Sara Hamdi is still trying to figure out how to tell her brother, Sami, that their mother will be getting on an airplane after Thanksgiving and there’s no saying when they will see her again.
Their mother, Fatiha Elgharib, received orders recently that she is being deported back to Morocco on Nov. 27 for over-staying her visa after living in the country since 1995. Sami, a U.S. citizen because he was born in the U.S., has Down syndrome.
As Sami’s primary caregiver, Elgharib gets him up every day at their Englewood home, helps him dress, gets him to school, makes his snacks and gets him to doctor’s appointments for myriad health issues he has.
“When he comes home from school and walks in the door…if he doesn’t see her when he walks in that door he’s asking, ‘Where’s mom,’” Sara said.
“We’ve just been hinting that my mom is going to visit Morocco but he doesn’t really understand what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t know how to tell him for him to understand.”
Federal agents ordered Elgharib to board a plane in Columbus on Nov. 27. Once she leaves the country, their attorney says she won’t be allowed back for at least 10 years.
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While Sami and their sister Wafaa, 18, are citizens because they were born here, Sara is 27 and is in the U.S. on the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program.
“How long do I have?” Sara posed, noting the uncertain future of DACA recipients.
The family has been under the threat of deportation for years, though the federal government on humanitarian grounds had held off on deporting Elgharib. At one point now-deceased U.S. Sen. George Voinovich intervened on their behalf.
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Sara concedes her mother broke the law by over-staying her visa, but says people who steal or commit violent crimes face less harsh penalties.
“We haven’t tried to hurt anybody,” she said.
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