As an international student, I have a deep and sometimes fearful respect of the law. This is not the result of a long held intellectual interest in the legal system or a feeling of overwhelming and burning pride in that piece of legal beauty otherwise referred to as the American Constitution. Instead, this particular feeling is the result of the hard-nosed reality that, in my case, all those wonderful amendments and civil liberties do not apply. I am not a U.S. citizen, hence those protections that pertain to U.S. citizens I do not enjoy.
This fact of life is quite simple and quite easy to forget when you interact with people who take these rights for granted. For me a Minor in Possession citation, especially in these times, could mean deportation, the end of my college career as I know it and close to 100 grand down the toilet.
With this in mind, I watched the Rabih Haddad case with great interest because I knew from my own personal experience that his standing in the community and his stature would have no positive impact on how he was treated. The U.S. government is no respecter of people, for whatever reason.
I begin my analysis with the facts of the case:
Haddad has been detained on a visa violation of a tourist visa, while he was in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. This is highly unusual. Before Sept. 11, situations like this were allowed to slide provided the applicants were involved in the naturalization process, which Haddad was.
The relief organization that Haddad co-founded, Global Relief, has been blacklisted by the Dept. of the Treasury as having suspected links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. This allegation, which has had the automatic effect of erasing all the positive work done by Global Relief in the public eye and tainting this Muslim American Charity irreparably, has not been substantiated at the time of this writing.
Global Relief”s assets have also been seized. Finally, Haddad has been a law abiding, constructive member of the Ann Arbor community for over 10 years. He had been especially active as a counselor and a leader within the Muslim Community.
In my mind there is no doubt that Mr. Haddad will get the short end of the stick no matter the outcome of the accusations. Even if Haddad is proven innocent of the terrorist affiliation allegations against him, he will still lose out in the end. He and his family will most likely be deported on account of his expired visa. My question is, why?
Why is Rabih Haddad being made an example of?
Institutions usually make examples of guilty individuals to signal a change in attitude or culture a perfect example can be seen in the indictment of the very rich and powerful in the case of Alfred Taubman. Examples are usually very public and the punishment is normally severe.
Haddad does not fit the profile of a public example at all he is a respected member of the community, a good father and husband and is most likely not a terrorist. Why does “the system” (for lack of a better identifier) feel the need to punish a man accepting enough of U.S. culture to actually apply for citizenship?
I do not have the answers to these questions. What I do know, from the perspective of a non-citizen, is that Haddad, for whatever reason, left himself and his family without the protection of a visa and he and they will pay greatly and unjustly for that oversight.
The sad irony lies in the fact that Haddad was applying to become a U.S. citizen, a part of the same country, institutions and laws that now detain him because he is not. The U.S. government has every right to enforce its laws and will be within its right to deport Haddad and his family for a visa violation. However, the fact that the Haddad situation is legally legitimate makes it neither fair nor just.
Babawole Akin Aina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.