BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
It was a normal summer morning when 57-year-old Bablu Sharif, a Bangladeshi immigrant living in Jackson Heights, awoke to start the day with prayers when he heard loud knocks at his door.
Afraid there could be a fire, Sharif opened the door immediately and found himself face to face with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, who arrested him on the spot.
Sharif immigrated from Bangladesh to the United States in 1993 with an entry visa—and later applied for political asylum—in the hope of living the American Dream.
In 1999, Sharif and his wife started a family, and both of their daughters are American citizens.
On Tuesday, Simran Sharif, 18, and Samiha Sharif, 14, said that they are afraid that their father will be deported any day now. They were accompanied by their mother; Ali Najmi, the global director of the Alliance of South Asian-American Labor (ASAL); Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing); Mohammad Rasheed, owner and principal of Jackson Heights’ Smart Academia school; and Mazeda Uddin, founder of the Southern Asian Fund for Education Scholarship Training (SAFEST), to call on President Donald Trump to defer their father’s deportation.
“We are here to bring attention to what is very unjust and a sad situation for the Sharif family,” said Najmi.
In 2013, Sharif was also taken into custody by ICE. However, policies under former President Barack Obama’s administration deferred the deportation of parents with children in the United States as long as they were working, paying taxes and meeting with immigration enforcement once a year. Those who followed the rules were granted an extension.
Sharif had received an extension each year. However, on June 22, Sharif was taken from his home ahead of his expected annual check-in with immigration enforcement officials on July 7.
He was first taken to Hudson County, and then shipped to a facility in Louisiana. Today, he is confined to a jail cell in an ICE facility in Florence, Arizona, as he awaits his flight back to Bangladesh.
“We are here today as a last effort to bring attention to this issue and to raise the voices of those most affected by this, which is his family,” said Najmi. “This is an American family who is being broken apart by an inhumane policy.”
Samiha, a ninth-grade student at Manhattan/Hunter Science High School who hopes to be a U.S. attorney, said that her father was nearly deported in 2013, but U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) intervened to get Sharif released. But now that Trump is president, Samiha is more fearful.
“I love my dad so much and I want Trump, the director of Homeland Security and the director of ICE to send my dad back home to take care of my sister and I, as we have no one in this world to take care of us,” said Samiha.
Samiha said although she understands that when her father first came to the United States, he was arrested after not following up regularly with ICE, she doesn’t understand why he’s been taken this time, since he has followed the guidelines put into place by the Obama administration.
“I ask the question to President Trump and the director of ICE: Who will take care of us if my dad is deported? Neither my sister nor I would like to become a burden on our country,” said Samiha.
Samiha said that the family is currently receiving assistance from friends, but she does not know how they will survive if Sharif is deported.
“My mom, who is having a lot of health issues, is in pain, agony, anxiety, fear and is sad all the time,” said Samiha. “I don’t want to see anything happen to my mom. Every day—because of the United States’ immigration laws—hundreds of families are going through what my family is going through. Please stop breaking American families for no reason. Stop deportation of innocent bread-earners in families. Pass immigration reform, so my dad could return to us and so that other fathers can return to their families.”
Simran, who is a senior in high school and aspires to be a doctor, has undergone emotional distress since her father’s arrest.
“I do not want to go to school anymore because my mom and sister cry all the time for my father,” said Simran. “I cry also. But I don’t want to cry in front of my sister and I don’t want to cry in front of everyone else because I don’t want them to think I’m not a big girl. I want to study, but no matter how hard I try I cannot because I think about my dad all the time.”
She said that she wants her father to hurry home so she can focus on taking her SAT exams and getting into college.
Najmi said that because Simran is 18 years old, her hope is that Sharif will continue getting extensions until Simran reaches age 21, at which time she could sponsor her father.
“Our message to Trump is to at least continue to defer the deportation of parents of children, especially United States children, just like Obama did,” said Najmi.