The Unites States of America is proudly described as “The land of the free and the home of the brave” in its national anthem. But it is almost 200 years since these words were written and times have certainly changed. Perhaps many may now agree that the United States of America is no longer the land where all people are free and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of their own choice. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, the US has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most noticeable example of this was the USA PATRIOT act signed into law October 26, 2001.Only Six weeks after the 9/11 attacks the US Congress enacted the sweeping new law that was passed in great haste and secrecy, and that many regard as riddled with flaws that seriously compromise fundamental freedoms. In The Deported we look at the lives of three immigrants to the United States who had come to America to live the dream in a land they thought to be free and fair. Yet in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks their lives spiraled into misery as the US government rushed to wage a war on terror, terrorizing innocent citizens instead.
Thank you, sir.
We’ve been here to llthe United States a lot. We used to come every … every year for vacation and we really liked the US. It is a great country
Samir Megahed ,Yousef’s father:
Thisis a huge country, This is a beautiful country. This country is a country for everybody.
That’s why we decided … we wanted to continue our life and move here to the US and have a future here in the US.
The Megaheds had a perfect picture of an American immigrant family. Samir Megahed , an engineer moved from Egypt with his wife and four children to Florida in 1998. Samir found workand his eldest son followed in his footsteps pursuing engineering degrees. In 2009 the family celebrated becoming American citizens. But their son, Yousef, was missing.
I got two gays supposedly out of Florida… both of them are sitting holding Qurans in their lap while they’re driving. One of them’s got a laptop. I think they’re part of the damn Taliban. I got a Taliban bro. Those guys got me scared. He’s probably got a bomb strapped to him. Maybe they’re going to practice a suicide bombing here. Hey man, not right now! I think they’re Islamic. Are they Islamic?
Our friend told us “How was Youse?” We told him, “He’s fine. He went to a beach trip with some of his friends, He told us, “did you see CNN?” And we were amazed that they were saying us to check Yousef on CNN.
In August 2007, Yousef Megahed was on the road trip with his college friend Muhammad, visiting beaches in the south. They were pulled over for driving 60 in a 45-mile-an-hour zone in small south Carolina town of Goose Creek.
When Mohammad told the officers he had homemade fireworks in the car, they were both arrested and charged with transporting explosives across the States lines.
Yahia Megahed,Yousef’s father:
We saw this as a mistake that we were hopeful would bepeaceful right the next day. . But the story didn’t end the next day when it continued now for almost two years. He was arrested for fireworks. If any white kid or anyone who is not a Middle Eastern would be stopped by a police officer and he would have fireworks they would consider this to be something ordinary and they’re going to be the beach….. and they’re having some fun but for a Middle Eastern even this legal stuffs that is enjoyed or allowed for any person living here in the US, it’s considerea d to be banned or illegal for him. So I think it was almost like a wake-up callthat like Arabs or Middle Eastern and people from an Islamic background. They don’t enjoy the same right or the same freedom offered to other people here in the US.
Othermore form of charges ofterrorism ever filed. Yousef was held for ten months in solitary confinement. It was over a year and a half before his trial began
Samir Megahed ,Yousef’s father:
In the past two years, our life has changed completely. It looks like a nightmare. You live under pressure from the biggest government all over the world. If the biggest government all over the world targeting your son and you know your son is innocent. You’re thinking its’ crazy because Yousef has a Middle-East face and he is carrying Quran he’s on suspicion.
They all use their religion to justify their hatred.
Stop all Muslim immigration as the best way to protect America and our academy form a new terrorist attack
The fact of the matter is this guy wants to kill us. We have to fight them and we have to support law to fight them.
We’ve got to get this guy for …
A 28 –year-old Muslim man, they should do strict search
But there is some confusion about Islam. Is it a religion of violence or peace?
