Pakistani dilemma after detention....


Registered Users (C)
This might be a long post, I am an Indian, but I can understand the pakistani dilemma....

Pakistani detainees in US: tales of betrayal and backstabbing
By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Aug 6: Many Pakistanis arrested in the United States after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks were betrayed by their friends, relatives and family members. Official record tells sad tales of backstabbing and betrayal.

In the greater Washington area, two Pakistani food chains reported at least 80 Pakistani nationals to the US authorities to settle scores with each other.

In other cases, in-laws led immigration officials to estranged spouses, often over minor domestic disputes. There were also cases of family members ratting on each other.

"At least 25 per cent of the detainees were betrayed by someone they trusted," a Pakistani social worker, who provides legal advice to those in trouble, said.

"Sometimes local Americans were more helpful than their fellow Pakistanis and Muslims," the social worker said, displaying a bunch of pamphlets published in Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Hindi and Bengali languages by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The pamphlet tells Muslim immigrants living in the United States what to do and who to approach when confronted by the INS officers. It tells them what legal rights does an immigrant have in the American society and how he could defend himself.

Some 18 Pakistanis contacted the embassy in Washington, asking the staff to report a particular person to the police or immigration officers because he refused to lend his car to them or failed to return the money he had borrowed. Imran Ali, a Pakistani diplomat who provides consular assistance to the immigrants in trouble, complains that the lawyers also exploited the situation to make money. "They often gave them wrong advice, asking them to apply for political asylum or change their address or simply run away from the police," he said.

Although the lawyers knew that once the order was issued it's almost impossible for an immigrant to avoid deportation, yet they continued to mislead their clients. "Many of these lawyers were from the subcontinent but local American lawyers also took advantage of the situation," Mr Ali said.

INS officials say that a large number of Pakistani immigrants came to the United States during the Clinton era when immigration control was not strict and visa restrictions were also relaxed.

Surprisingly, most of the Pakistanis who came during this period (1992-2000) were from a rural belt in Punjab - Wazirabad, Sialkot and Gujrat - rather than the major cities. "The credit goes to a gang of expert forgers operating in those areas in the 1990s," the social worker said. "They were so good that even the INS recognized them as expert forgers."

Once they cleared a US port, most Pakistanis, like other immigrants, never went back, not even after their visas expired. "But unlike other immigrants they were not good at legalizing their stay," says a Pakistani lawyer who helped some of them.

"Instead of trying to join the mainstream, they were contended with working at jewellry shops, desi grocery and liquor stores and gas stations as illegal workers, receiving less than the minimum wages," the lawyer said who did not want to be identified. "And when they thought of legalizing their stay, most of them went to South Asian lawyers who would tell them how to dodge the system rather than telling them how to find a way out within the system," Mr Ali said.

The most common advice that they received was: apply for political asylum. "Overnight Punjabis and Pathans became MQM workers, Mohajirs became Baloch nationalists. Sunnis became Shias and Ahmadis. And those who had never participated in politics claimed they were political stalwarts," the lawyer said.

Since most of them had no background in politics they were rejected. They went back to the same lawyers who then advised them to marry American women. What they never told the immigrants was that once a deportation order is issued, even the marriage could not legalize their stay in the US. They had to return home and apply for immigration at a US mission abroad.

So when after Sept 11 the campaign to catch illegal immigrants began many of those who were married to American citizens and had been living here for years, were also arrested. "This led to many tragedies. Families got separated. Husbands and fathers were deported while wives and children were left behind," Mr Ali said, who saw many families being ruined by the forced separation. "And it's not just the emotional stress. Many small businesses went bust because those who were running the shops or restaurants were deported and those left behind were too young and inexperienced to replace them."