Sunday, September 14, 2008
Fear of deportation by Unjustice Immigration System
Iranian natives Hessameddin Norani and wife Sedige Khazravi, who for nearly 20 years have owned a small convenience store in upstate New York, now fear possible deportation if their request for asylum is rejected next month.
The owners of Buffalo's City Grocery, whose request for asylum has been passed between courts for years, told The Buffalo News they fear religious persecution if they are deported to Iran. The Immigration Court hearing that will decide their fate is scheduled for October 28.
Norani, who is Jewish, and Khazravi, who is Muslim, married years before Iran passed a civil code banning marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.
Iranian-born James Arani—Norani's attorney—told The Buffalo News, "I feel they will be persecuted upon their return to Iran because of their interreligious marriage, the stance of the government against Jews in general and the apostasy law in Iran, which would subject the so-called sinner to death by stoning,"
Norani, who speaks little English, said he has never been a burden on the U.S. government and asked only to remain in his adopted county.
"I worked hard, paid taxes, opened my business with my own money and never took one penny from the government," Norani said with his son, Hamed, translating. "I want to stay in the country. I like my freedom, and I like being around my kids and grandson. I'm not asking for much. If I leave, I would never come back. My life would be done."
Norani, who is 68 and has heart and other health problems, is the lead applicant in the couple's application for asylum; his wife will be subject to whatever decision is rendered. If the couple is deported, it would result in a second separation from Hamed (pronounced Ha-med), and his twin brother Hamid (pronounced Ha-meed), who are 38.
The brothers initially were sent to the United States on a tourist visa with the blessing of the Iranian government when they were 14, so doctors could examine a suspected cancerous growth Hamid had on his leg. While in the States, their parents decided to have them legally adopted by an uncle to avoid being drafted into the Iranian army, which at the time was at war with Iraq. Their father couldn't leave Tehran until 1988, and it took their mother another five years to receive a U.S. visa.
Hamed, who lives upstairs from his parents with his Iranian wife of two years, is a recent graduate of Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles. Hamid, who lives in suburban Buffalo, sells pacemakers.
"The most important years of our life, we never got to spend with our parents," Hamed told The Buffalo News. "We were going to Williamsville East High School, and while everyone had their mothers and fathers [with them], we never did," he said.
Hamed said the family has used up its savings trying to keep his father in the country, spending more than $200,000 on attorneys to no avail. "After 18 years of going through hell, this has got to come to an end," he said.
For years, their case has been sent back and forth between Immigration Court, Border Immigration Appeals and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
One of the issues of the case is whether Norani is, in fact, Jewish; a matter the couple claims will lead to their persecution in Iran. Norani claims his birth certificate identifies his mother was Jewish, and that the Farsi word for Jewish appears on it.
The couple also has a letter from an Iranian rabbi, based in Long Island, supporting an affidavit from an Israeli Jew who claims to be related to Norani. Norani attends Saranac Synagogue in North Buffalo, and a congregant, Kallman Sull, has written a letter of support for Norani, urging "a tragedy be averted."
Vince Caruso, owner of nearby Caruso Imports, said it would be an injustice for the couple to be deported after all these years.
"They are very polite people, good people. A lot of people know them and feel [their deportation] would be an injustice," Caruso said.