[Marxism] "Don't Photograph the Water"

Andy Coates esquincle at capital.net
Mon Jun 7 21:50:11 MDT 2004

(What follows [see http://www.chathampeace.org/] is an article from 
yesterday's Sunday NY Times.  Ansar Mahmood, a Pakistani man delivering 
pizzas for a living in the quite small upstate city of Hudson, NY 
(until his imprisonment in October 2001), has had a defense committee 
with a core of a half-dozen highly committed activists, with many more 
participating.  I don't know that any of them knew Ansar before his 
arrest.  His peace-group/defense committee has met weekly for months, 
with each member leaving the meeting with tasks for which they will 
personally take responsibility.  (One of the stalwarts is a farmer.)  
They have put great effort into lobbying their neighbors and the 
government, and as well, the press.  I believe this article only 
appears after careful relentless pestering.  Also, each week the group 
holds a local vigil, in addition to periodic protests outside the 
prison (which is about 5 hours away by car).  Locally, each day one 
member feels he must hold a vigil (alone most days).  The congressmen 
and the Senators' aides, as well as journalists and activists for miles 
around have learned well the names of the Mahmood's defenders-- and 
these activists have gained crucial insight through this fight.  
Overall, they have organized a remarkably stubborn and effective local 
campaign.  Not included in this article (and from the Chatham Peace 
Initiative website with link below):

> On October 9, 2001, Mr. Mahmood stopped in his pizza delivery rounds 
> at the water treatment facility center in Hudson, NY. He asked a 
> worker there to take his picture in front of the facility because 
> there was a beautiful view of the Catskill Mountains behind him. He 
> wanted to send home a picture to his family in Pakistan. But the 
> guards - suspecting that this young Pakistani man might be planning to 
> poison the water system - called the police. At one of his next 
> deliveries, he was called back to the pizza parlor where a policeman 
> questioned him and he was put in the Hudson jail overnight. 
> On October 10, 2001 10-12 law enforcement officials from the FBI, the 
> New York State Police and other agencies interrogated him without 
> benefit of an attorney.
> From Oct 10 to 16 he was locked up in the county jail. For his last 
> forty hours in jail he received no food. His apartment was searched 
> and papers were found showing he had helped two fellow immigrants from 
> his hometown get a job and a car, and co-signed on a lease for them. 
> They had come into the US legally but had overstayed the terms of 
> their visas. They were picked up by the Immigration and Naturalization 
> Service (INS) on October 10 2001 and deported.
> On October 16 Mr. Mahmood was cleared of any terrorism charges.
> On October 18 Mr. Mahmood was released on $10,000 bond and required to 
> appear in court once a week.
> On January 25, 2002 Mr. Mahmood’s court appointed public defender 
> advised him to plead guilty to “Illegal Harboring of Aliens.” By doing 
> this he gave up his right to appeal. He was sentenced to time served 
> and 5 years probation.
> Immediately after his conviction Mr. Mahmood was kept in the Albany 
> County jail for twelve days, and then shipped to Buffalo Federal 
> Detention Center (Batavia, NY). INS charged Mr. Mahmood as being 
> removable from the United States in violation of the Immigration and 
> Nationality Act.
> On July 17, 2002 the INS ordered him deported. His immigration lawyer 
> Rolando Velasquez appealed the decision. The Board of Immigration 
> Appeals denied his appeal. In April 2003 Judge David Hurd of the 
> Northern District of New York dismissed Mr. Mahmood’s move to vacate 
> the underlying conviction. Mr. Mahmood had a habeas pending in the 2nd 
> Circuit, which he has withdrawn in hope of discretionary action.

> http://www.chathampeace.org/ansar%20mahmood%20fact%20sheet.htm

....PS.  we need a modern International Labor Defense.   Andy )



June 6, 2004

A 9/11 Lesson: Don't Photograph the Water

HUDSON, N.Y. - On a cloudless autumn day three years ago, Ansar 
Mahmood, a pizza deliveryman for a Domino's near here, took a few hours 
off from work to snap pictures of the Hudson River amid the foliage, to 
send home to his family in Pakistan.