Islamis a violent, I would go say religion but it’s not a religion; it is a political system .It’s a violent, political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination
In the years since the 9/11attack, – advocacy groups claimedthe United States has witnessed an anti-Muslim and anti-Arab backlash. Isam Zaiem is the president of the equivalent office of a council in American Islamic Relations or Cair. Nationally Cair’s attracted five full search in civil rights complaints from Muslim Americans since 2001.
Isam Zaiem, Cair, Cleveland
The atmosphere and the environment and the media had created a very false perception about Islam and Muslims especially Americans Muslims. So we were all lumped in the categories of the fifth column or the terrorists. If you look into the major cities in the country you will find data that has been major cases all over the country
TV, John Ashcrpft, attorney General:
The Department of Justice is waging a deliberate campaign of arrest and detention to protect American lives. We are removing suspects in terrorist who violate the law from our streets to prevent further terrorist attack. We believe we have al-Qaeda membership in custody and we will use every constitutional tool to keep suspects in terrorist locked up.
The US department of Justice refuses to release a tally of how many of people it has detained since beginning of so called war on terror.From 2001 to 2003 alone however, at least 27,000 Arabs and Muslims inside the United States were detained and interrogated by the FBI and 7 thousand arrested.145 thousands Arabs and Muslim immigrants were questioned as part of a special registration program and of those nearly 14 thousand had deportation proceeding started against them.
Sameeh Hammoudeh was a PhD student in applied anthropologyand an instructor at the University of South Florida, the same university Yousef Megahed attended as an engineering student. He and his family had moved to Tampa from Palestine in 1992. So Sami could pursue studies. In 2003, he was arrested as a co-conspirator in Sami Al-Arian Case and charged with terrorism.
TV, John Ashcrpft, attorney General:
Today the United States Department of Justice is announcing the indictment of Sami Al-Arian andseven co-conspirators. All of the defendants if convicted face the potential of life sentences. Al-Arian’sUS associates and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members arrested today include Sameeh Hammoudeh.
Sameeh Hammoudeh, instructor university of South Florida:
At the very beginning of the case, I thought that there are misunderstandings. They came at 4 AM , 4 in the morning. They just came knocking on the door very strongly and my wife woke up and opened the door and they came to me and said you are under arrest for charges of terrorism, for supporting terrorism.
Rabih Haddad came to the US to study in 1980 fleeing the violence of civil war in Lebanon. After career with various aid organizations in 1992, Haddad founded the Global Relief Foundation or GRF. It became the second largest Islamic charity in United States providing aid to 68000 people worldwide. In 2001, he was living in Michigan with his wife and four young children He worked as the chairman of GRF and volunteered as an Imam at a local Mosque. Three month after 9 eleventh, the government designated his charity a terrorist entity.
Rabih Haddad, Director, Global Relief Foundation:
They raided our offices Desember 14. It was Friday and I remember coming home after the Friday prayer. I felt that I was being followed coming back from the mosque andbut I didn’t think, you know, I thought if they’re officers in Chicago I think that it’s normal to put under surveillance or whatever. But then maybe an hour after that, they knocked at my door and arrested me.
“ The theory that gave let’s say legitimacy to all their thought to all of these actions was Muslims and Arabs are either terrorists or potential terrorists. So we have todo things to control this communities and this is what they did and what they are still doing. Nothing’s changed.”
Back in Tampa, Yousef’s court-appointed Lawyer ,Adam Allen, worried that the prevailing political and media climate would make his case nearly impossible to win.
Adam Allen, Public Defense Attorney:
“ Initially obviously when you are appointed to represent somebody from the middle East originally who is charged with the transportation of explosive materials as a defense lawyer you have some great concerns about the ability to successfully represent this individual.
The Media reaction was that this was some sort of terrorist related activity. The United States attorney’s office although not saying that certainly wasn’t saying it wasn’t. In that sort of swallow around this case .
Gary Meringe, served as the foreman of the Jury in Yousef Megahed’s trail. He says the tone for the trial was set on the very first day.
