One Small Victory is a Victory

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary This is the story of Mohammed Azam. An immigrant from Bangladesh, he was brought to the United States when he was only nine years old. In 2001, his father applied under the federal labor certification program to legally live and work in this country. Under this program his son should have been allowed to become a legal resident. However, because the bureaucratic paperwork took so long Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to allow him to have legal status under the program. When his father had registered Azam, Azam was then a high school student. But because the paperwork took so long, by the time ICE got around to Azam’s case he had already graduated and was now an adult.

Because of this, he was threatened by ICE with deportation. In 2003, Mohammed Azam registered under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System for all Muslim men from the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa and Southeast Asia. Azam went on to college where he eventually graduated. He then went to work in an ice cream parlor where he had been faithfully working for years. In every respect he has tried to obey the laws of this country, he has tried to do all that was asked of him, and he had never once been in trouble with the law. He was not an undocumented person since his father had applied for him to be in this country legally in the first place.

The problem was U.S. immigration itself and how it handled Azam’s case. By all definitions he should have been a legal resident of this country. And every immigration judge agreed with this. However, ICE kept appealing Azam’s case in an effort to throw him out of the country. Why? Because of their sloppy paperwork. Had the paperwork been done when Azam was a teenager this mess would not have happened. For eight long years Azam’s case dragged on. He was not illegally in the United States, but he had no documentation to prove he was legally here.

Eventually his case attracted the attention of members of the U.S. Congress who thought that ICE had done a sloppy job. But Azam never gave up his rights, and he fought for the right to stay that should have been granted to him long time ago. Finally, after considerable public pressure, ICE dropped its deportation case against Azam. Now he can stay permanently in the United States, and he said he plans to go on to graduate school to get an MBA and then open his own franchise business. For once I am happy to see an unjust immigration case resolved with justice. This is becoming rare in America, and to me one small individual victory is a victory for fairness and the American Dream.

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