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March 11, 2004

Deaf Bangladeshi girl gets support

From: New York Newsday - New York,NY,United States - Mar 11, 2004

Staff Writer

The state labor commissioner, Linda Angello, is getting barraged with complaints over her agency's refusal to take up the case of a deaf Bangladeshi girl whose family is about to be deported.

Nearly three years ago, Fahmida Ferdousi Saki's father filed for papers that would allow he and his wife and three chldren to remain in this country pending his eventual request for a green card. His application was sponsored by his employer, a construction business in the Bronx.

But the Labor Department wrote to the Brooklyn family March 5 that the application can only be considered after this June 1, in light of a huge backlog of such requests. The family is scheduled to be deported three weeks from today because of an expired visa.

In 1999, Fahmida's parents, Mohammed Jafar Alam, 39, and Ferdous Ara Mito, 25, took their congenitally deaf daughter to this country and the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary for the insertion of a cochlear implant -- a high-tech device that allows the deaf to hear and learn to speak and which is not available in Bangladesh. She still needs training, also not available in Bangladesh, to learn how to use the device.

Yesterday, after reading an article on the family's predicatment in Newsday, the girl's surgeon, school, and two elected representatives began to pepper the Labor Department with demands it review Alam's application before the deportation deadline.

Also taking up the girl's case was a high-profile immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes. Wildes last year prevailed on the Department of Homeland Security to grant Kwame James -- the Canadian who had helped wrestle "shoe bomber" Richard Reid to the floor of their commercial jet in December, 2001 -- a temporary work and visitor visa.

Wildes, who is the Democratic mayor of Englewood, N.J., said yesterday he is moving to represent the girl's father at no charge, and requested assistance for the family from New York Sen. Charles Schumer. A spokesman for Schumer said the senator would try to help get the father's case reviewed by the state expeditiously and reopened by the immigration judge. U.S. Rep. Major Owens also called Angello on the girl's behalf, his office said.

Aside from receiving ongoing medical care, Alam's daughter attends St. Francis De Sales School for the Deaf, in Crown Heights.

"In our opinion, we support 100 percent that the family be allowed to remain here," Principal Maria Barolillo said yesterday, "and we will do everything to help the family. If Fahmida leaves, the surgery she had, which was extensive, would be in vain. She will regress, with no language, no communication with her family, her peers or her community." Christine Burling, a spokeswoman for the state Labor Department, declined to comment.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.