Thanks to a large social media push, an undocumented immigrant from Bangladesh will get to stay in the U.S. ― for now.
Riaz Talukder, 50, has been granted a temporary stay after people across the internet raised awareness about his situation. Talukder, who came to the U.S. as a minor, pleaded to remain in the country to tend to his wife, who is battling thyroid cancer.
“Now I’m going to go to my wife and give her a big hug.” Talukder said, according to CBS2, after the news broke.
He’ll be able to stay in the U.S. for six months before having to check in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement again, according to a press release. This will give the family more time to file motions to fight the deportation order.
Talukder, who does not have a criminal record and is the father of two U.S. citizen sons, has been routinely reporting to the agency for some time. But during a check-in last month, he was told to return to a New York City ICE facility in November with a one-way ticket to Bangladesh.
The cab driver said he felt worried about his family, particularly his wife, who is recovering from cancer treatment and will be undergoing surgery again in December.
“My wife is going through a lot,” he told the Daily Beast. “She walks around the house from room to room, talking to herself at night. She can’t sleep. She can’t do anything if I am gone.”
After receiving the news of Talukder’s situation, groups like the nonprofit DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving and the Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network kicked off an aggressive social media campaign, collecting thousands of signatures on a United We Dream petition urging the Department of Homeland Security to let Talukder stay. And last week, attorney Edward Cuccia filed a motion to reopen Talukder’s previous asylum case, which would allow him to fight to stay on humanitarian grounds.
This time, the odds were in Talukder’s favor.
“ICE, they did the right thing,” Cuccia said.
Talukder’s immigration struggles began years ago. At one point, he was even detained ― two years after a work authorization had expired. Immigration officials had raided his home and the cab driver was sent to Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, the United We Dream petition explained. There, he spent seven months away from his family.
“Those seven months were the roughest months of my life,” Talukder’s 15-year-old son Rafi said during a press conference on Monday. “There’s no sense of hope. So not having my dad is the end of the world for me.”
Talukder ended up being released once again, with instructions to check in with ICE every year. And under the Obama administration, he was treated as a low priority for deportation, especially since he did not have a criminal record. However, in the beginning of the year and under the Trump administration, Talukder was ordered to check in more frequently and eventually told to report to ICE every month until he was threatened with deportation.
Talukder is one of the roughly 1.7 million undocumented Asian immigrants in the U.S., the fastest-growing group of undocumented immigrants in the country. The Trump administration’s crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration has left many communities of color on edge.
“We had a great victory today, but Riaz is just one of millions of people in this country living under the constant threat of deportation,” Lucy Herschel of the Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network said at Monday’s press conference. “These are our family and friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. We need to build a mass movement to defend our communities from this attack.”
As Talukder awaits his check-in next May, Cuccia says there’s much more work to do. Activists are continuing to demand that his asylum case be reopened so he can fight to stay in the country he considers home.