.

Mahmud’s mother Salma Reza Sikandar was told by ICE, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), to buy a plane ticket and return to Bangladesh by Aug. 23, thereby forcing her to miss her son’s first day at Quinnipiac.

The family, residents of New Haven, received assistance from the community and support from the university leading up to Sikandar’s deportation date. Less than 24 hours before her one-way flight out of the country and five days before Mahmud’s first day at Quinnipiac, her deportation was halted.

In 2011, Sikandar applied to ICE to remain in the United States after overstaying her visa. Later, she appealed for a cancelation of removal due to a hardship because of then 11-year-old Mahmud’s asthma. To proceed with this legal avenue, undocumented residents must have been in the United States for at least 10 years and have relatives who would suffer sufficiently without them, in an article by the New Haven Register.

Seven years later, The Immigration Court in Hartford found the family hardship no longer strong enough, according to the family’s immigration attorney, Robert Wang in an article by the New Haven Register.

Wang said that he wouldn’t fight ICE if they were deporting someone who had a criminal history or no ties to the United States, but Salma’s case was very different.

“She has a U.S. citizen child. She has never been arrested and she works,” Wang said in the New Haven Register interview.

In response to the families outcry for help, Quinnipiac took to backing Mahmud and his family. Vice President of Public Affairs, Lynn Bushnell released a statement regarding this situation.

“We are deeply concerned for Samir [Mahmud] and his family. Several people on campus, including our Vice President for Admissions, Greg Eichhorn, have reached out to him to see how we may best assist him and his parents,” Bushnell said. “We certainly will do everything we can to support them during this very difficult time.”

Mahmud told The Chronicle that he felt a lot of support from the university, leading up to his first day, that not only sustained his purpose but also encouraged his pursuit to make his story heard.

“What Quinnipiac has done so far is great,” Mahmud said. “They acknowledged what is going on and have sent messages of hope and even invited me to meet them various times which is so supportive and unexpected.”

As well as catching the eye of local news stations and publications, Mahmud and his family have also begun to gain major recognition through Twitter as actor Danny DeVito shared the story on his personal account, retweeting an article written by Democracy Now.

In addition to continuous press coverage throughout this fight, the family also took to other outlets to get ICE’s attention, including a hunger strike.

“The hunger strike was originally an idea I wasn’t that OK with because I didn’t want people suffering for my mom,” Mahmud said in an interview with Democracy Now. “My dad had a bunch of crazy ideas, because he was losing his mind, to be honest, because of the deportation. He was going to lose the love of his life, and he was going to lose my mother.”

The hunger strike was held in front of the ICE building in Hartford 43 hours before the deportation date/time. What began with nine individuals soon turned into hundreds of others coming to rally and support including the mayors of South Windsor, Manchester and Hartford, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

After the hunger strike, Salma’s stay order was denied. Shortly after receiving this news, the family got a call from DeLauro’s office. They were informed that the chief of ICE was looking into their case.

The family got another call from their lawyer within the hour granting Salma her stay order for one year with the option to be renewed when it expires. Samir said that the family broke out in tears of joy upon receiving this news, according to an interview with DemocracyNow.

“I’m just relieved that on the first day of school we can keep the tradition going of my mom dropping me off in front of everybody and embarrassing me,” Samir told DemocracyNow.

Salma’s case may have been amended briefly, but the concern for Anwar Mahmud, Samir’s father, who is also represented by Wang, still remains. Anwar is dealing with his own case, seeking to stay in America despite his removal order because he believes his life could be in danger in Bangladesh due to his Mormon beliefs.

Although his fight may be over for now, Mahmud intends to continue his advocacy through his political science studies at Quinnipiac by showing others that issues such as ICE and deportation are not too far from their front door.

“They are not only separating families on the border,” said Anwar in an interview by the New Haven Register. “They are separating them here in Connecticut, here in New Haven.”

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