Gary Meringe, Jury Foreman:
The judge asked is anybody here considers themselves an expert with explosives? And then he followed that way is anybody here fluent in Arabic? And not knowing at all, when you’re going in a panel of the jury, you don’t know anything about the case. Just some persons sitting in their business suits and all they said I’m not hearing Arabs and explosives and this like wow
If you ask the man on the street, hey, the defendant’s from the Middle East and the government has alleged him that He’s got explosive materials in his trunk, all of my colleagues said there is no way you win in this trail.
We listen to almost two- four weeks of the evidence, forty plus witnesses were put on by the government . I don’t know how many document there was. I think over a hundred.
As the evidence came in, and it kept pointing away from for Yousef, and it kept showing that you know even though there is no physical evidence tiding to it once it began clear that it is items was completely harmless. I felt we should win the trial, we could win the trial
Gary Meringe :
The jury after three days of looking hard and fast at the evidence said you know it is the burden of the government to prove beyond the reasonable doubt that he was in possession of these materials thathe didnt know it, it is not sufficient that you happen to be in a wrong places at the wrong time and you are not guilty of crime in this country and there was a feeling that there wasn’t really any evidence of that
When the verdict was not guilty it was a wonderful feeling. They were tears for the client and the family and probably the best target ever received from my client’s father , several of the agents that works for the FBI came up and congratulated us and told us that they were not dissatisfied with the verdict in the case and it was good to know when I think I was even quoted in the papers saying , You know, the system worked. As a lawyer who tries cases and understands the constitution in the purpose of jury trails, and the whole notion that the jury is the true representation of the government and so check on our government. And it s what makes us America it’s not the government that decide whether somebody guilty, it’s the community because we are the government of the people and the people in this case despite all the government’s best effortsaid you know you are wrong. That was about one of the proudest days I’d ever had as a lawyer professionally. It was wonderful.
We went and talked to the judge. He counseled us never to talk to anybody ever again aboutanything that had happened. And as a result of that, we all took all our notes all the charts and everything and we just gave them to the bailiff to shred and burn and thinking we would never ever re-visit this.
Well, he was acquitted of federal explosive charge just aspast Friday but today Yousef Megaherd is back in hands of federal agents and his family tonight isoutrgaed. On Friday, after a three weeks trail , Yousef Megahed walked out of a Tempa court house a free man.
“I am very happy”
Megahedwas acquitted on all counts of federal explosive charges but his freedom was short-lived. Monday to the surprise of his father, Megahed was arrested all over again
They arrested my son. They kidnapped my son.
Samier Megahead, Yousef’s father says there were walking out of this Walmart when more than a dozen of customs and enforcement agents surrounded them.
They separated between me and my son and they surrounded me. I tried to use telephone .They didn’t allowed me to use the telephone and put Yousef in a small car. I tried to stop in front of this car to let Yousef speak to his lawyer. They didn’t allow me to do this. They kidnapped my son.
I would have personally walked him to wherever he needed to be but instead they chose to surveil him fordays after the trail and to arrest him and his father as they were walking out of the Walmart supermarket and to surround them by cars and agents and whisk him away in a vehicle.
Tuesday morning, I got to work. I opened my browser, pull up the news and I saw that Yousef had been arrested on Monday at a Walmartwith his dad by immigration authorities and this only happened in a couple of, when I was thinking about it in the morning when I saw the grand canyon who was another example but where the air got stuck in my lungs. I read the story and it was huuuuuuuuuuu,like that. It was just so improbable after all the time we had spent to find out that he had not done anything.
“I’d spent a lot of my time telling the government the wrong. That’s what I was supposed to do, telling the government the wrong. We argued that the wrong but we respect the system when we are prt of the system and we believe in this system . At that moment in time not only did I not want to be a part of the system but I didn’t want to be an American. I was no longer proud of our system and certainly not proud of our government.
Hi Yousef. How are you?
You know it’s difficult but you just try to hang in there as best as you can
Many a time you know I would be sitting in my cell all alone and would have slept on the wall that was about maybe five inches wide. It was only a window to the outside world. I could only see shadows and you know the colors of the sunset but never really the sun. I would sit there and wonder if I’m gonna see the sunset again?
