Randall G. Shelden

Another Victim of the War on Terrorism


            The current “war on terrorism” is yet another example of what I would call the “one-size-fits-all” tendency of conservative thought.  Many pieces of legislation in the various “wars” we fight – the “war on drugs,” “war on crime,” “war on gangs” – stem from a simplistic and narrow conservative world view that has no shades of gray.  Want to “get tough” on crime?  Pass a new law that says “use a gun, go to prison” or “Three Strikes and You’re Out” or “mandatory sentencing” or “truth in sentencing.”  Each of these, plus all sorts of drug laws, has had the result of lumping together serial killers and petty thieves, sexual predators and those who engage in consenting sex, drug warlords from South America and simple possession of a marijuana cigarette.

            In the case of the “war on terrorism” we have had the same result, where perfectly innocent citizens guilty of some minor offense are treated as if they were international terrorists with allegiance to al Qaeda.  In the zest to combat terrorism, our elected officials have ignored common decency and, in effect, stuck their collective heads in the sand.

            A perfect example came to my attention recently as I attended a conference at Eastern Kentucky University.  Among the guest speakers was a 44-year-old Iranian-born woman, named Mahin Ashki, who came here (1984) when she was a teenager to escape the repressive Iranian regime.  At that time she started attending the University of Kentucky and began to build a life.  Being young and impressionable, and not wanting to return to Iran for fear of her life (she had openly criticized her government), she impulsively married a friend for the purpose of establishing her residency.  Two years later she admitted what she had done and an immigration judge ordered that she be deported.  She has been living in legal limbo ever since, having just recently exhausted all of her appeals.

            Meanwhile, she remarried and has two daughters and was working for the Clinical Oncology Program at the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center as Chief Clinical Research Associate.  That was until the latest development, a ruling by immigration officials that she be deported.

            During her presentation at the conference at Eastern Kentucky University, Mahin read a statement.  I will share with you some of her words.  “While waiting for the decision from the INS [her appeal of the original deportation order], in 1989 I married my husband, Farhad Abad, who is an Iranian born and a Naturalized U.S. citizen; together we have two American born daughters….In 1992 my request for political asylum was denied.  Again on the advice of my attorney, my husband filed an immediate visa petition on my behalf.  That too was denied…”  She goes on to note that the denial was based upon a law passed in 1986 that ban people with “sham marriages” to gain legal status in this country.  This is being used against her, despite the fact that her “sham marriage” took place two years before the law was passed.  The INS claims that she entered the country in 1978 but left in 1981 and re-entered in 1984.  In other words, they claimed that she had not spent the required 7 years of permanent physical residency that is required for suspension of deportation.  Mahin states that “I have lived in the U.S. continuously for the last 26 years…I have only left the United States in 1978, 1981, and 1984 for summer vacations and returned to continue attending college.  All these departures were brief, casual, and innocent.”

            In March of 2001 the INS order that she be deported.  She writes that “I cannot describe the emotional impact that this decision had on my family and friends.  It is unimaginable to deport a westernized woman back to Iran and force her to leave her family, her two precious daughters and husband behind.”  After some rather intense publicity, and some support from various people, including a member of congress, the INS removed the deportation order and granted her what is called a “Deferred Action Status,” which allowed her to remain in this country indefinitely “at their discretion.” But then on September 12, 2003, she received a letter from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) in Chicago indicating that her “Deferred Action Status” had been revoked.  What this means is that she can be picked up at any time, without warning, and deported back to Iran.

            Her only remaining legal recourse is through an act of congress (in other words, new legislation) or a Presidential pardon.  Mahin writes:  “I plea to you and urge you to assist me to fulfill my dream of becoming an American citizen.  I know I made a mistake and I have been punished for it, but it seems that in my case the punishment does not fit the crime…If I am guilty of anything, it is only wanting the freedom that this great country has showed me for the last 26 years…”

            As revealed in the above statement, she still feels positive about being in this country, with all the freedoms we take for granted, despite the fact that this same country, through the one-size-fits-all conservative mentality, has been trying to deny that freedom.

            If anyone feels a need to help, they can contact Professor Joan Callahan at the University of Kentucky, who is serving as a contact person for Mahin (Professor Callahan’s e-mail address is: buddy@uky.edu.).

Published in the Las Vegas Mercury, April 29, 2004.

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