3-18-2013By Hope Mustakim
Tomorrow, Congress is holding a hearing on immigration enforcement. It’s a topic I know all too much about. In 2011, immigration officials barged into our house and hauled my husband away.
Born in Singapore, Nazry came to the United States with his family in 1992. I met him when we were both working in a homeless shelter in Waco, Texas. His commitment to helping others—and his own story of redemption—inspired me.
A recovered drug addict, he’d been arrested for drug possession in 2005 and ordered into treatment; there he became a devout Christian and changed his life. We fell in love and got married in 2010.
But a few months later, the government took away his green card and put him in detention – basically, a jail. We had no idea why. We learned that despite his plea deal—which gave him probation instead of prison-time—he had been classified as an “aggravated felon”—a status that can trigger mandatory detention and deportation.
My husband spent ten months in a detention facility more than 200 miles from Waco, when he could have been at home contributing to the community. Having come to know and admire Nazry, his probation officer was shocked by what the government had done.
You may have heard that the government reportedly put on supervised release a few hundred immigrants as part of sequester-required budget cuts. Some pundits and politicians claim that this move threatens public safety. The truth is, there are thousands of detained immigrants like Nazry, people who should never have been locked up in the first place.
The Senate and the House are both working on immigration reform bills. They’re moving fast.
Tell Congress to transform U.S. immigration detention practices – and save taxpayer dollars – by investing in low-cost alternatives to detention and alternative forms of detention, rather than unnecessary detention.
My husband’s green card was finally reinstated. After losing 10 months of our lives and a lot of money in legal fees, we’ve bought a home in Waco, I just received my social worker’s degree, and we continue to volunteer with our church and our community. Now, we are partnering with Human Rights First to advocate for alternatives to detention.
Immigration detention costs taxpayers $2 billion every year. Alternatives cost 30 cents to $14 per day per person, compared to $164 per day per person for detention.