Every Monday, Englewood resident Fatiha Elgharib must report to federal officials to find out when she will be separated from her family and deported to Morocco.
Elgharib had filed for a 1-year stay in her deportation proceedings so she could remain with her 15-year-old son Sami, who has Down syndrome and other health problems, and for whom Elgharib is the primary caregiver.
She also has two daughters who have fought to keep her in the country with, among other things, an online petition signed by more than 80,000 people.
“All of our time and our effort and the tears and the no sleep literally just went out the window because they (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) didn’t care, they didn’t acknowledge it,” said her 18-year-old daughter Wafaa Hamdi, who organized the petition.
On Oct. 23 ICE officials told the family that she will be deported within a month, and she must check in every Monday until they have the final date. She was fitted with an ankle bracelet to prevent her from trying to flee.
“She cried the whole day,” Wafaa said. “We were holding each other and cried through the night.”
Her 27-year-old daughter Sara Hamdi noted that they have never tried to hide from ICE. Elgharib came to the country legally 22 years ago and said she was ordered deported without her knowledge after she overstayed her visa.
Her attorney, Shahrzad P. Allen, said the decision to remove Elgharib is a direct result of the presidential election. President Donald Trump’s administration did away with ICE’s policy under the Obama administration of granting leniency in such cases, she said.
“There is no difference in (Elgharib’s) case today than there was last year or two years ago, so the only difference is the change in administration,” Allen said. “Their directives have changed.”
Elgharib, sitting in her Englewood home, said she understands she broke the law in overstaying her visa.
“I hope for people to care about me,” she said in an interview Tuesday evening, “just to give me a chance and to let me stay with my kids.”
When she leaves, law dictates that she will not be allowed back into the United States for 10 years.
Elgharib says she will have to leave Sami here because Morocco doesn’t have the medical facilities he needs.
“I don’t want to, but they force me to,” she said of leaving Sami.
ICE had been lenient with Elgharib for years because she was paying taxes, obeying the law – other than her immigration issue – and caring for Sami. The late Sen. George Voinovich once interceded to help her, and current Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman both say they are looking into her case.
ICE officials, when asked why her request for a stay was denied, re-issued the same statement they put out in August.
“Over the last decade, Ms. Elgharib’s immigration case has undergone exhaustive judicial review at multiple levels of the nation’s courts… (which) have uniformly held that Ms. Elgharib does not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S,” the statement says.
“In an exercise of discretion, the agency has allowed her to remain free from custody while timely finalizing her departure plans, rather than be detained and deported.”
Wafaa, who is a freshman at Wright State University, will have to care for Sami. Both she and her brother are U.S. citizens because they were born here.
“I still don’t believe it,” Wafaa said. “I am in shock.”