ICE arrest protested in Hartford

On Aug. 24, 140 people rallied outside the immigration court in Hartford, Connecticut to demand the release of Said Zaim-Sassi, a Moroccan-born resident of Wallingford, Connecticut. Marchers wore T-shirts that said “Keep Families Together” and held up signs that called for a stop to immigration raids. Zaim-Sassi has been living in the US for 20 years; he worked for Metro-North, volunteered to help other immigrants and played soccer. His wife, Souhair Zaim-Sassi, is a Morocco-born US citizen; the couple has three US-born children, ages two, four and seven.

Said Zaim-Sassi had been seeking to remain legally in the US, but had lost a final round in court this past January. Immigration officials have alleged in court documents that his first marriage was a sham marriage to obtain citizenship.

After losing his final appeal in January, Said Zaim-Sassi told immigration he would surrender whenever they required it. Instead, immigration agents came to his home at 5:45am and arrested him in front of his family. “It was so horrible,” recounted Souhair Zaim-Sassi. “I thought they were burglars. They came pounding on the door and said, ‘Open the door or we will break the door down.’ They were screaming and using profanities. They stripped the blankets off the beds.”

“My sister asked for a warrant. They flashed her a piece of paper but wouldn’t let her look at it. There was no need for them to do it this way. They took him away like an animal in front of his children,” Souhair Zaim-Sassi said. (New Haven Register, Aug. 25; WTNH News Channel 8, Aug. 31)

Paula Grenier, ICE’s spokesperson for New England, claimed otherwise: “We were granted consent to enter and when we got there the family was evasive as to his whereabouts. We found him hiding,” she said. Souhair Zaim-Sassi rejected that statement: “He was in my bedroom asleep,” she explained. According to Grenier, Said Zaim-Sassi is currently at a detention center in Rhode Island and will be transported back to Morocco under the court’s decision.

Egyptian-born Khalil Iskarous of New Haven helped organize the demonstration. “I think the main reason for the recent (immigrant) arrests has been because immigrants are working together for immigrants’ rights, but we are not going to be silent any longer.” Iskarous said people who fear immigrant labor will drive down wages do not realize that better protections and wages for immigrants will raise wages for everyone. “When we’ve had amnesty, everybody’s wages go up,” he said. (New Haven Register, Aug. 25)

On Aug. 31 protesters again marched in Hartford to demand freedom for Said Zaim-Sassi, and pressed Senator Joe Leiberman to intervene. Lieberman agreed to look into the case, but he raised concern about the alleged marriage fraud. “The question is whether within the law there’s any element for mercy here,” said Leiberman, “or if immigration service feels he committed a fraud… if they have to punish him to make a point.” (WTNH News Channel 8, Aug. 31)

From Immigration News Briefs, Sept. 9

See our last post on the immigration crackdown.