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After a hectic day of child care and phone calls, Ahmad Ibrahim decided not to attempt a San Antonio protest Friday.
"I am very thankful for the support," said Ibrahim in a late-night email Thursday. "And I hope when this nightmare is over, the Hutto women’s and children jail in Taylor, Texas will be shut down forever."
The T. Don Hutto jail is where Ibrahim’s three neices, nephew, and pregnant sister-in-law have been held for alleged immigration violations since early November. Ibrahim’s brother was separated from the rest of the family and placed at a jail in Haskell, Texas.
Ibrahim had planned to protest the jailings in front of offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The protest has been tentatively rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 2 at 10:30 a.m.
In other developments Thursday, Dallas attorney John Wheat Gibson announced via email that he had received official notice from ICE that clemency for two jailed families had been denied:
"Today we received written notice from Marc J. Moore, Field Office Director in charge of the T. Don Hutto concentration camp for children at Taylor, Texas, that our requests for clemency on behalf of the Ibrahim family and the Suleiman family have been DENIED. Nothing remains but habeas corpus based on local and international legal limitations on child abuse, kidnapping, and imprisonment. A well publicized suit in the Interamerican Court of Human Rights would be useful.
"I called Marc J. Moore today, but he refused to accept my call. His secretary said he would call later, but he has not done so and I do not think he will. Also, I am certain it would make no difference if he did. If somebody with money does not get involved in these cases, then they are at a dead end."
In an email earlier in the day to concerned supporters, attorney Gibson wrote about the need for political and media support:
"We need demonstrators outside Marc J. Moore’s office every day and all the media exposure possible, with spokespersons denouncing the terror instead of clucking the tongue."
According to Gibson and Ibrahim, the family came to the USA on Jordanian passports, with 5-year visas issued by the American embassy in Jerusalem. The family is pursuing asylum, but has been subjected to an order of deportation by ICE.
To date, the story of the families’ detention has not been reported by anyone other than the Texas Civil Rights Review, although our reports have been circulated around the world by blogs such as Latina Lista and activist websites such as CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Electronic Intifada, IndyMedia, Infowars, and Uruknet.
As a result of the story’s popularity on the internet Thursday, Ibrahim received messages and calls of support that kept him busy for many hours.
Especially significant for Ibrahim was an offer of support from Rita Zawaideh, Chair of the Seattle-based Arab American Community Coalition (AACC). Zawaideh and the AACC have been active in anti-Arab discrimination issues since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Unfortunately, discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans has only just begun with the need for a civil rights organization dedicated to and focused on the Arab and Muslim communities strong," says the AACC website. "The Arab American Community Coalition is going to be around for quite some time."
The Muslim community is preparing for a major religious holiday, Eid ul-Adha, that will run from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. Wikipedia describes the holiday as "a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael for Allah"–a story that is also of great significance for Jewish and Christian believers, too. In the end, Ibrahim’s hand was stopped by God, but the prophet’s willingness to sacrifice his only son at God’s command is a very influential instruction about faith in the Abrahamic [or Ibrahimic] traditions.
As for Ahmad Ibrahim, besides being overwhelmed with child care, phone calls, and bad news, one other thing he pondered on Thursday was the effect of waiting until after the holiday season to stage a symbolic protest against the two-month-long jailing of three nieces, a nephew, brother, and pregnant sister-in-law.
An official with ICE in San Antonio also advised Ibrahim that the Homeland Security offices were located on private property where protesters might be subject to arrest.
As foster parent to a 3-year-old niece who was born in the USA, and as an American citizen who hasn’t participated in protest activity, the mention of possible arrest on Homeland Security premises for the crime of holding a sign may have played a part in Ibrahim’s decision to postpone the event.
Whatever the effect on Ibrahim may have been, the thought of Homeland Security officials passing along such "advice" about arrests is a discomforting reminder to us all of the climate we seem to be sharing in the USA, where Homeland Security’s privatized offices serve as auxiliaries to the power of their privatized jails for children and pregnant mothers.
At any rate, we join issue with Ibrahim when he calls Homeland Security officials "criminals" for their treatment of his family, and we don’t mind if Homeland Security calls our well-chosen words "obscenities" as they did on Thursday when Ibrahim used them.
If there is an obscenity here, it will be found in the indelible memory of a Bible-thumping American culture that took a woman from the Holy Lands who was pregnant with a boy and instead of granting her amnesty from her torn-up homeland locked her and her family in jail during the Christmas holidays without even a single mention of the story being printed or broadcast through the usual media channels to an audience of self-proclaiming Christian conscience.
There is an America that Ibrahim loves. In the New Year we resolve to live there with him.
GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.