The New York Times reported the story of a man who came to the United States from Pakistan as a child, faced possible deportation several times, and finally became a U.S. citizen after years of waiting. Mohammad Sarfaraz Hussain came to the U.S. with his mother, and remained here after she died. He became fully “Americanized,” according to the Times, but the nation’s response to the events of September 11, 2001 put him and others in a difficult position. He was required to register with the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a now-defunct program created as part of the “War on Terror.” He avoided deportation and obtained asylum. By enduring some of the worst the immigration system has to offer and becoming a citizen, Hussain offers quite the success story.
According to the Times story, Hussain’s uncle, a physician in Queens, New York, petitioned for an immigrant visa for his sister, Hussain’s mother. As her minor son, Hussain would share her immigrant status. While the petition was pending, she was diagnosed with cancer and traveled to the U.S. on a tourist visa for treatment, bringing eight year-old Hussain with her. Hussain’s mother died in New York, and he overstayed his visa to remain with his uncle. His father died of a heart attack in Pakistan when he was fifteen. Another relative petitioned for an immigrant visa for Hussain, but the September 11 attacks occurred while it was pending.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), created NSEERS in 2002. The program required certain nationals or citizens of various countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia to register with INS. This included male nationals of Pakistan who were over the age of fifteen at the time. 67 Fed. Reg. 77136 (Dec. 16, 2002). NSEERS was heavily criticized as a form of racial profiling that was both offensive and ineffective. The Department of Homeland Security began scaling the program back as early as 2003, and effectively ended it in 2011. Hussain registered with NSEERS in early 2003, and managed to avoid deportation when massive public support led ICE, which had by then replaced INS, to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” and dismiss the case.
When ICE tried to deport Hussain again in 2006, he applied for asylum. This required him to prove that he met the definition of a “refugee” under federal law by showing a “well-founded fear of persecution” in Pakistan based on certain factors, including “membership in a particular social group.” 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(42), 1158(b)(1)(A). He convinced an immigration judge that he would be likely to face persecution in Pakistan, based on his American upbringing, by extremist groups “who would try to use him as a ‘poster child’ for anti-American views.” Once he had asylum, he was able to apply for permanent residence after one year, and for naturalization after another five years.
Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger represents prospective immigrants who want to move to the New York and New Jersey areas, as well as immigrants who have this area their home and would like to become permanent residents or naturalized citizens. To schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration advocate, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.
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First Volume of USCIS’s Planned 12-Volume Policy Manual Addresses Citizenship and Naturalization, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 7, 2013
Study Finds that Citizenship Test May Not Be Reliable, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2012
Photo credit: By Bain News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.