Washington D.C. – Moroccan immigrant Siham Byah, who has been in the US since 1999 when she arrived at the age of 15, was taken into custody without warning by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts, and is scheduled for imminent deportation.
Byah’s lawyer, Matt Cameron, an immigration lawyer in Boston, MA, believes that she was targeted by ICE as a result of her political activism and national origin. He told Morocco World News that this is an unusual case where someone in her situation is detained without notice or warning during a regular check in and scheduled to be immediately deported without further process. However, it is the fourth such case he has seen so far this year.
Cameron asserts that her political activism has precipitated special discriminatory treatment against Byah, who is a 40-year old, single mother of an 8-year-old son. The son has been placed in protective custody at the Department of Families and Children. “There are thousands of people checking into the ICE field office right now who are in similar [immigration] circumstances and are not being treated this way,” he said.
ICE has asserted that it is simply enforcing a deportation order originally issued in 2006. Her appeal was denied in 2013, and a motion to reopen also denied. However, the final order was stayed several times subject to periodic check-ins, which Byah has complied with up until she was arrested at the ICE field office on Tuesday.
Byah reportedly has participated in the Occupy Boston movement, and is an active member of the Committee in Support of the Rif movement. She has fought for both domestic and international causes, according to Cameron. She participated in protests in Washington, D.C., in July.
Hunger Strike and Detention Conditions
Byah went on a hunger strike when she was detained on Tuesday morning that lasted until late Friday night. It ended when she was allegedly not given access to medical care.
Cameron says that conditions in the detention center where she is incarcerated are not good for anyone. But they seem to be particularly onerous for Byah, who allegedly has been denied medication and even heat in her holding cell. Initially, she was not even given information about her son and denied access to her lawyer.
ICE’s Claim of Targeting “Criminals”
ICE has asserted that Byah has been convicted of “several misdemeanors.” Not true, according to Cameron. He says she has one misdemeanor conviction, and that is for driving upon a suspended license. But Cameron says that this is not the first time the government has mischaracterized the facts. Here the government has “separated a mother from her child without the well-being of the child being taken into consideration,” he said. “So obviously they are trying to cloud the case as best they can.”
This is Cameron’s fourth client this year who he strongly believes is being targeted by ICE for “political speech.” In fact, he confirmed to Morocco World News that he has reason to believe that the government is “making Moroccan nationals a priority.”
“We are going to do whatever we can to fight for her release and stop her deportation,” said Cameron.