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Arab American Facing Deportation, Separation From Family

The Arab American News, News Report, Khalil AlHajal Posted: Jan 19, 2010

DEARBORN,Mich--A Hamtramck man who's been in the U.S. for 27 years is set to be deported next week unless a U.S. Congressman intervenes.

Anees Sous, originally from the West Bank, came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1982 to attend Wayne State University. Though his visa has long been expired, he stayed in the country, raised six U.S.-born children and started a business. He was detained by immigration authorities in 2001 and released on $10,000 bond.
Anees Sous, (second right), a Hamtramck
business owner who's been in the U.S.for 27
years, is set to be deportedto Jordan
on Wednesday, leaving behind six U.S.
-born children, unless a U.S. Congressman intervenes
by introducing a private bill addressing his case.

His lawyers have since exhausted every avenue of trying to keep him in the country long enough to establish permanent status, but courts have denied his appeals, forcing him to prepare to leave his wife, home, trucking company and six children, ages 7 to 20, behind. Sous has purchased a Jan. 20 plane ticket to Jordan to fulfill his deportation order. He's unsure what he'll do there or how he'll be treated by Jordanian authorities.

"The worst thing, really, is that my wife, my kids are here. It's the middle of the school year. It's a mess," Sous said.

He acknowledges that he overstayed his visa, but believes his contributions to his community and the country should outweigh having stayed illegally.

"I've been staying here for more than 27 years," Sous said, "paying my taxes, paying my kids' tuition in college and never did anything wrong. And now they're telling me I've got to go. It makes me really angry, sad. Unfair. It's an unfair thing... The judges should really take a look at the big picture. Yes I'm overstaying my visa, but I have six U.S.-born children. "

Sous's lawyer Robert Birach said previous attorneys failed to consolidate the cases of Sous and his wife, who is eligible for permanent resident status. He said authorities have refused to reopen his case to allow the consolidation, which would have likely allowed Sous to stay.

Birach said Sous also admitted to working illegally for a time in 1991, and not declaring all his income to the IRS that year, further complicating his appeals.

Birach said his client paid what he owes in taxes and has raised children with promising futures who still need their father.

"Whatever happened, happened 18 years ago. It shouldn't be held against him now," he said. "It's really a sad story... It breaks up the family... This just flies in the face of everything that's right and good and just about America."

Sous's two oldest daughters graduated from the University of Michigan last month.

"They wanted to go for their master's. But now we stopped because, if I'm not working, how are they gonna pay for tuition?" Sous said. "The youngest ones, they still do not understand it. It's hard. How do you tell a seven year old you're leaving. Sometimes I imagine the day that I'll be leaving. That will be hard."

Birach said the only way Sous can avoid deportation is if a private bill is introduced in Congress.
sousAnees Sous
Sous and his supporters have appealed to U.S. Rep. John Conyers(D-MI) and Sen. Carl Levin(D-MI). But private bills, proposed laws intended for specific individuals or groups that can put deportation procedures on hold when introduced - whether or not ultimately passed - are rare.

Both Sous's wife and his daughter will be eligible to petition for his permanent residency status within months, if his deportation is delayed.

"I'm so close to having something," Sous said. "It's very frustrating. After all those years now, you'll be going back. It's not easy to start over."

Various online and community groups have come out in support of Sous. He spoke in front of a crowd of about 600 at a Detroit church on Wednesday during an immigration reform rally.

One online petition to stop his deportation, created in December, had 2,112 signatories as of Thursday.

"This is good support, but it doesn't stop the deportation. Something legal has to be done," Sous said.

The Wednesday rally was part of a national Reform Immigration for American campaign. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-IL, introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act in December.

Birach said he's seen countless families from different backgrounds divided by deportation.

Last year, the Homeland Security Department released a report showing that 108,434 parents of U.S.-born children were deported between 1998 and 2007.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee filed another last-ditch appeal to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sous's behalf for temporary administrative relief, but the group hasn't received any response.

"We're not asking for selective treatment. We're asking for fairness," said ADC Regional Director Imad Hamad, "because this is now the heart of the debate of immigraiton reform - how to avoid dividing families, especially when you have U.S.-born children caught in the middle and paying the price in such trauma... They're going to uproot a family man, a model citizen with a model family and punish him for a minor immigration violation. Before September 11 [2001], these minor violations were easily adjudicated through fines and penalties, especially when the person is in great standing. And in this case, the guy is in great standing. There is not even a single traffic ticket during his entire stay of 27 years... We understand that it's the law. Unfortunately, the law is heartless... and the impact is basically tearing this family apart for God knows how long."

With deportation, Sous will likely be barred from the U.S. for 10 years.

"This is what makes it more dramatic to him and his family," Hamad said.

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