Mr. Mahmood had seen the view from a customer's house on Rossman 
Avenue, but was told it was even better up the street. So up he went, 
to a bluff overlooking the river and the Catskill Mountains next to 
some official-looking buildings. He said he knocked on a door and asked 
an employee to take his picture. "He said, 'Of course, of course,' " 
Mr. Mahmood recalled.

That moment marked the end of Mr. Mahmood's brief American dream, as he 
stumbled into a vortex of fear, politics and deportation proceedings.

The official-looking buildings turned out to be a water-treatment plant 
for the city of Hudson. The crisp afternoon fell exactly four weeks 
after Sept. 11, when the nation was panicked at the possibility of more 
terror attacks, including poisoned drinking water.

  And Mr. Mahmood - who had hit the ultimate jackpot for a young 
Pakistani when he won a green card through a lottery - was suddenly 
from the wrong part of the world.

Any notion that Mr. Mahmood was tied to terrorism quickly evaporated 
into the fluorescent ether of the Hudson police station. But he was 
soon charged with helping Pakistani friends whose visas had expired, an 
offense that led to his detention and pending deportation.

  With his arrest, Mr. Mahmood became part of the wave of Arab and 
Muslim aliens and citizens who were detained for questioning in the two 
months after Sept. 11. A United States Department of Justice report 
estimates that 1,200 people were rounded up, but advocates for the 
detainees say the number was much higher. Like Mr. Mahmood, many were 
then prosecuted for immigration violations or past crimes.

But the moment also thrust him into the embrace of a local community of 
peace activists who took up his cause with a gritty intensity.

They circulated petitions and propelled Mr. Mahmood's story into a 
number of national media outlets. They strategized in weekly meetings 
and button-holed politicians in an effort to prevent his deportation, 
recently winning letters of support from seven United States senators, 
including Hillary Rodham Clinton.

They became so fond of Mr. Mahmood, a slight 26-year-old with a 
searching gaze and a quick grin, that they have traveled hours, 
individually and as a group, to visit him at a detention center outside 
Buffalo. One supporter awaits his call every Thursday between 2 and 4 
p.m. Another sent him a copy of the Emily Dickinson poem "Hope Is the 
Thing With Feathers."

"We started doing this from an abstract, idealistic point of view - 
that they can't pull someone off the streets of Hudson, that it was 
racial profiling - and all of that is still important," said Susan 
Davies, a supporter who prodded her fellow advocates from the nearby 
Chatham Peace Initiative to rally around Mr. Mahmood.

"But since then we've gotten to know Ansar very well," she added. "He's 
very spiritual and loves beauty and that's why he took that picture 
that got him into trouble in the first place."

When Mr. Mahmood returned to the Domino's in Greenport later that 
evening, on Oct. 9, two police officers were waiting for him. (A 
treatment plant worker had reported him after he left.) The next 24 
hours, he said, were a frightening blur.

He was handcuffed and placed in a holding area at the police station, 
in Hudson. There he was questioned by a stream of federal agents who 
had converged on this quiet city in Columbia County, a popular antiques 
center 109 miles north of New York City.

They wanted to know why he was interested in the water-treatment 
facility, what connection he had to the World Trade Center attack. Mr. 
Mahmood recalled explaining that he did not even know that there was a 
water-treatment plant.

Eventually, the investigators found that he was just a hapless 
immigrant taking pictures. As Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote in 
March, calling for his release, Mr. Mahmood was "cleared by the F.B.I. 
of any suspected terrorist activity, including tampering with the water 

But during a search of Mr. Mahmood's apartment, law enforcement 
officials uncovered evidence that he had helped a Pakistani couple by 
co-signing their apartment lease and registering their car in his name. 
In an interview from the detention center in Batavia, N.Y., Mr. Mahmood 
said he was a good friend of the couple's: the woman's brother was his 
best friend in Pakistan.