Of course to this day, not a single charge has beenfiled against GRF or against any of the employees of GRF including myself.
I was acquitted from all charges and in the media the journals who were saying that we didn’t know why they brought him into this case. They took the first decision in half an hour; they voted without any discussion that I was innocent of all charges.
They didn’t have enough to bring criminal charges to charge me as a criminal, as a terrorist. The only accusation they would make against me is that I had overstayed my visa.
I was acquitted. The second day in the morning , my attorney asked the judge to release me but the judge wouldn’t accept that.
“The lawyer had told them that like he should be out like two or three days just untill they process his paperworks and everything. And we had been waiting and then they transferred him to the immigration facility. There wasn’t something that was like unheard of it and it wasn’t something like that I thought couldn’t ever happen because I saw it happened or heard of it happening but it was just I didn’t expect it happen to my father.
I was denied bond based on the fact that they considered me a danger to the community. When my whole community was actually demonstrating and protesting and what have you. And they would treating me like the most dangerous worst criminal ever when I was taking from my cell to my first immigration hearing the security they had was unbelievable. They had a sheriff’s deputy stationed almost every ten feet all the way from the door of my cell to the building almost next door. My trail was behind closed doors. I was put in solitary confinement on a floor all by myself in a very tight cell and they had a camera fixed right on the cell door which had a small window and the camera was right there. It was clear that it wasn’t about immigration or overstaying my visa or something like that. They were going after me with everything they got.
One time I passed through the room and I saw my picture this I asked one of the guards why my picture is there. He said because you are a threat and we have to keep an eye over you for twenty four hours. And this was from ICE. They give them this information
““I think what got me the most was just not knowing what’s going to happen; Not knowing where would be able to see him again, you know.
Very quickly we presented to ICE that I have a passport. I don’t need a visa. I can go tomorrow to my country and I am willing to do that. They said, no we have to wait, we have to wait
We tried appealing and then there would be different court dates like nothing comes out of that. And then different promises and then in the end they told us if you just leave voluntarily we promise him to flight with you. We had been expecting to find my father but he didn’t show up. In the end, the immigration officer said we cannot respond to your questions anymore.
After almost three years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement, Sameeh Hammoudeh was found innocent of all terrorism charges but instead of being released he was transferred to an immigration jail. For six months, US immigration and customs enforcement, ICE ,refused to either release or deport him even after he agreed to voluntary deportation to reunite with his family. Hammoudeh’s lawyer brought ICE to court. Two days before the trail, Hammoudeh was deported in secret.
So on the 23, they took me to the airport and deported me. So it wasn’t there any plan to deport me this way. If we didn’t go to the federal judge and ask him to either release me or deport me they wouldn’t do that
we didn’t even know, cause we used to call him, and then he didn’t call for two days so he didn’t know what was going on and my mum called his lawyer. he didn’t like have any idea what’s going onand to we had to try again to get in touch with my dad and it was like that we couldn’t get in touch with him and not knowing what was happening to him
It is the humiliation of, you know, being deported and travelling in a T-shirt, sweatpants and prison shoes and having this agents with you. It is specially for somebody who has my good name and my reputation- the only assess that I have in the world- I mean you know I don’t have any money and any bank accounts. I don’t have any land any …. This is the only things I have and the US government made sure to attack me on these two that they have ruined my reputation and ruined my good name and they have accused me of just things that are complete fabrications. They could not prove anything because there was nothing there but withthe USA Patriot Act there don’t have to prove anything. It was enough for the government to say we suspect
We think that accusing people and destroying their lives is something that they can do and this is what worries me. . It is the arrogance of the powerful.
Sometimes I think back and I don’t even know. It seems that something like that is going happen to someone else”
America before , I won’t say before 9/11 , America before the US Patriot Act was one thing and after the US Patriot Act is a completely different country. I would not be exaggerating if I said America today is a police state just like any other third world police states
It is like the Dark Ages. It is the mentality of the Dark Ages where government could do anything it want to do
In criminal court the burden of proof is with the prosecution, they would have to make the case, they have to prove and immigration all they have to do is just cast doubt upon it.
