June 9, 2003
I always thought that in a moment of crisis, I would freeze. But
this time, I felt a rush of adrenaline. After I talked to Ali and
explained what I wanted from him, I placed a call to my old co-worker
in New York, Nancy. After 5 years of part-time school, she had
finally graduated from mere legal assistant to full-fledged attorney.
I explained Artie's situation quickly to her, just as I was
driving to Kinko's to fax her the few documents I had obtained
from his parents. She said she would get started on it immediately.
I tried to discuss the matter of the fee with her but she cut me
-- "Listen Naz, you're one of my best friends not to
mention the godmother to my kids. And well, it feels good to do
pro bono work. This one's on the house."
I thanked her profusely. It felt good. I had never been one to
be a social butterfly. My circle of friends was pretty limited
but at least, they were real and willing to be there for me when
I really needed them.
After I left Kinko's, I started down the list of names and
addresses provided by Artie's parents and began checking
off destinations. My goal was to gather as many statements
as possible from relatives and friends of Artie's who would attest
the fact that he was a great person, undeserving of being locked
up in a box like a common criminal. I also had to do some investigation,
to get people to sign on to the fact that they, too, had been
victim of the con man who had bungled their immigration case.
While I was doing this, Ali called up his old contacts at his
former company and got a friend of his to gather a camera
crew and producer
and do a story on the plight of Artie's family. They filmed
wrenching interviews with Artie's parents, as well as Edmund,
and many of his friends. The only one who didn't bother returning
my calls was Chloe. That was the last straw for me. I would
never get over the disgust I felt for her at being such a
After a week, everything was ready: The legal documents had
been messengered over by Nancy and filed with the immigration
The same day, a 2 minute segment aired on CNN during the
evening news. I didn't know if Artie would be able to see
I hoped he wouldn't. It would just sadden him more to see
the deteriorating health of his elderly parents and the
concern of Edmund and his other friends.
During this whole ordeal, Ali was great. We had put aside
all our differences real and imagined and he was there
for me as
friend, just as he had always been from the beginning
of our acquaintance. The best thing was I didn't feel like
I was falling
in his arms and he was left there to pick up the pieces.
I was more in control than that. But it still felt good
there, holding my hand, with his soothing words during
the torturous, endless wait: Would we finally hear something
from the powers
At 12 noon the next day, Ali got a call on his cell phone.
It was Nance from New York.
-- "I just got a call from the INS. They are going
to set a bond for Artie's release pending his trial.
bond office in a hurry and you may be able to see your
friend at the end of the day."
Woo-hoooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!! I almost didn't
want to celebrate beforehand, not to jinx myself
but in the bottom
of my heart, I knew we had won.
In the evening, we
all gathered, anxiously, before the federal penitentiary. With
each minute that ticked
turned in knots, as if they had played a dirty
trick on us and we would
be sorely disappointed. I could not look into the
eyes of Arite's mom, who I knew was glancing at
time to time.
placed all her hopes in me and I suddenly felt
unworthy of her trust.
But then thank god!!! Yes, it wasn't a dream. My
friend was standing in front of me. A little thin.
unshaven. His eyes red. But it was him. The end
of a long, terrible
As we drove away from this place, I couldn't
help looking back, wondering how many other poor souls
back at us, still stuck there, not wanting to
yet not wanting
to go back to the country they had fled in the
first place. People who did not have resources,
and family to
to the deaf ears of their jailers.
the last scenes of a favorite movie of mine,
film that won
an Oscar many years ago, when I was still a
kid. It was called Die
Reise der Hoffnung, or "Journey of Hope" and
depicted the ordeal of a Turkish family trying to seek refuge
in an imagined paradise in Europe. After they
lose everything and
tragedies, an immigration officer asks them
incredulously why they would be willing to take such risks
and encounter such
What is the purpose of their journey? The Turkish
father of the family, his face weather-beaten,
his eyes with
stare, answers with the simple word: "Hope."
But this place was made to crush any hope.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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