Jamaica Family Deserves Compassion From The President

A Personal Perspective

A Jamaica family has a particularly good reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving season. Riaz Talukder, an immigrant from Bangladesh, was told to report to Homeland Security for deportation to his homeland on Nov. 20, but he has been given a stay on that deportation.

I was watching NY 1 News right after getting home from work on Friday when the clip of the distraught family came on. Mr. Talukder’s wife has been battling cancer and is due to return to the hospital for another surgery in December. The couple has two young sons and Mr. Talukder supports his family as a taxi driver.

He has been living in the United States since the age of 13 when an uncle, thinking he was helping his extended family, brought the young Talukder to the United States. He has never been in trouble with the law and is the father of two American citizens.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, Talukder had to report to Homeland Security once per year. Under President Donald Trump, he has had to report every month until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decides that there are no compelling reasons not to deport him. So, being available to take care of a sick spouse and two under-aged children is not compelling enough reason under the Trump presidency.

Anyone who saw those two boys weeping for the travesty that was about to befall their family and wasn’t moved to tears is made of steel. I immediately called my husband and asked him to call one of our two U.S. Senators to intervene. He did and we don’t know how much Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office was able to do on such short notice, but it seems that there were many other people calling different people on behalf of this family.

We may never know what made the difference—it could very well have been a kind and logical immigration judge responding to a persuasive argument by Mr. Talukder’s attorney or the sight of the cancer-stricken wife and crying boys and Mr. Talukder’s own pleas. Whatever it was, we are glad it worked. This family man was not deported on Monday. Instead, he has been gifted with a six-month extension.

Immigration laws are to be respected, but there has to be room for compassion in extenuating circumstances. A child brought here knows nothing of immigration rules. For years, Mr. Talukder did not realize that he was here illegally. When he did realize it, there was nothing left for him in Bangladesh. He has built a life here as an otherwise law-abiding, hard-working husband and father. He is, for all intents and purposes, an American.

What is to be gained by deporting this man at this point? Nothing good can come of this. Seeing those two boys crying for their father and their plight was heart-breaking. The merciful thing to do is grant him his permanent status and leave him to continue working and taking care of his family. Deporting a loving and responsible father from his family will cause far more damage than his being an illegal immigrant ever could.

Under this current administration, common sense has flown the coop—but I and, most likely, everyone who saw that news report are thankful that the Talukder family will be whole this Thanksgiving Day and for at least the next six months. There are many other families going through similar traumas with similar narratives. They all deserve a fair shot at legalization.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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