They do whatever they want to do and they have the laws and they have everything they want to lie, even lie,
“All these things I hear about freedom, and you know equality and all this things seems to be more and more of the façade. I don’t know like the hypocrisy that we have to deal with on a daily basis today. “
We join Yousef’s family as they go to visit Yousef in Prison, a three-hour drive from their house in Tampa into the southern swamp of Florida. It is been almost five months since Yousef has been imprisoned, awaiting his deportation hearing.
It is now just two days away. Samir Megahed, Yousef’s father tries to remain hopeful.
Samir Megahed ,Yousef’s father:
We are so patient and we can live but this is life of my son. They want to destroy him by putting him in the jail waiting for his winning after one week, one month, or one year. nobody knows
He wants to prepare himself to be in good condition in front of the judge to let the judge know the truth about this case.
Yousef’s trial is held in Crown jail in a swamp ouside Miami. I see a team of four lawyers to trial the case, Yousef’s lawyer, Charles Kuck, has agreed to take the case for free. No cameras are allowed inside.
Charles Huck , Defense Attorney:
We are currently in the second day of the trail. We just finished the testimony the government first witness both his cross examination and his dirct examination. What is at stake is what young Muslim men in America can do and act like in America today. The reality here is if you are a Muslim in America you can’t think like anybody else. You can’t think like your colleagues. I went to a client who went to lunch a few weeks ago. He was the same age as Yousef and I was telling about Yousef’s case. It was very interesting what he said. He had very little sympathy for Yousef. He said, what is he thinking in America as a Muslim man? You can’t go surfing on the internet look at sites. You can’t hang around other people who are Muslims and talking about Islam and I frankly found that said
David Cole is a law professor at Georgetown university of Law center and an expert in constitution and first amendment rights .He says that the targeting of immigrants in America is nothing new.
Historically, whenever the United States has faced a security trap in his responded by targeting immigrants with his most restrictive measures and I think that partly because it is easy to do so. You know, it is one thing to say to American people, we face a greater security trap. You’ve got to scarifie some of your liberties and rights in order to protect the country. But it another thing to say to American people we face a greater security trap but we are going to give you more security by sacrificing somebody else’s rights, mainly foreign nationals , immigrants, people who have no voice in the political process. We did it in 1990, after a series of terrorist bombs went off and we rounded up thousands of foreign nationals on pretextual charges, charges of guilt by association not one of them was ever founded to be involved in any of the bombings. During World War II, we rounded up thousands of thousands of Japanese immigrants. This kind of anti- immigrant targeting has been a constant feature in the United States at every point we had a security crisis.
When you want to take action before somebody’s actually done anything wrong, while the criminal law doesn’t really allow you do that generally, criminal law requires you to have some proof that the individual either committed a terrorist act or conspired to commit a terrorist act or has attempted to commit a terrorist attack. It requires that youput the evidence on the table, that you give a persona fair trail but if you use immigration law you can find all sources of pretextual charges to use against people. The government employs secret evidence often in immigration procedure. The same sort of fair trial rights don’t necessarily apply.The supreme court has said that there is permissible to selectively single out people for immigration enforcement based on their affiliation with political groups. So the same sets of protections and rights don’t exist. Makes it easier to use the immigration process.
Dan Vara was the highest ranking ICE Attorney in the state of Florida from 2003 to 2006. He says that after the 9/11 attack he began working closely with the FBI. His prosecutions became a model for using immigration court as an arm of counter terrorism across the country.
Two three days after 9/11 people like myself got the word from Washington that some of those obstacles we had to do in some of the cases that we had been preparing for years, although no longer there, and we were allowed to move forward in identifying people for charges to be taken in the detention and be prosecuted again not criminally before the purpose of removing them from the United States, and Florida wants began our work with joint terrorism task force and even its precursor just FBI and other loosely associated groups. Our involvement was day to day. We shared again at height of my prosecution experience. FBI would feed me Information every day.
