Undocumented Stony Brook University student Nadia Habib’s deportation was deferred Thursday morning to the delight of scores of family, friends and supporters who were rallying outside.
“We haven’t been given a real decision yet,” said Nadia after nearly spending nearly two and a half hours in the Javits Federal Building with her mother, Nazmin Habib, who was also to be deported, their lawyer, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents negotiating the terms of her temporary stay of deportation.
Just before entering the building, Nadia was nervous and unsure of her future. “At this point,” she said, “it would take a miracle.”
Afterwards, she said that the deferral was not the miracle she was looking for. “We still have a lot of waiting and hoping to do,” she said.
But the crowd was thrilled. “We did it!” yelled a man, throwing his arms in the air and spinning across the sidewalk. The celebration was quickly surrounded by reporters.
Nadia, who turns 20 tomorrow, and Nazmin could still be deported when a final decision on their case is made. No time table was given, but the Habib’s lawyer said ICE would make it a priority.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was made aware of the Habibs’ case last week by Stony Brook University administrators, was pleased with the outcome as well.
“I am thrilled that Nadia will be celebrating her 20th birthday tomorrow at home with her family and will be continuing her studies in the only country she’s ever known,” she told Think via email.
The New York State Youth Leadership Council, including Core Member Melissa Garcia Velez, organized the rally for Nadia after being alerted to her case. “We sent a lot of Facebook messages and did a lot of tweeting,” said Velez.
For more than three hours, Velez led the crowd in chants and occasionally dealt with the media. At one point, she had the participants gather in a circle, which she stepped into the middle of and confessed that she, too, was undocumented. She invited others to share their stories, and they did.
Velez also “did a lot of media calling,” something that was evident in the number of reporters that showed up for the rally.
But not only local activists and family were in attendance. Christopher Flood, one of Nadia’s classmates from the Bronx Science High School and Hana Rugoua, a Stony Brook student who also went to high school with Nadia, stood together silently during most of the rally.
“Nadia’s is one of the most innocent cases,” said Flood, citing the fact Nadia didn’t even know she was undocumented until her senior year of high school.
According to Rugoua the reaction on campus has been positive. “People are on her side on campus,” she said.
Another undocumented student from Stony Brook who had helped Nadia’s case gain attention on campus attended the rally. She presented the case to a number of clubs, including Bengalis Unite and the Feminist Majority Leadership Association. “I’ll either have more hope or I’ll need to step up my activism,” she said of the pending result.
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and State Assemblyman Peter Rivera spoke in support of Nadia. Rodriguez stressed that deporting science students and other young leaders would make America less competitive.
Danny Figueroa, Rivera’s Chief of Staff, got the loudest cheer out of the crowd when he said “If you were raised here, if you are from here, if you live here, you are an American.”
Until ICE renders its final decision, the Habibs will not be allowed to leave the state. According to their lawyer, they will also have to check in with ICE regularly. But until a decision is made, Nadia says she will continue to attend classes at Stony Brook.