The following conversation with Saad Nabeel was stitched together from more than a hundred emails during the months of July and August, 2010.
PART ONE: AN AMERICAN KID
Greg Moses: Where were you born and when did you arrive in the USA?
Saad Nabeel: I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1991. I moved to the USA in 1994, when I was three years old.
GM: And that was in California?
SN: Yes I moved to Los Angeles, California.
GM:Do you recall those first impressions of LA? What was it like?
SN: Well it was my home. That’s all I knew since I have no memory of anything earlier than LA. I loved my home.
GM:What was it about your home that you loved?
SN: I loved everything. Being able to play with my friends, go to school and have fun, go to all the cool places in LA with my parents. What I loved most about my home was that it was a place I knew that I was safe. It was a place I always knew would be there at the end of the day, no matter what happened.
GM:But that changed?
SN: Yeah it changed when I was about to graduate from the 5th grade. Immigration forced my father to choose between returning back to Bangladesh and getting persecuted by rival political groups, or moving away from California and awaiting the approval of his green card that his brother had applied to get him.
GM:And that’s when your family brought you to Texas?
SN: Yes, in 2002, a few weeks before graduating from elementary school.
GM:So you arrived in Texas just in time for summer. What was it like for you?
SN: Well I was in a place where I knew no one. I had just left my entire life behind and everyone I knew in it. Much like what it feels for me now in Bangladesh.
GM:And then you started Middle School. What was that like for you?
SN: I started the 6th grade in Allen, Texas. A school named Reed Elementary is where I went. Middle School began in Allen when you started 7th grade, so I was stuck in elementary for another year. Reed was interesting to say the least. Going to school in Texas is where I experienced my first taste of racism. People made racist jokes on a daily basis about me, in front of other peers.
GM:So you found it difficult to make friends at first?
SN: Yeah, at first. But I quickly made friends, though the racial slurs kept on at a steady pace with the kids who were strangers.
GM:So let’s talk about the friends for a minute and how your final year of elementary school ended.
SN: Well elementary school ended decently I’d say. I was good friends with most other students. Everyone generally liked me. After 6th grade we moved to our home in Frisco, Texas.
GM:And that’s where you stayed until college?
SN: Yes sir.
GM:What was it like making friends in Frisco? What was the Middle School like for you?
SN: It wasn’t difficult making friends in Frisco, probably because the initial shock of leaving my life behind in California had eased away. Wester Middle School was fun. Eighth grade was the best because it was easy and I knew everyone. Going to Six Flags at the end of the year with my class was also great.
GM:As you were busy growing up, how involved were you with your family’s immigration status? Given the upsetting nature of your family’s move from California, how much did it weigh on your mind that you might have to leave the United States?
SN: Well I was not involved. I was told it was being taken care of since we almost always had lawyers doing some sort of work for us. I didn’t have time to be involved with immigration, because I knew nothing about it. I thought I was just a regular kid like everyone else I knew. It never occurred to me that I would have to leave America since it was my home. I was told we would eventually have our green cards.
GM:So let’s talk about High School next. Did you go to the same High School as most of your Middle School friends? What interests did you develop there?
SN: Yeah, I went to high school with all of my middle school class (at least for freshman year that is). I developed a keen interest in computers and everything about them. I learned everything I could about them. Other than that, hanging out with friends, going to the movies, going on dates were all the norm.
GM:And you started your own company at that time? Tell us about that.
SN: Yeah that’s when I started Easy PC (for lack of a better name). I figured “why not use my skills for a job?” I found cheap website hosting, made a site, and went around trying to advertise. Got a few flyers up in classrooms of teachers I had. Made an honest buck or two.
GM:All in all, an all-American story. Then you went off to college?
SN: Yeah, I applied for scholarships and was pleasantly surprised to receive enough funding to get a full ride for the University of Texas at Arlington. My years of hard work in high school finally paid off.
GM:Did you move to campus housing or commute from home?
SN: I moved to the on-campus apartments. Centennial Court was the name.
GM:I looked it up online. Seems like a perfect place to live out your college years. What was that first month like in September 2009?
SN: It was awesome. For the first time in my life, I was living alone. I had great roommates and we always had awesome times together. Classes weren’t so hard since we had just begun. Everything was going right in my life.
GM:And then came the turning point? What was your first notice that things had changed for you?
SN: I’d say the first indication was when my parents called to say that they were going to report to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the morning, just as they did every month, except that day, they didn’t call me to tell me how it went.
GM:Is that the infamous ICE office on Stemmons Freeway?
SN: Yes it’s the one on Stemmons.
GM:How were you notified that this visit to ICE had turned out so differently?
SN: Honestly I wasn’t aware of the implications of the situation until my father was detained, and he was detained before the date that ICE allowed him on his papers. I was honestly caught up in loads of school work.