From Detainee to Activist
My interest in immigration and immigration reform began when my life was personally impacted by our broken immigration system. My husband was unexpectedly detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held for 10 months at a detention facility in south Texas while we fought his case. I can’t even begin to describe the toll this had on Nazry and me, as well as our community, friends, and family. Without the prayers and the financial and emotional support of our loved ones, I don't know how we would have made it through that awful time with such a sense of hope and perseverance.
While Naz was detained, I launched a campaign to bring him home—complete with a website, t-shirts and other gear for fundraising purposes, press and media coverage (local, state, national, and international), and a strong social media presence. I was a full-time student at Baylor University at the time and we were still newlyweds, having been married for only 8 months. We almost lost it all—home, cars, and my education were put on the line—but I am grateful to say that after an extremely complicated process, his case was dismissed and he returned home in February 2012. However, our lives were forever changed.
We are now passionate, committed advocates for immigration reform. We will never forget the pain of our own separation and the tearful faces of the children we saw in the detention center visiting their fathers each week. This nation has criminalized the migration of loving fathers and mothers in the name of national security, and a change is long overdue. The system is broken and only prayer and faith in action will bring the reform we so desperately need.
I did everything I could to bring Naz home, and now we are doing all that we can do to see reform happen within our immigration system.
When Naz was taken away, it inspired a passion in me to see my husband out of a place in which he never deserved to be, and a determination to ignite a righteous anger inside our community members for the sake of our fellow brothers and sisters caught up in this system.
The compassion and action of my community was one of the most amazing acts of service I have ever witnessed. Media was the lifeline of our campaign. Facebook updates, my website, and others' blogs were all a source of hope to both him and me. We were so blessed with love and support from across the nation and from places we never imagined. Although we've embarked on a journey that we didn't choose for ourselves, we wouldn't change it. We are grateful that our eyes have been opened so that we can fight beside other advocates for meaningful change for millions of people in this country.
For Nazry and I, our faith is paramount to how we think about immigration policy. The heaviest tears that we cried during his 10 months of detention were for the men and women in the detention centers who were scared and confused, without a network of support to sustain them like my husband had. Scripture verses like Exodus 22:21, Matthew 25:35, and Leviticus 19:33-34 constantly resounded in our minds and hearts.
The vast majority of individuals caught up in this system are sweet, hard-working, generous individuals—parents, spouses, siblings, and children. These are people, warm-blooded humans, children of God. Yet the public debate tends to portray them as numbers, aliens, or criminals. So personally, I refuse to settle back into “life “and forget about my brothers and sisters. And honestly, we never could. We have always known deep in our spirits, from the moment we were thrust into this crazy world of immigration issues, that the whole ordeal was so much bigger than the two of us. We saw the real reason why God introduced us to this injustice—to work on behalf of and beside the sojourner.
We pray that everyone we come into contact with will have an open mind and open heart in regards to immigration issues and the comprehensive reform that our country desperately needs. These men and women who are caught up in this broken system are our neighbors, colleagues, church members … and, for the most part, good people. We must always see them through eyes of compassion and love, as fellow children of God.
Hope Mustakim is the first Texas Fellow for the Evangelical Immigration Table. She is a graduate student of social work at Baylor University and a passionate advocate for immigration reform alongside her husband Nazry and their newborn boy, Ezra.