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Click here for the March 2012 issue of India Currents
I did this story to reach out to a group that is pretty invisible when it comes to debates about immigration reform and immigrant rights.
It’s a big deal for India Currents to shine the spotlight on an issue that most of our community speaks about in hushed tones. The United States knows us as mostly doctors and engineers. And while many South Asians do enjoy a relatively good life, silver-lined with “model minority” status, there are many of us who do not have the same luxury.
South Asian Americans make up one-sixth of the undocumented population in the United States. They become undocumented in many different ways:
Overstaying visas to stay with family
Losing their H-1B jobs
Leaving an abusive marriage with a H-1B holder
Being exploited as a domestic worker or sex trafficking
Aging out
Losing their asylum cases and overstaying due to family ties here
Crossing the border through Mexico
We need to have these hard and awkward conversations within our communities. We need to ensure that the most vulnerable parts of our population get the support and services they need. And it is my hope that through the article, I’ll get to meet and help out many others like me.I hope everyone enjoys the issue.


Click here for the March 2012 issue of India Currents

I did this story to reach out to a group that is pretty invisible when it comes to debates about immigration reform and immigrant rights.

It’s a big deal for India Currents to shine the spotlight on an issue that most of our community speaks about in hushed tones. The United States knows us as mostly doctors and engineers. And while many South Asians do enjoy a relatively good life, silver-lined with “model minority” status, there are many of us who do not have the same luxury.

South Asian Americans make up one-sixth of the undocumented population in the United States. They become undocumented in many different ways:

  • Overstaying visas to stay with family
  • Losing their H-1B jobs
  • Leaving an abusive marriage with a H-1B holder
  • Being exploited as a domestic worker or sex trafficking
  • Aging out
  • Losing their asylum cases and overstaying due to family ties here
  • Crossing the border through Mexico

We need to have these hard and awkward conversations within our communities. We need to ensure that the most vulnerable parts of our population get the support and services they need. And it is my hope that through the article, I’ll get to meet and help out many others like me.I hope everyone enjoys the issue.

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#NSEERS Lands #DREAMAct Youth Behind Bars, Deportation Looming

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration terminated NSEERS, a post-9-11 program that targeted and placed non-citizen Muslim men from over 24 countries in deportation proceedings.  But the termination provides no relief for thousands of immigrants who face deportation as a result of the program. Hadi Zayed Zaidi, a Pakistani-American who was brought here at the age of 4, is one such immigrant who registered with the NSEERS program when he was merely 16 — a minor. Two weeks ago, ICE agents raided Hadi’s home and took him into custody. Hadi – now 25 — has been refused bail because he is Pakistani and faces imminent deportation to Pakistan, a country he has not seen since he was 4.

Hadi is locked up in a detention center in California right now, awaiting deportation to Pakistan, a country he has not seen since he was 4 years old. When his family tried to post bond for him, the detention center told them that since Hadi is Pakistani-born, they could not release him on bail.

And get this — his parents are legal permanent residents and his grandmother is a U.S. citizen. So much for prosecutorial discretion.

Sign a petition to help Hadi here and bring him home for the holidays.

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Help: Minhaz Has to Wear An Ankle Bracelet and Could Be Deported Back to Bangladesh

URGENT: On Friday, November 4th, Minhaz was forced to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and has to present a one-way plane ticket to Bangladesh, a country he hasn’t been to in 20 years, on November 18th!


Minhaz’s father lost his asylum case as a result of the negligence and wrongful advice of his attorney. He was deported back to Bangladesh where he was murdered for his political affiliations. Now Minhaz has to go through the traumatic experience of fighting his deportation to a country where he could suffer the same fate.

Please take immediate action to stop Minhaz’s deportation!

1. Sign this petition


2. Call DHS – Janet Napolitano 202-282-8495 and ICE – John Morton 202.732.3000

Sample Script: “I am calling to ask that DREAM-Eligible student Minhaz Khan (A# 70663420) be allowed to stay in the U.S. Minhaz came to the United States when he was only 4 years old. Minhaz is a college graduate with a degree in Neuroscience and wants to contribute back to the only country he calls home. Don’t deport DREAMer Minhaz Khan.”

3. Click here for more information and to forward this petition to your friends.



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Just days after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held that DREAM Act student Shamir Ali was a “fugitive alien," Ali was released from detention thanks to outpouring support. His mom was less lucky — she was deported back to Bangladesh in 2009 for driving without a license.

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Nadia Habib and Mom Win A One-Year Stay of Removal

"Obviously, it’s a roller coaster. I’m just really grateful to be able to stay here longer," she said. "I’m just gonna continue doing what I’ve been doing, living my life as I have. And wait for an answer."

Read more here

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Ethnically Indian, I was born in Fiji and I came to the United States when I was three-years-old. Six months later, I became Undocumented. At the age of 23, I became Undocumented and Unafraid.

