DEARBORN HEIGHTS — On a cold Monday morning, community leaders stood with the family and friends of Dearborn Heights resident Median El-Moustrah, who is slated for deportation to Lebanon despite the country’s inability to treat his many serious health conditions.
Hours before Thanksgiving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rejected a stay of removal for El-Moustrah to Lebanon, even though there is currently a government shutdown there that would make impossible any of the life sustaining care that he needs.
“I don’t want my father to die,” El-Moustrah’s daughter, Mariam Charara, called out to immigration officials. “You have the power to save his life. He is not a flight risk. He has made good faith efforts to comply with all requests asked of him.
“He is in Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, where he has lost 20 pounds since November 12 because of his illness,” she added. “He has been ordered to be removed this week — they won’t tell us the exact date. My father is extremely sick, he has liver damage where specialists have recommended he be evaluated for a liver transplant.”
El-Moustrah has paid for his own medical insurance and the family has thus far turned in many medical documents to show the critical nature of his condition. Charara pleaded with immigration officials to let her father stay with the family for humanitarian reasons.
“There is a government shutdown in Lebanon,” Charara said as she held back tears. “Where are you sending my father?”
El-Moustrah was permitted to come to the U.S. in 1993. He got his Green Card after he married an American, but soon after divorced and remarried. But then ICE wrongly asserted that El-Moustrah’s first marriage was not bona fide because he couldn’t remember his wedding anniversary 15 years later. This despite a sworn affidavit from his ex-wife, whom Charara tracked down herself while in high school, explaining that their marriage was legitimate and describing the circumstances of their divorce.
“What many Americans across this country need to know is that this administration does not follow the laws and processes set forth for humanitarian causes like this.” — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit)
“Median is a good, upstanding man with integrity and moral character,” said his business partner, Mohamed Fouani.
Besides supporting his family, their company has given much needed employment to people in the community.
“Deporting Median will put our business in jeopardy,” Fouani said.
El-Moustrah’s attorney has filed for reconsideration of her last request for a stay of deportation under humanitarian grounds. Sadly, her last request was rejected hours before Thanksgiving. The response made no mention of El-Moustrah’s health, but said his removal is “…an ICE civil immigration enforcement priority.”
El-Moustrah’s case is the latest in a pattern of sentencing immigrants to “death by deportation” under the Trump administration. By slow walking his paperwork, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was able to deny Abraham Navarrete-Morales health insurance and life sustaining drugs following his kidney transplant. And earlier this year, Jimmy Aldaoud needlessly died in Iraq because he couldn’t treat his diabetes.
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) was among those standing up for El-Moustrah.
“ICE must recognize El-Moustrah’s very serious health concerns,” Tlaib said. “We have seen members in our community, like Jimmy Aldaoud, be deported to their death and we refuse to let that happen again. After two hearings on medical deferment in Congress, it is clear that the process is being ignored. This father will die if he is deported and our own government is ignoring that fact.”
Tlaib pointed out that there were rules for medical deferment on the books and that the current administration had refused to comply by them or answer her requests for further information on El-Moustrah’s case.
“What many Americans across this country need to know is that this administration does not follow the laws and processes set forth for humanitarian causes like this,” Tlaib said. “Sure our immigration system is broken, but there are current processes, from asylum to (deferment based on) humanitarian causes to medical deferment.”
ICE has told El-Moustrah’s family that ICE’s own doctors have seen the ailing father and that they have deemed him fit to fly. ICE has denied any request, including those by Tlaib herself, to name these doctors or hand over their medical evaluations. Tlaib said Calhoun County itself had a responsibility to give this information to the family.
The rally was organized by Michigan United, a broad, statewide coalition working to reform the immigration system, protect the environment and end mass incarceration.