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March 26, 2004

Deaf girl is likely to stay in US

From: New York Newsday - New York,NY,United States - Mar 26, 2004


March 26, 2004

A deaf Brooklyn girl in danger of being deported to Bangladesh has won a reprieve after a flood of letters and calls from local politicians, immigrant rights advocates and school officials.

The U.S. Labor Department has approved her family's request for a visa. That means Fahmida Ferdousi Saki, 8, likely will be allowed to stay and keep receiving the medical care her doctor says she needs to thrive.

"I'm incredibly relieved," said her dad, who brought her to the United States to receive the cochlear implant that allows her to hear (front cover).

After hearing from dozens of people touched by the plight of a deaf Brooklyn girl in danger of being deported with her family to Bangladesh, the U.S. Labor Department approved the family's request for a visa that likely will allow them to stay in the United States.

"I'm incredibly relieved," the 8-year-old girl's father, Mohammed Jafar Alam, said last night.

The approval, which was dated March 15, was signed by Delores Dehaan, the regional chief certification officer for the Labor Department, said Mohammed

Ali, a law clerk assisting Alam on behalf of S.N. Contracting Inc., the Bronx construction company he works for as a bricklayer.

Alam, 39, left Bangladesh with his daughter, Fahmida Ferdousi Saki, so she could receive a cochlear implant. The operation at the NewYork Eye&Ear Infirmary in 1999, and subsequent therapy, allows her to hear sounds

through her brain rather than her ears with the help of the high-tech device. Deportation to Bangladesh would halt her hard-won progress, experts said.

S.N. Contracting applied for the visa in April 2000, only to be told last month that a backlog of nearly 40,000 applications prevented Alam's from being considered

until at least June.

The problem for Alam, his wife and their three children was that an immigration judge had just ordered Alam's deportation as of April 2, since his visitor status had expired.

But after an article about the girl's plight appeared in Newsday on March 11 and a barrage of letters and calls from local politicians, immigrant rights advocates,

school officials and others, the Labor Department's regional office jumped her family to the head of the line.

David Rothkin, an attorney for S.N. Construction, has now filed papers to get the deportation deadline lifted, Ali said. A ruling could be made "any day now,"

he said.

In addition to his employer, Alam turned to an immigration rights group in Jackson Heights, Desis Rising Up & Moving, which put its staff to work drumming

up support for the family's effort to remain in the United States on Fahmida's behalf. Community organizer Monami Maulik said she is thrilled with the

family's success, but the victory is bittersweet because state and federal labor officials are not hiring the staff needed to ease the backlog. After the Newsday

story appeared, she said, other would-be immigrants flooded the group with requests for assistance with their own long-pending applications for employer-

sponsored visas.

Ed Frank, a spokesman for the U.S. Labor Department, declined to comment last night, saying he could not readily confirm that Alam had been approved.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.