But he said that he did not know they were here illegally, explaining 
that it would have been rude to discuss their immigration status. "They 
never ask me if I have a green card, and I cannot ask them either," he 

Mr. Mahmood was then charged with harboring illegal aliens, which is a 
felony, and following the advice of his court-appointed lawyer, pleaded 
guilty. In January 2002, he was sentenced to five years' probation and 
time served. But by pleading guilty, he was automatically subject to 
deportation and detention.

One of nine children from a poor family in Punjab, Mr. Mahmood is now 
waiting for the federal Department of Homeland Security to decide 
whether he can somehow find a way back to his former life.

It was a life in which he worked up to 14 hours a day, earning enough 
money to send home $400 to $500 a month to his ailing parents. The 
money had allowed his three younger sisters to attend good schools for 
the first time. "Everything was looking up," he said, and his family 
had begged him to send home photographs of the Hudson region where he 
had settled.

Through a new lawyer, Mr. Mahmood has asked the United States 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of 
Homeland Security, to release him despite his guilty plea.

  Specifically, he is seeking to have his deportation deferred, a rare 
status that would allow him to stay in the country with working papers 
under a supervised release.

"It's very discretionary," said his new lawyer, Rolando R. Velasquez, 
who took the case pro bono. "It's something that is only used in 
exceptional circumstances, and we're hoping that this qualifies."

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Michael W. 
Gilhooly, said that the agency could not act on Mr. Mahmood's petition 
until an appeal that he has pending in federal court is withdrawn. Mr. 
Velasquez said the appeal would be withdrawn shortly.

Mr. Mahmood's supporters, who recently worked through a 21-point agenda 
at a weekly gathering in the village of Chatham, are optimistic. "They 
can't afford to deport him, not in the face of Abu Ghraib and seven 
senators," said Bob Elmendorf, a retired state employee and the one who 
reserves Thursday afternoons for their phone conversation.

Indeed, the latest coup was a May 21 letter of support from five 
Democratic United States senators addressed to the homeland security 
secretary, Tom Ridge. The letter - signed by Edward M. Kennedy of 
Massachusetts, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Jon S. Corzine of New 
Jersey, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Leahy of 
Vermont - cited a report last year from the Justice Department's own 
inspector general that criticized the roundup and detention of hundreds 
of Muslim and Arab immigrants after Sept. 11.

The report, the letter said, "noted that 'it is unlikely that most if 
not all of the individuals arrested would have been pursued by law 
enforcement' but for the Sept. 11th investigation and that 'some appear 
to have been arrested more by virtue of chance encounters ....' " Mr. 
Mahmood's core group of seven supporters has tried to keep the heat on. 
In late May they organized a call-in to an immigration official in 
Buffalo, and they are now arranging a tour of the detention center.

  They have also assured federal officials that Mr. Mahmood will be well 
positioned upon his release.

"He has at least 10 to 15 offers of a place to live and all kinds of 
offers for jobs," said Azim Goldrick, a handyman who has visited Mr. 
Mahmood four times.

Not everyone in Columbia County believes Mr. Mahmood should be allowed 
to stay, however. Robert Nedwick, a 32-year-old construction worker, 
lives on Rossman Avenue near the water-treatment plant.

  "He got caught trespassing and that led to this other thing he got in 
trouble for," he said. "If you break the law, you should be punished."

But his supporters are encouraged that they now have more than 2,000 
signatures on a petition. And their unrelenting advocacy will continue, 
they say, until Mr. Mahmood is released or deported.

"There have been thousands of deportations since 9/11 for very 
bureaucratic reasons and glitches," said Marcie Gardner, a supporter. 
"But he is someone taken from our midst. He was taken 20 minutes from 
where I live, and that's not O.K."

More information about the Marxism mailing list