“The family thinks it’s a hopeful sign they haven’t ruled in Sami’s case,” said Denise Hamdi, Elgharib’s sister-in-law. Winning that case might mean that Elgharib can stay in the United States indefinitely. “We can’t wait for that decision because the clock is ticking on Fatiha’s deadline for filing an appeal to the Supreme Court,” Katchmer explained.
It’s another twist in a story that has been tortuously complicated, even by U.S. immigration standards.
Last year, Elgharib said goodbye to her children and surrendered to agents at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Columbus, fully expecting to board a plane to Morocco that same day. Her last-minute motion for a stay was granted, after intervention from U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and she was granted a one-year reprieve from deportation.
Elgharib and her husband, Youssef Hamdi, were overjoyed, and so were their children, Sara, 19; Tina, 16; and Wafaa, 10. They knew, however, that it was a short-lived reprieve, and the precious year has flown by.
Elgharib is so disheartened by the loss of her appeal that she simply shakes her head and says, “I don’t want to talk about that. It’s very heavy on my heart.”
Oldest daughter Sara, a student at Sinclair Community College, is concerned about the change in her mother. “Ever since she found out about losing the case, she has given up,” Sara said.
She understands what a blow it must have been after the ordeal of near-deportation. But if their mother has lost her fight, the Hamdi children have found theirs. They’re organizing a May 16 benefit at Englewood’s Centennial Park to raise funds for legal expenses and they have set up a website — www.helpthehamdis.webs.com — to promote their cause.
“You’re not supposed to give up — be confident!” Sara exhorted her mother.
“We want to keep this family together,” Denise Hamdi said. “They are a part of our community.”
The family is in a strange dual immigration status. Elgharib’s husband has lived here long enough he may eventually become eligible for citizenship. Older daughters Sara and Tina aren’t U.S. citizens even though they have been in the United States since childhood. Sami and Wafaa are citizens but could face the choice of returning to Morocco or being torn apart from their family.
The older girls are shocked and deeply hurt by the anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding the stringent Arizona immigration law. “It’s like we’re not even human,” observed Tina, a junior at Miami Valley Career Technology Center. “We haven’t done anything wrong. We have the same right to be here as anyone else.”
She’s wrong about that, sadly, and that’s what the family’s attorney is trying to make right. “This is a very basic issue,” Katchmer observed. “If Congress can strip constitutional jurisdiction from the federal courts, then we aren’t Americans any more.”