Vara is proud of his work with theFBI And defend the tactic of seeking the deportation of residents against whom no criminal charges can be proven.
Many people get prosecuted and get acquitted and they’re guilty. When you said at the table with other prosecutors from other branches of the US government and agents from all these agencies and you’re reviewing the evidence and the goal is to find the way to deal with the threat and if the only thing you have is tax fraud, if the only thing you have is an immigration violation, then frankly that’s what we use. Immigration charges administered the nature, burden of the proof is less, then in the criminal trial. So even though you got acquitted in criminal trial, the reality is that the government can still need this burden. There are so many people that put their fingers in every single terrorism case that I would tell you unequivocally that mistake should not be made.
In terms of identifying actual terrorists, the government has been very ineffective so for example, in the first two years after 9/11 the government locked up mostly using immigration powers over five thousand foreign nationals almost all Arab and Muslims in anti-terrorism protective detention measures. Of those five thousand, not one stance convicted today of any kind of terrorist offense. So the government’s record there is zero for five thousand
Charles Huck , Defense Attorney:
They don’t have the evidence in this cases and that’s what they see as the beauty of immigration court is heck: You need no evidence. You see a judge who’s going to look at all the garbage evidence and then make a conclusory statement, I think he met the burden of that they bring the burden of the proof, “thank you very much, have a nice life”
These immigration courts are part of the department of justice .They are executive. This is not a judiciary branch, this is not an independent judiciary. This judge was appointed by a previous attorney general. He works for the attorney general. These FBI agents work for all enough the same attorney general. The folks they are prosecuting this case at homeland security are also in executive branch.
As a reality, you have the executive branch being both the prosecutor, judge and jury in this case. Who should all be concerned about that. We should be concerned that there is a complete lack of judiciary independence here. Why would an immigration judge whose boss is the one presumably that wants to prosecute and deport this man say, “I am sorry boss, you’re wrong” why we take a judge with a great deal of courage to do that?
Many people focus on the Bush administration and particularly on 9/11 and the reaction of 9/11 and for example the Patriot Act. But what you miss when you focus on that way is that. This is a broader problem
Now we’re in the middle of the Obama Administrations. The Attorney General has approved this. Trust me if we hadn’t approved it we wouldn’t have had this conversation T he Obama administration is continuing the same enforcement mentality at first Clinton and then the Bush Administration followed in immigration.
it is been there is an involvement at the highest levels, the secretary of homeland security, I would be very surprised that person was not involved in that case. I would be very surprised if that was the case, not only because it is a terrorist case because it publicity that it getting.
“ A local Islamic group speaking out about immigration official’s decision to detain Yousef Megahed”
“I don’t tink it a fair trail and the jury finding not guilty seems like a slap on their face”
“The final plan was to punish them in immigration”
“ Yousef was arrested for one reason and one reason only and that’s because he looks Muslim”
With Yousef’s trail already under way protests by community religious and civil right groups continue to grow. In an unusual move, four of the juries from his criminal trail including foreman Gary Meringer began speaking out on Yousef’s behalf.
This just doesn’t seem right
Adam Allen, public Defense Attorney:
There are things under the law that were put in de facto after 9/11 that allows the government to simply say, we think you are terrorist and therefore you would be detained until you have your day in court there is no judicial review about that determination. It is just unilateral determination made by immigration officials.
Gary Meringer, Jury Foremen:
We didn’t know whether Yousef should be deported or given false citizenship and allowed to finish engineering school or we didn’t know a lot about the case we saw in federal court and based on that case he was not guilty of any kind whether it is beyond the reason of doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence might be required in immigration court or by any measure that we saw, there was no evidence he had done anything wrong.
I have been to criminal federal court for fifteen years, I had never seen, never heard of juries go in the media and saying how average they are about what the government is doing to somebody who they just student judgment of.
