INS Hell

by Travis Morales

Revolutionary Worker #1206, July 6, 2003, posted at

These are stories of two among the hundreds of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants who have been rounded up by the government since 9/11.

Anser Mahmood is a 42-year-old truck driver who lived in Bayonne, New Jersey. Now he, his wife, and their four children live in Karachi, Pakistan, after Anser was deported by the U.S. government.

Anser was arrested in the sweeps shortly after 9/11. He was arrested in his home on October 3, 2001, when about 30 FBI agents showed up at his home and ransacked it. They claimed they were looking for Anser's brother-in-law, supposedly for credit card fraud. They told Anser that he was clear with the FBI-- but he was wanted by the INS for overstaying his business visa. They took him into custody. According to Anser, an FBI agent told him that he'd "be back home by 11 the next morning."

Instead, what he described as "that hell" began. He was chained hand and foot and loaded into a van with four other Muslim men. He was beaten til his face bled. A guard at a Brooklyn jail told him, "You're here as a World Trade Center suspect."

Anser Mahmood spend the next four months and two days in jail--in solitary in a windowless cell. For two weeks he couldn't communicate even with his family and lawyers. Closed circuit cameras displayed his every move to prison guards. There was no interrogation about why he was arrested or what his connection to 9/11 supposedly was. When he finally was able to try to call his family, the line was disconnected. At the Mahmood home, three windows were shattered by stone-throwing vigilantes.

Finally, on April 2, 2002, Anser was charged with a single criminal offense: using an invalid Social Security card. He pled guilty to taking off the "not valid for employment" label on the card so he could get a second job driving a cab. On April 19, Anser was escorted to a Pakistan-bound plane by INS agents.


Nabeel Khalid was preparing for a morning exam at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he was studying business finance, when a troop of federal agents came to his door. They questioned Nabeel for three hours and led him away in handcuffs. When he told them he had an exam in two hours, they told him that was the least of his worries.

Nabeel was taken to the Oklahoma County Detention Center, where he was held in solitary in a tiny cell for almost a month. He was not charged with any crime. He was not allowed to call or write his family or to phone the Pakistani consulate. Federal agents argued that Nabeel should remain in prison but refused to explain why; they just claimed that this honors business student was a "threat to national security."

After three weeks, an immigration judge cited Nabeel's lack of criminal record and ordered that bond be set. But meanwhile, federal authorities had developed a pretext for holding and deporting Nabeel: they claimed he was in violation of his student visa, since he had worked part time at a convenience store.

A local Catholic priest read of the case of Nabeel Khalid and 17 other Muslims who were rounded up in Norman after 9/11, and he tried to see them in prison. "No one had told them anything," the priest said. "They didn't know why there were there, they didn't know when they would go to court, they didn't know they had a right to a lawyer--nothing."

The government began deportation proceedings against Nabeel because of his convenience store job. He agreed to voluntary departure, because he realized he would almost certainly be deported, go deeper into debt trying to defend himself, and not be able to finish his studies. Back in Pakistan, he told a reporter that his father is unemployed now and facing a very hard time. "The money that he had, I mean he spent all of it on me ... for an education."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497