The Trump administration deported a Muslim man Thursday who was detained by Border Patrol even though he was married to a U.S. citizen, held a valid work authorization and had a pending green card application.
Adnan Asif Parveen said he was served pork sandwiches repeatedly while locked up in Border Patrol custody, in spite of his religious practices, as HuffPost reported in February.
“I’m shocked it actually happened,” Jennifer Asif, Adnan’s wife, told HuffPost. “I knew it was a possibility, but I thought in the back of my mind the good guy would win. I guess the opposite is happening to so many people, so I shouldn’t be so shocked.”
Asif, a Spanish citizen who was born in Pakistan, has no criminal record in the United States, according to his lawyer, and has not faced government allegations of wrongdoing abroad. He was arrested on Jan. 11 at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, while driving a semi truck for work.
At the time, Asif held a work authorization and a pending application for a green card based on his marriage. The work authorization had expired on paper, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had automatically extended it for six months and it remained valid on Jan. 11. Border Patrol agents arrested him anyway.
While in Border Patrol custody for six days, Asif said he received only pork sandwiches every eight hours, despite his religious restrictions. Without access to other food, he picked off the meat and ate only the bread.
Asif also said that two investigators with Immigration and Customs Enforcement searched the social media accounts on his cell phone and questioned him about possible terrorist ties, including whether people who attended his mosque expressed anti-American sentiment. “I said, no, the mosque is where you go to pray,” Asif told HuffPost in February in an interview at the detention center.
After HuffPost first reported on Asif, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent his wife a letter saying his green card application had been denied. The couple fought in court for him to be freed but ultimately failed.
Jennifer was lying in bed, about to go to sleep Wednesday evening, when she received a call from Asif to tell her he would be deported back to Spain that night, she said.
“It’s horrible,” Jennifer told HuffPost. “I don’t know how long we are going to be in separate countries either and I can’t even cover all the bills, let alone come up with travel money to see him. I’m relieved in the fact he is free now, and not suffering in there anymore, but everything else about it is awful and I feel sick over it … It’s kept us apart and messed up everything we built together.”
A Circular Argument
Asif was born in Pakistan but moved as a child to Spain, where he became a citizen. He entered the United States under the visa waiver program in 2014 to visit family. After meeting Jennifer on a trip to Columbus, Ohio, the two started dating. Not wanting to separate from her, he overstayed his visa, leaving him without legal immigration status.
The two married in September 2016, on Jennifer’s 35th birthday. Because Asif had entered legally, he qualified to adjust his status and applied for a green card.
He received an authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allowed him to live and work in the country while his immigration status was decided. Within a year, USCIS granted him an interview ― the final step in the process ― but then revoked it, saying the agency needed more time for a background check. His interview was never rescheduled.
Several lawyers, including Asif’s immigration attorney Cathy Potter, told HuffPost in February that they suspected his application was derailed by a program called the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program,” or CARRP, that levels additional scrutiny on applications from migrants born in Muslim-majority countries. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing to overturn the program, estimates that CARRP derailed or delayed some 40,000 visa or green card applications between 2008 and 2016.
USCIS declined to discuss the case when HuffPost initially reported on it in February. But two weeks after the story ran, Jennifer Asif received a letter from the agency saying that her husband’s green card application and work authorization renewal had been declined, based on his detention in an ICE facility and the order of removal he received after his arrest ― despite the fact that his authorization was valid when he was detained. The letter was dated the day after the story’s publication.
“I feel like it’s simply because he’s Muslim,” Jennifer told HuffPost after receiving the letter. “All we have tried to do is be a family and be legal. Every step of the way has been completely complicated. It’s hard not to feel discouraged.”
Asif’s allegations about his treatment in Border Patrol detention spurred Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) to demand an investigation. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol’s parent agency, never responded to the allegations but pointed HuffPost to agency regulations requiring agents to serve food consistent with dietary restrictions observed for religious reasons.
Border Patrol transferred Asif to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Port Isabel detention center in south Texas in January, where he remained until Wednesday night.
Conditions for Asif improved in ICE detention. He received food that complied with his religious dietary restrictions and guards permitted him to meet with other Muslim detainees in the evening to pray and break their fasts at night in observance of Ramadan, though an outbreak of chicken pox at the center sometimes disrupted those gatherings. His cell block was quarantined twice because of the outbreak, according to his wife. (Asif was vaccinated and did not fall ill himself.)
Asif’s lawyer filed a federal lawsuit on March 4 in an attempt to win his release, contending that the nearly two-year delay in his green card application violated the law and that his detention by Border Patrol and ICE violated federal regulations. Potter attempted to file a temporary restraining order blocking Asif’s deportation, but a federal judge denied it Wednesday.
Struggling To Reunite
The truck-driving job that wound up landing Asif in immigration detention had been a boon for him and his wife, who suffers from poor health and has a limited capacity to work. Jennifer lost her job after rushing to Texas to find her husband and try to get him released.
In the following months, she picked up work driving for Uber and Lyft. But without her husband’s income, she fell behind on her housing payments. Her landlord evicted her about six weeks ago. She went to live with her mother and brother outside Columbus, Ohio. The couple spent thousands of dollars over the years trying to adjust Asif’s immigration status and spring him from detention, only to see him deported.
Jennifer hopes to find a way to bring Asif back to the United States. Their lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But after Asif’s green card was denied, the couple made a contingency plan.
“Our main idea was that he would come to Canada and stay near the border and I would either go up there and visit or go up there and stay with him,” Jennifer said. “They’re a lot more welcoming than they are here.”