It is amazing that they would do that but I think it says something even more about the disconnect between our government policies and what the people who live in this country want.
“If I did talk to somebody about this case what positive can come about it for me? Forget about Yousef. Is there anything good that can happen and the the answer is no.
I really like to think at the end of a day that I did everthing possible I could to get him a fair shake.
Adam Allen, public Defense Attorney:
“I was a history major. And during the preAmerican revolution, what juries were doing in the vedicts that they were turning down and offenses that would be prosecuted by then the Britishgovernment was the same sort of thing. The law may allow you to do this but it’s wrong.
Based on the evidence that I know of a there is very short finding of not guilty but based on what I have heard about the immigration courts, the immigration judges the fact that put on the evidence on it after show it to the defense what I think is gonna happen is he wanna be found guilty and some sort of terrorist and they do in better whatever and send back to Egypt where he hasn’t lived since he was eleven years old.
Awatif Al-Mowd, neighbor of the Megaheds:
“First I was shocked because I knew the family very well and I knew the Megaheds family and knew their son and I knew how good he was and I have a son so I was scared and told them you know I don’t feel comfortable for you, what if they did the same thing to you. It made me feel unsafe, it made me feel scared for my kids but I thought like I can’t lead the fear take over me and I start thinking right . We have rights as American citizens. We should fight this, it shouldn’t take this right because this is wrong. And if we don’t fight now, everybody else are scared , afraid and get hide away from it , so we could fight it together. I thought we can do it. We as a community work together, we can do it. Give me, a kind of, you know, strength to stand up and fight and the more you learn about your rights you have to stand up for your rights. We had a privilege to fight for our rights and speak our minds and have the freedom to practice our religion not because of I wear scarf I am suspect; not because I am a Muslim I am a suspect and maybe, you know, with all of us united is community Muslims and non-Muslims and everybody else. Work together to solve this problem, no profiling whatso ever will be all safe and that will be justice.
Ramzy Kilic :
“ Yousef’s Megahed Family, his father, his mother, and old brother are naturalized But his son’s still being held by immigration authorities.
Ramzy Kilic, Cair, Tampa:
When anyone in our community or even in a minority community seizes this case, specially because his family is immigrants they see themselves and they see what could happen to them and I think they are concerned now more than ever, specially everything that has been happening in our community with this case or nationwide. But the main point here is that we have to be aware as Americans, all Americans.
One weekend to the trial, justice the defense is to about to present this case. The judge makes an unexpected announcement.
Charles Kuck , defense attorney:
“The immigration judge terminated the move of proceeding. He did the right thing when the judge walked in the court room today. The first thing he said was when we’re going to exhibit in the case. I knew atthat point that we would won because otherwise he would never talk about the exhibit before I had presented the case. So as I realized that, I turned over to Yousefi, nd I said, put my hand on his leg ,and I said that you won. He looked at me and he did understand and said:” You won the case”. You should smile now and a big smile was on his face., He now understands that what a great victory this is ,a victory for justice in America and the government presented the case today and the last four days it was joke. It was all about joke and as a result, the judge finally realized what I really was and dismissed it.
This is a second time in my 20 year career the judges dismissed charges against somebody and terminated proceeding based upon government’s lack of the evidence. So this is a very uniquehappening for me and really for any immigration lawyer.
Outside the jail supporters and press wait until sundown for Yousef’s release
I am very happy for this and I am looking forward to go back to university
Samir Megahed ,Yousef’s father:
I am feeling so happy for my son, to spend Ramadan with us. He deserves the very nights of Ramadan. We feel so happy by having my son to our house again and they want to send their massage for the government that this family , family of Megahed, came to this country to live in peace and work and get their degrees. Let us finish this thing: please let us, Megahed’s family, lives here in peace. thank you!
