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Pakistani Immigrant Being Deported for Taking Pictures of NY Reservoir Speaks from Jail

StoryJuly 01, 2004
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Pakistani immigrant Ansar Mahmood, lost his final judicial appeal this week and is scheduled to be deported. He was first picked up in October 2001 for taking photographs of an upstate New York reservoir. No terror-related charges were ever filed against him but investigators found him in minor violation of immigration law. He joins us from prison where he has been held for nearly three years.

A Pakistani immigrant who was detained almost three years ago after taking pictures of an upstate New York reservoir lost his fight to stay in United States on Tuesday.

Ansar Mahmood came to the U.S. in 2000 after receiving a "diversity visa" in an immigration lottery. He found work as a pizza deliveryman in Hudson, New York and sent about $500 a month home to his family. Mahmood has nine siblings in Pakistan who depended on his financial help.

In October 2001, he was arrested for taking photographs of a reservoir in the Catskills Mountains. He has remained behind bars ever since.

No terror-related charges were ever filed against Mahmood but investigators found him in minor violation of immigration law: He had signed an apartment lease, helped pay rent and registered a car in his name for a young Pakistani couple with expired visas. Mahmood also admitted helping the couple get jobs at the Domino’s pizza shop where he worked.

In January 2002, Mahmood pleaded guilty to harboring aliens and was sentenced to time served and five years probation. An immigration judge later ordered him returned to his native Pakistan.

Mahmood became a cause for residents of upstate New York. Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer as well as 20 Congressmembers were among lawmakers who lent their support.

But they were not able to prevent his deportation. He lost his final judicial appeal on Tuesday. The government decision said "After reviewing all pertinent correspondence, it has been determined that the safety and security of the United States far outweighs the amount of publicity that has been generated in this case."

Mahmood now faces a certain deportation unless he is granted him a last minute reprieve. He joins us on the phone from jail.

  • Ansar Mahmood, Pakistani immigrant scheduled to be deported. He was detained almost three years ago when he was picked up in October 2001 for taking photographs of an upstate New York reservoir in the Catskills Mountains.
  • Irum Shiekh, recently received her doctorate from the University of California Berkeley’s Ethic Studies department. She wrote her dissertation on post 9/11 detainees and has interviewed dozens of detainees and deportees including Ansar Mahmood who she speaks with regularly. She was born in a Pakistani town near where Mahmood’s family still lives.

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