Last fall I mentioned the immigration case of Nazry (“Naz”) Mustakim, a native of Singapore who lived in the United States with proper documents as a Legal Permanent Resident for nearly 20 years before being taken into custody last March. Before his arrest, Naz and his new bride, Hope, were happily living in Waco, Texas, where he did volunteer work and held a steady job.
But at 7:00 a.m. on March 30, 2011, four armed agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency knocked on the door and took him into custody. Before long, Naz was sitting in the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, Texas, 235 miles away from home and from Hope.
And what was the problem? Years ago, as a very young adult, Naz had developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and in 2005 he was arrested more than once for drug possession. Realizing that he had a problem, he voluntarily entered a rehabilitation program at Manna House, a faith-based ministry of Mission Waco. Emerging from the six-month program both clean and with new faith in Christ, he wanted to give back. Naz started working with Mission Waco as both a volunteer and as paid staff, became an active leader in a local 12-step recovery program, earned a college degree, and got a responsible job to support his family.
In March of 2007, after getting clean and beginning his new life, Naz’s arrests back in 2005 came up for trial. He was offered a deal: by pleading guilty to felony drug possession, he could get off with 10 years of probation and no prison time. What he wasn’t told is that the conviction would violate the terms of his green card and put him in the immigration category of “aggravated felon,” which made him deportable at any time.
Mustakim was advised to accept the plea bargain and, without knowing the immigration consequences, he did.
Even so, all seemed well and his green card continued to be renewed. But, as we have seen played out in the news, widespread paranoia about “illegal immigrants” in America has sparked political machinations leading to a federal crackdown on deportable aliens. Four full years after his ill-advised plea deal, and well into Naz’s reformed life as a productive citizen and compassionate Christian, the authorities decided to deport him.
Without reviewing all the details, I am happy to report that 10 months of waiting and countless hours of legal wrangling, prayer, raising funds for attorneys, “Free Naz” T-shirt sales, and personal appeals finally had a good outcome: on Feb. 7, during a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor granted Naz a waiver from deportation. Soon, the welcome home party was on and Naz could return to his marriage, his work, and his life.
But that life will have a different quality to it. Though Naz’s case is closed, both he and Hope yearn to help others who are in similar situations but lack the friends and support that kept Naz hopeful and led to a positive outcome.
As Hope puts it, “The heaviest tears we’ve cried during the past 10 months have been for the men [and women] in the detention centers who were so scared and confused, without a network of support to sustain them like Naz. They are sweet, hard-working, generous individuals. Dads, husbands, brothers … These are people, warm-blooded humans, children of God. And we refuse to settle back into ‘life’ and forget about them.”
The rest of us shouldn’t forget, either.
[Photo from Pat Jones Photography. More information about Naz’s story and issues relative to immigration is available at wesupportnaz.com.]