BY JON CRONIN
Guyanese and Trinidadian immigrants Janice Hoseine and her husband, Ramesh Palaniandi, thought after buying their first home in Ozone Park that their American Dream had finally come true.
Two weeks later, a friend called and told Hoseine, “Homeland Security is at my house. They’re looking for your husband.” Hoseine and her husband had been using this friend’s address to ensure that they received mail while they were transitioning to a new home. Palaniandi got on the phone and spoke with an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. He told the agent that he was in his new home in Ozone Park.
Hoseine said that black cars had soon surrounding her house. She went outside and ICE agents showed her a picture, in which she identified her husband. The agents came inside, met with him, asked her to give her husband $20, handcuffed him and told her Palaniandi would likely be back by the evening. Hoseine asked to see a warrant, but none was shown. That was on March 2, 2015. He didn’t come home for 557 days.
Hoseine immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her father and sister. Palaniandi came with his family in 1992 when he was just shy of his 13th birthday. His grandfather had already been living in the country for many years and the family was joining him. The couple, who have been together for 20 years, met as teenagers.
“He would follow me and say, ‘Miss, miss, can I carry your books?’” said Hoseine. “He was very quiet. He worships the ground I walk on.”
Hoseine, 35, and Palaniandi, 38, have been through thick and thin. In 2007, Palaniandi was convicted of a Class E attempted burglary and sentenced to one-and-a-half to three years in jail, which ran concurrent with a violation of probation charge. He served six months as part of a “shock incarceration” boot camp style program.
At the time, both Hoseine and Palaniandi were not citizens. but valid Green Card holders. After he was released from jail in 2008, Palaniandi’s lawyer sent the couple a letter saying that his case with immigration had been terminated. He would not be deported.
A few years later, they had no issue crossing the border to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Around that time, he lost his Green Card, but was told he could use the copies he had made to apply for citizenship.
On Sept. 9 2016, Palaniandi was released from the upstate prison where he had been held for more than a year. No reason was given for the release. He was transported to 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, where he was fitted with a monitoring device on his ankle.
During that time, Palaniandi had a flare up of toxoplasmosis in his left eye and was told that the parasite could cause permanent blindness. The prison would not allow him to see a doctor and only administer ibuprofen and eye drops, rather than a required steroid. As a result, he lost peripheral vision in that eye.
The couple fired two attorneys who Hoseine believed were not dedicated to their case. Since then, they have relied on not-for-profit legal advice.
On March 2, Hoseine and Palaniandi went to Manhattan for a monthly check-in. While there, he called Hoseine and said that he was being taken to 26 Federal Plaza, where ICE was taking him into custody. The only reason he was given was that he had no motions in court.
“Why won’t they stop punishing him?” Hoseine asked. “If he was already a citizen, this wouldn’t be an issue.”
During her husband’s first stint in prison, she obtained her citizenship to keep them in the United States.
“We could leave the country, we could go to some island,” said Hoseine, but added that Queens is the couple’s home.
In the weeks after the first time her husband was picked up by ICE, the couple almost lost their home.
“We were able to refinance the mortgage. It was stressful,” she said.
But finally, the refinance came through. In the meantime, Palaniandi is still in prison. After one week, he had already lost 10 pounds, Hoseine said. His eye is hurting and he is suffering from headaches. However, Hoseine said that people have been more willing to help them amid the current political climate.
“Just to know that we have support feels so good,” she said. “Total strangers are willing to help out.”
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin