three painful months while his brother's family was imprisoned by USA
immigration authorities, Ahmad Ibrahim, a United States citizen of
Palestinian heritage, kept his faith that "the people of America are
But Ahmad did not know that the one good
American who would finally orchestrate the dramatic release of the
family had himself been exiled by USA immigration authorities to
China. So Ahmad's faith in America had to hold strong from the
beginning of November through the sacred Eid ul-Adha season of early
January, until the exiled American could return.
On January 8, when Dallas real-estate
developer Ralph Isenberg landed in Dallas from China with his wife and
infant daughter, the wheels of the Ibrahim family release were soon to
On or about January 10, New York immigration attorney Theodore Cox
sent Isenberg an e-mail, asking if he'd heard about children
imprisoned by the federal bureau of Immigration and Customs
"Essentially, I'd had my run-in with immigration," explained Isenberg
over the telephone Friday night. "My wife had been detained at the
immigration prison in Haskell, Texas, deported with our 3-month-old
daughter to China, and I had to leave my adopted 16-year-old daughter
in America in order to live with them and fight for their re-entry."
That fight lasted 14 months. "So I knew how lovely ICE could be."
Following up on the e-mail from Cox, Isenberg says he "looked at
pictures of the kids in prison, found out it was in Texas, and I just
went berserk. You do not imprison kids in Texas, the U.S., or
anywhere. No, no, no, no, no. Goodness gracious, kids in prison? Give
me a break!"
As a big-city real-estate developer, Isenberg knew the difference
between wishing and doing, so he got busy grinding out results. By
Jan. 26, Ahmad Ibrahim had a brand new friend and two new lawyers. How
could anyone know that because of these things, release of his
brother's family was only one week away?
This past Thursday, Feb. 1, attorney Cox and his colleague Joshua
Bardavid filed habeas corpus motions in federal courts of Dallas and
Austin, stating shocking facts about the treatment of mother Hanan
Ibrahim and her four children. The children sobbed uncontrollably at
times. Hanan had been denied pre-natal vitamins for her pregnancy.
Trips to the doctor were 8-hour ordeals during which the children back
at jail fretted and cried. Hanan was placed in shackles for medical
transport. She was torn between her children and her health care.
When Cox and Bardavid walked into the federal court building in
Dallas, accompanied by Ahmad Ibrahim and his tiny niece Zahra -- who
had been separated from her family and placed into her uncle's care --
they were greeted by a half-dozen television cameras, a lobby full of
reporters, and a phalanx of federal marshals. Whatever went on next
between the legal professionals in those closely-guarded chambers of
the Dallas federal court changed everything very quickly. Freedom for
the Ibrahim family was only 48 hours away.
On Friday afternoon, Dallas attorney John Wheat Gibson sent out a
jubilant e-mail titled "Amazing Grace." he Bureau of Immigration
Appeals (BIA) had caved overnight. Suddenly, after years and months of
denying Gibson's pleas in behalf of the Ibrahims, the BIA reversed
course completely. Gibson's November 2006 appeal for the family's
asylum would be considered. And if the family was now eligible for
asylum, then there could be no legal basis for their imprisonment.
"Now there is no excuse for the Gestapo to keep the children in prison
any longer," wrote Gibson.
"I have never heard of the Board granting such a motion for
Palestinian asylum seekers before, even though many people have
tried," wrote attorney Bardavid Friday evening. "I believe that the
pressure put on the government by the actions filed in the federal
courts, the media attention ... and good work and thorough preparation
of Mr. Gibson in his motion on behalf of the Ibrahims resulted in this
"It's the Declaration of Independence for the Palestinian people,"
said Isenberg in a giddy mood Friday night. "We got the American
government to blink!" How can he help but mention that he is proud of
this achievement? How can he help but reflect that he is a son of
"Every group goes through that period when they are treated with
discrimination and then one event breaks the pattern. From now on the
American government will no longer treat Palestinians as terrorists,
but as humans. And I would hope that American citizens are realizing
that if we continue to take away the rights of foreign nationals in an
indiscriminate fashion, we are next."
Meanwhile this Friday night, Jay Johnson-Castro, faithful organizer of
three vigils outside the Hutto prison, promises to send photos of
three ugly walls that stand between the USA and California: "I mean
they are ugly ugly."
It is past dark now and he stands upon a mass grave at the Holtville
Cemetery near San Diego, where border crossers are buried who don't
make it over alive. "They are found dead and turned over to be
buried." It's not the only mass grave at the border. There will be
more to visit as the Marcha Migrante II Border Caravan begins its trek
from San Diego to Brownsville and back.
"They say women are brought here in the middle of the night to do the
burying," says Johnson-Castro. "The federal government contracts with
Imperial County to pay the city to bury these people, and nobody knows
who they are. These are totally anonymous people who died as a result
of our pathetic immigration system. Nobody is thinking of these
people. The bodies are just thrown into the ground and dirt is pushed
over them with a blade."
From Holtville Cemetery, Johnson-Castro will caravan along the border,
through the cities of the Rio Grande, making his way back to Hutto
prison for his fourth vigil on Feb. 12. The release of the Ibrahim
family is great news. But we know there are more Palestinian families
in there along with anonymous border crossers and their children.
"We're going to shut that prison down," is something that
Johnson-Castro and Isenberg have both promised over the phone tonight.
In those merging voices, the faith of Ahmad Ibrahim is redeemed.
"I'm just enjoying the day," says Ahmad Saturday morning, speaking by
cell phone from a limousine that is somewhere between home and Hutto
prison. The voice of his little niece Zahra chatters in the
background. She is on her way to meet her mother. "It is a good day."