UPDATED as of Friday, November 24th at 5p.m.: Sami’s Sister says their mother, Fatiha has been granted a 30-day extension so the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director for our district can review the case. This means phone calls to your Congressman are even more important. Find your Congressman’s phone number and a script of what to say in the link below.
This Thanksgiving may be the last one for 15-year-old Sami with his mother’s cooking, love, and complete devotion. After 21 years of living in the United States Sami’s mom, Fatiha Elgharib, is set to be deported back to Morocco on Monday.
“Sami doesn’t understand what’s going on. I keep telling him I may have to go away, but he sees me here with him, taking care of him. He has no concept of time or the future, and what impact that has on him,” explains Fatiha Elgarib. The current U.S. Administration’s “silent raids” have also not taken into consideration the negative impact and hidden cost of pulling families, like Sami’s, away from each other.
Like many people with Down Syndrome, Sami has multiple severe health conditions, including congenital heart malformation, severe sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism. Sami is nonverbal, has had multiple surgeries, and requires round-the-clock care. Fatiha is his primary caregiver.
Find out how you can help Sami below!
If You Live in Ohio, You Can Call Representative Mike Turner and Asked Him to Stop Fatiha’s Deportation. Click Here to Find Out How to Contact your Congressman.
Although I’ve heard about recent controversial deportation stories, Fatiha’s really hit home for me. She has a son with Down syndrome, and lives in the same Ohio city as I do. When I learned about her fight to stay in America, I knew I had to meet her and her son. I visited their home the day before Thanksgiving. Fatiha was visibly shaken and a had permanent expression of worry on her face.
Fatiha, her husband and two daughter’s came to America on a work visa in 1996, and have been trying to gain legal residence ever since. You can learn more about the legal battle and how things went downhill after the terror attacks of 9/11 here. “There’s terrible poverty in Morocco; no chance to find a job. I could never take Sami back there. With his multiple health problems he could die. He would have no rights. I’d have to hide him away,” Fatiha describes. If she is forced to leave on Monday, Sami (who is an American citizen) will be left without his primary care giver.
Sami’s second oldest sister, Sara, told me she will likely have to stop working full time to care for her brother, since her father has the most secure job, her oldest sister has a family of her own, and her youngest sister is still in school. She’s especially nervous because her legal status is likely to be in limbo as well.
“What is happening is not about protecting American communities—my 15-year-old brother, a citizen by birth, is about to lose his main source of care and support. While I am a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, my status will soon be in limbo, too, since the administration revoked the program. And then what will my brother do? And what of the communities that my sister and I are enmeshed in, that we’ve contributed to? People make up communities, not their papers. I was 5 when I came here. I went from kindergarten through high school here. This is my country, these are my people,” says Sara.
Another local resident, Shannon Sutter, says she met the family years ago when her own son with Down syndrome was very young (Sami and her son are the same age). Her oldest son also goes to school with one of Sami’s sisters. She says the current administration’s push to fulfill campaign promises is hurting honest, hard working immigrants. “I am all for sending trouble makers back to their own country, but this mother is NOT a trouble maker and shouldn’t be forced to leave. Unfortunately, because people only hear that she’s here illegally and don’t know the whole story (some basing their opinion on hearsay or rumors), many think she made her bed by not actively pursuing citizenship and have no sympathy for her situation,” Shannon Sutter says.
The family has had four lawyers in the past 21 years, and have spent a small fortune trying to gain citizenship legally. “This has come from nowhere. We pay taxes, I have a driver’s license and a bank account. I’ve never committed a crime or even have a speeding ticket,” explains Fatiha.
A statement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states “Over the last decade, Ms. Elgharib’s immigration case has undergone exhaustive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s courts… (which) have uniformly held that Ms. Elgharib does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.” U.S. Congressmen in the past have interceded to help the family.
The Ohio Student Association plans to have more than a hundred people at the John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio on Monday to protest the deportation. Find out about the protest here. And what is to happen to Sami and his family if Fatiha is in fact deported?
When I asked the family what the Down syndrome community could do to help support Sami, they said respite care would be the most helpful. Sami has multiple appointments every month, as well as the logistics of caring for him before and after school.
If you are interested in helping Sami please comment below or message me, and I will get you in touch with his family.