No Festive Cheer as Deportation Looms for Moroccan-American Family

Protesters rally outside the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

NEW YORK, United States – It is not the Thanksgiving that Fatiha Elgharib had hoped for.

As millions of Americans chow down on turkey with loved ones on Thursday, Elgharib’s family faces the gloomy prospect of its matriarch being deported from Dayton, Ohio, back to Morocco within days, relatives told Middle East Eye.

Elgharib was previously allowed to remain stateside to care for her son, a US citizen with Down syndrome, but tough, anti-immigration rules under President Donald Trump will see her depart on a Casablanca-bound flight on Monday.

While Trump’s immigration crackdown is best known for targeting Latino “bad hombres” and citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, Arab- and Muslim-American families already living in the Midwest also have it rough, activists told MEE.

“Donald Trump campaigned on deporting criminals. The biggest thing Fatiha has done was to stay past her visa stay date,” her US-born sister-in-law, Denise Hamdi, told MEE. “She’s never even had ticket for speeding, littering or jaywalking.”

“There are very few criminals in these mass deportations we can see. And I don’t think most Americans realise that the folks who are being targeted are really the ones who try to cooperate with officials and don’t hide.”

Shackled and planned for deportation

Elgharib entered the US legally in 1996 with her two eldest children, joining her husband, Yusuf. She tried to legalise her status, including by registering via a federal database for Muslims that was created after the 9/11 attacks.

She ran afoul of immigration rules, but officials did not deport her on the grounds that one of her two US-born children, Sami, now 15, has Down syndrome and other health woes, for which she provides round-the-clock care.

That changed at her most recent annual check-in in October, when immigration enforcers slapped an electronic monitor around her ankle and told her to pack her bags for a 27 November flight back to Morocco.

By James Reinl for MIDDLE EAST EYE
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