Being raised in America, I caught the “American Dream” virus that was spread by teachers. In elementary school and middle school, I never knew what it meant to be undocumented; all I knew is that I had a passion to learn. I was exactly like the student sitting next to me learning about the values this country was founded on, believing that those who work hard can succeed in America. As sappy as it may sound, obtaining an education felt like my calling. The teachers must have seen my thirst for knowledge and recognized the eagerness in my non-verbal and verbal expressions because they always encouraged me to learn and achieve at my full potential.

My accomplishments read like a grocery list. I have been on the Honor Roll since kindergarten. In middle school, I won academic medals through my participation in MESA and Science Fairs. For every year that I was in high school, I volunteered an average of 300 hours, raising funds for March of Dimes, breast cancer research, and UNICEF. I took on an average of five honors and advanced placement courses a year. I gained the respect of the student body, teachers, and administrators through my dedication and desire to be a hardworking student. I graduated in the top five percent of my high school graduating class. I was accepted to CSULB,
CSUMB, CSULA, CSUF, UCLA, UCSC, and LMU. At the conclusion of my senior year I
accumulated more than $10,000 in scholarships from private donors ranging from $250 to $1,500. I was unable to qualify for financial aid, so I chose to pursue my undergraduate Business Administration degree with a minor in Speech Communication at CSU, Fullerton. In May of 2005, I became the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. On October 1, 2011, I will submit my application for the masters in Speech Communication with emphases in Intercultural and Organization Communication to CSU, Fullerton.

The challenges faced by undocumented students are unique, but nevertheless, humbling. During my first year at CSU, Fullerton I commuted by public transportation, traveling two hours to campus. Thankfully, my teachers and scholarship donors believed in me enough to provide funding for my education. I had enough to comfortably finish my first year without having to worry about paying tuition. Nonetheless, I still had to scrape together the funds for the following year. I found a job that paid minimum wage and I saved every penny by cutting my expenses to the bare minimum. My paycheck had the federal, state, and local taxes withheld. Like everyone who works in this country, I always had taxes due to Uncle Sam. I would forgo any desire for material possessions because the desire to have a degree from a university was more important to me.

I am not a criminal. I am a productive member of society. I am educated. I am hard working. Given chance or opportunity, I will make a difference. By continuing to be Undocumented, America is being robbed of its opportunity to increase the productivity of companies; to have communities inspired, to experience significant change, and to have another humble public servant because if given the opportunity, this country would find all of these things in me. Research shows that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are more prosperous. I want to give back to the community that nurtured my growth and development. Education is the light that I shine down the dark tunnel, to urge, challenge, and undermine the fear of not knowing my obscure future. I want to serve as a mentor to the youth in disadvantaged communities and encourage them to pursue a college education. I want to show those like me the door to success and hopefully they will be courageous enough to walk through it.

There are thousands of Undocumented college students who want to give back to the only country they know; their only home, the United States of America. People find it easy to say, “Deport them all!” To me that would mean leaving the only country that I know, leaving my mom and dad, leaving my four sisters, leaving my ten nieces and nephews, and leaving my friends, leaving behind an opportunity to make America a better place.

Immigration is a global issue affecting the lives of people everywhere. This is not just an issue for Mexicans, Central Americans, or South Americans; this is an issue for Asians, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, Australians, and anyone else who works hard and fights for the opportunity to selflessly give back to the only community they know.

We all have a choice. I choose to become a part of a higher purpose: to get the DREAM Act passed and make the world a better place. My aspiration to make a difference starts here.

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"It seems silly that a piece of paper with nine digits triumphs over and lessens my accomplishments. My parents and I immigrated to the United States from India 21 years ago. My father’s application for change of status failed and as a dependent, I became undocumented. However, by that time I had become fully ingrained in the cultural fabric of America. I have completed elementary and secondary school and I am currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. I am an author or co-author of several scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and several posters and abstracts at scientific conferences. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. and become a biotech entrepreneur/ venture capitalist. I will not allow my undocumented status to diminish my lofty goals."

RS, undocumented immigrant student of Indian origin

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Mohammad Abdollahi

I have known for a long time that I am undocumented. I have also known, for a long time, that I cannot return to Iran, the country of my birth. There are many reasons for this- the most important of which is because America is my home- but one major reason is because I am gay. In Iran, capital punishment is the penalty for homosexuality.

Read more here.

(I’m including Mohammad here since the United Nations categorizes Iran as South Asian even though immigrants from Iran may not necessarily see themselves as a part of the South Asian diaspora).

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“I was young. I had to go in front of the judge. I was scared knowing I could be deported at any time. That fear was always inside me,” said Azam, recalling his high school and college years when he had to go to court several times a year.

Mohammed Azam with Scott Singer. Azam (27) manages a Häagen-Dazs shop that he manages in the South Street Seaport. For eight years, Azam faced deportation back to his native Bangladesh, which he left at age nine, because of the racially discriminatory post-9/11 law NSEERS, that required Arab and Muslim men to register with the authorities. Azam complied with the law only to face deportation even though all the other members of his immediate family by then were in the United States as permanent residents or citizens. A letter from Borough of Manhattan President Scott Stringer and 20 other elected officials urged the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to drop the case, which it finally did on June 1, 2011.

(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)