Friday, June 17, 2005

16 Year Old Girl Deported

Saurav, my co-blogger at Detainment (a blog we set up to help two 16-year-old New York City girls who were arrested for immigration violations but threatened with terrorist charges in March), emailed me the latest Nina Bernstein story in The New York Times about this case: "Questions, Bitterness and Exile for Queens Girl in Terror Case."

While the Guinean girl was released last month and allowed to return to her normal life (link), the Bangladeshi girl was deported along with half of her family.

Saurav writes, "This might make you cry, and it also might make you really angry." And he was right on both accounts.

Here are some excerpts from Nina Bernstein's article:

"I feel like I'm on a different planet," the girl, Tashnuba Hayder, said. "It just hit me. How everything happened - it's like, 'Oh, my God.'"

"The story of how it happened - how Tashnuba, the pious, headstrong daughter of Muslim immigrants living in a neighborhood of tidy lawns and American flags, was labeled an imminent threat to national security - is still shrouded in government secrecy. After nearly seven weeks in detention, she was released in May on the condition that she leave the country immediately. Only immigration charges were brought against her and another 16-year-old New York girl, who was detained and released. Federal officials will not discuss the matter."

"But as the first terror investigation in the United States known to involve minors, the case reveals how deeply concerned the government is that a teenager might become a terrorist, and the lengths to which federal agents will go if they get even a whiff of that possibility. And it has drawn widespread attention, stoking the debate over the right balance between government vigilance and the protection of individual freedoms."

(I'm not sure about the "widespread attention." Saurav and I wrote about it, a few other diarists at Daily Kos, Ari Berman and others at The Nation, Susan Hu from The Booman Tribune...but that's about it except for The New York Times. And does this article really reveal "how deeply concerned the government is that a teenager might become a terrorist?" That's laying it on a bit thick...the Times wants to have it both ways...they want to criticize the government for acting over-the-top but also show that they're doing what they can to keep us safe. Bullshit. This was just a hyped up story which used two girls. And let's not forget that it was the Media that drove this story, not the government who never gave one official word on the record.)

"According to a government document provided to The Times by a federal official, the F.B.I. asserted that the girls presented "an imminent threat to the security of the United States based upon evidence that they plan to be suicide bombers." The document cited no evidence. And in background interviews, federal officials were quick to play down the case as soon as reporters called, characterizing the investigation as a pre-emptive move against potential candidates for recruitment, not the disruption of a plot."

(The New York Times has yet to offer any details on exactly who SAW this document or what kind of document it was. I'm skeptical of everything The New York Times has to say in this matter, since after Reuters reported that the girls were only being charged with immigration violations and offered quotes from federal officials that went on the record saying so, the Times continued to refer to the "document" and ignored everything else - including an email I wrote them: link.)

"The F.B.I. tried to say I didn't have a life - like, I wasn't the typical teenager," Tashnuba said bitterly, fingering her long Muslim dress. "They thought I was anti-American because I didn't want to compromise, but in my high-school ethics class we had Communists, Democrats, Republicans, Gothics - all types. In all our classes, we were told, 'You speak up, you give your opinion, and you defend it.'"

"They tried to twist my mind," Tashnuba said. "They had their little tactics - start with nice questions, try to get more severe. In the end, when I did cry they were, like, mocking me."

"The other girl was allowed to return to her East Harlem high school in early May, under strict conditions including an order not to discuss the case. But for Tashnuba, there was no prospect of release, her lawyer, Troy Mattes, said he was told. Broke and distraught, Tashnuba's mother asked to take "voluntary departure" with her daughter, rather than fight. The government agreed, and an immigration judge issued the necessary order."

"Arriving in Dhaka on May 12, Tashnuba walked into her new life and burst into tears. "I want to go back," she cried."


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