Yousef is one of the very few who beat the charges of both criminal and immigration court. Despite no charges ever been found against him, Rabih Haddad was deported to Lebanon in 2003. After being found innocent about charges, Sameeh Hammoudeh was held by ICE and then finally deported to Palestine. He now teaches political science at university. They both said that the America they left is nothing like the country that they want to call home.
Rabih Haddad, Director, Global relief foundation:
When people ask me about living in the US this is before September eleventh and askcompare to Lebanon or other parts of the world, I would always make the comment that everything else aside it is still a country of law, what everybody is equal under the law.
I felt happy in the United State because I felt for the first time that I am free to think the way that I want to think, to write the way I want to write, to go whenever I wanted to go. It is the opposite one hundred percent. I did not expect what happened after September eleventh.
To this day the government can walk into anybody’s home, into any company, any firm in the US, freeze their accounts, confiscates all the documents on the bases of doubt. All they have to do is to say we suspect you of terrorist activity.
Sameeh Hammoudeh, Instructor university of South Florida
In the United States there is no justice. This is what I believe in and this is what I teach my student. I don’t believe that now inside the United States any one can say anything he wants. No! The American Muslims and Arabs are not exercising their full rights as other Americans. They cannot because they will be punished and the government has many ways to punish people that they want to. And one time, Ashcroft said, we can make laws to try him and put him in jail.
Rabih Haddad :
If you want civil liberties, human rights , the bill of rights or old things of the past, this whole matter of democracy and liberty and the rule of law are just a myth now.
Any Muslim or any Arab living in the US and hearing me say this will not think twice about it. They know it, they feel it and they’re living it. But I hope that other US citizens don’t end up on the own sides of the fence to find out how bad this US Patriot act is.
The mentality that will harass the Muslims and Arabs, the institution that will harass Muslims will harass others.i
Measures first introduced against immigrants are applied to US citizens. So the first measures that criminalize speech or penalize political speech targeted immigrants but ultimately became part of our criminal laws during the World War I . First measures that imposed essentially guilt by association were introduced in the immigrations law in the early 1900 but were extended to American citizens during the McCarthy era and thousands and thousands of Americans were affected by that guilt by association.
The first sort of ethnic-based targeting enforcement was against foreign nationals from countries whose ethnicity we didn’t like but during World War II that was extended and we ended up locking up not just Japanese immigrants but but Americans citizens of Japanese descendant. So whether it would be racial discrimination or penalizing speech or guilt by association the measures that introduced against immigrants initially but eventually get extended to US citizens.
It created fear among the Muslim community. A lot of people have become so concerned about stepping up to the plate and being Americans. Being American means that you have to stand off for your rights, that you speak your mind. We have freedom of worship, freedom of speech. None of this has really flourished in our community after 9/11 and most people are scared to come up and speak their minds. Simply because they have seen what’s happened to those who spoke
Controlling the community is controlling their minds. Controlling their feeling they will all the time be watchful not to say things they like to say. They will say things that the government would like to hear , not to do anything that their full citizens exercise their full rights.
Weeam Hammoudeh, Sameeh’s doughter :
I think a lot of people are just very scared like they don’t really talk about their rights and try to distance themselves. So I think they think about their lives, you know, go to school , get a job, just living a normal life without being involved in something outside that.
Back in Tampa, the Megahetrd family sit down to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, theirfirst meal together since Yousef ‘s second arrest.
I didn’t imagine that we are going to sit together with Yousef in the first day of Ramadan.
Youssef Megahed, Student:
I am very happy that I’m out of this immigration jail . I was contacted that I would be released but not on a specific date., They just held me there for the heck of it. The government is profiling people. They are targeting people just based on their background not any crimes they have done. In my case, for my Muslim background they called me a terrorist that had tobe deported on terrorism ground.
We asked Yousef what he would do now that he has won. Who does he want to be held accountable for his years in prison? Will he continue to speak out on behalf of others who are facing similar charges? His father, Samir interrupts Yousef before Yousef can answer.
Don’t ask him many questions because the government can make an appeal of anything.
Do you think that will appeal or do you think …?
I don’t know. They have the right to do anything.