I believe in a changed life. Do you? Together as a society, do we believe, and act accordingly?
That’s Naz at his baptism. Beautiful.
I am blessed to know Naz and Hope personally. They are an inspiration. Their story demonstrates the confusing complexities and arbitrary harshness and gracious opportunities for miracles within the interconnected web of criminal justice, immigration laws, and detention/deportation policies. Their story is about fighting the good fight for justice for our neighbors. This story is almost word for word from their website, where you can read so much more amazingness from Naz and Hope at www.freenaz.com.
My husband, Nazry Mustakim, was unexpectedly taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 30, 2011. It was 7am and Naz was just getting up for work when he heard a loud knock on the door. There stood four fully armed federal agents, informing him that his green card was being suspended pending a future hearing and they were taking him into DHS custody. They were polite, due to Nazry being so compliant; but he was shocked. He asked if he could come to the bedroom and wake me up; he gave me the news and we were both terribly confused. My husband is a Legal Permanent Resident and always has been since moving to the States in 1992 with his family from his native Singapore. His documents were always kept current. We paid our taxes. He hasn’t hurt anyone. What could they want?
In late 2005, Naz realized he had a problem. What started out as recreational drinking and partying in his young adult life eventually grew into a severe and dangerous chemical dependency. In the midst of this chaos called addiction, he– like many of us — made some poor judgement calls. After being arrested for drug possession several times, Nazry recognized the severity of his addiction and voluntarily completed 6 months of rehabilitation in a faith-based treatment center. At the Manna House, he “got clean” from all mind-altering substances and began a relationship with Christ. (He celebrated 7 years of recovery last January!) He finally went to court for the 2005 arrests in March of 2007. Prior to his hearing, he was advised that his best option was to plead guilty to felony drug possession and accept the plea bargain of 10 years of probation. Unbeknownst to him, this plea not only deemed him a convicted felon, but violated the terms of his green card and put him under the Immigration umbrella of “Aggravated Felon.” Also unbeknownst to him is that this so-called aggravated felony made him immediately deportable. (Two years after he entered the plea, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lawyers are legally obligated to inform clients of the possibility of deportation after pleading in a criminal case.)
His new life here- the one of freedom from addiction, the pursuit of education, service to his community, and empowering the poor- was eventually going to be stripped away without warning. This deportation order was not presented to him until 5 years after his conviction, once Nazry had taken care of all unfinished business and was sharing his new life with his wife of 8 months.
Needless to say, this came as a shock to Naz and I; it has been years since his conviction, without any indication of revocation of his green card. He even applied for renewal of his green card AFTER his arrest, and it was granted. He never served prison time, and he felt so blessed by this. The judge truly had seen a change happening in him. Naz accepted the terms of his probation and gratefully went on with his life, completely turning it around. He felt humbled by the mercy and grace that had been shown to him by the US justice system. As the “Corrections” branch of government ought to do, it corrected his behavior and his life through rehabilitation and accountability. But evidently this grace was conditional. It would be taken away at any moment by the highest bidder.
A better picture of who Nazry is and why you should care:
Nazry has become more than simply a non-threat to society, but an ACTIVE contributor to it. From the beginning of his rehabilitation, he displayed a spirit of gratitude for his recovery and a commitment to “give back” the love he’d been shown. He worked his way up from program participant at the treatment center to house monitor, then eventually hired staff at the 54-bed homeless shelter run by the same organization. Naz was the night monitor at My Brother’s Keeper for nearly 3 years, working 6pm to 6am. But that wasn’t enough for Naz. He wanted to prove to those that believed in him that their faith in him was justified. He attended college at TSTC and graduated in 2009. Between work and class hours, Naz stopped in to volunteer at the Meyer Center for Urban Ministries, when most people would’ve elected to sleep! But Nazry had [and still has] a passion to serve and give back to the community that believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself. He is a committed member of a 12-step recovery program where he hold several service/chair positions and sponsors numerous other recovering addicts. He is making his community a safer place by helping these men stay clean/sober. Prior to being detained, Naz was a team leader at a local tech support call center and his employer shared with me that, “He has incredible work ethic.” She also assured me that whenever Naz comes home, he’ll still have a job with S2G.
Miraculously, the aggravated felony criminal case was re-opened, evidence was nowhere to be found, and the conviction was dismissed. These events led to the opportunity for Naz’s deportation to be cancelled. He was free to live the good life God had called him to. No more bars. No more shadows. No more earthly resistance to a changed life.
For Naz and I, our involvement in immigration reform is far from over. The heaviest tears we’ve cried during the past 10 months have been for the men [and women] in the detention centers who were so scared and confused, without a network of support to sustain them like Naz. They are sweet, hard-working, generous individuals. Dads, husbands, brothers…These are people, warm- blooded humans, children of God. And we refuse to settle back into “life “and forget about them. But honestly, we never could.
You’ll be hearing a lot more from us in regards to family unity and immigration reform. Please realize that the pain we experienced, the injustices in the criminal/immigration system, and the potential for miracles is not unique to just our situation- there are many, many more “Naz and Hope” stories out there. We love you and pray that you continue to be a part of the solution– a voice.
Remember that this whole ordeal is so much bigger than just Naz and I. We see the real reason why God introduced us to this injustice- to be a voice. I encourage you, have an open mind and open heart in regards to Immigration and the comprehensive reform that our country desperately needs in that department. 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 like Naz. Let’s see them through eyes of Compassion and Love.