The YouTube Weapon One Man's Virtual Fight against Deportation

A 19-year-old man was deported from the US, where he had lived most of his life, to Bangladesh along with his family in January. Now he is fighting to be allowed to return to Texas -- and his weapon of choice is YouTube.

Saad Nabeel is campaigning via YouTube to be allowed to return to the US.
Shehab Uddin/DER SPIEGEL

Saad Nabeel is campaigning via YouTube to be allowed to return to the US.

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The sparsely furnished room contains a bed, a closet and a desk with a laptop. It doesn't feel very welcoming. In fact, the room seems more like a temporary lodging, as if its occupant, Saad Nabeel, were merely passing through.

Saad, a thin, frustrated 19-year-old boy with a Beatle haircut, is sitting on the bed. He is waiting for the electricity to come on again after yet another power failure, so that he can start up his laptop and get back on the Internet. It's his connection to the United States and his old life -- a life that was significantly better than his current life in Bangladesh.

In his old life, Saad had friends and a scholarship, and he was attending college. In other words, he had a future. Here in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, Saad mostly has time -- plenty of time.

'I Ask You Guys for Your Help'

He uses his time to upload videos to the video-sharing website YouTube and other Internet sites. The videos feature him in this room, against a white wall, wearing a John Lennon T-shirt, videos that he hopes the whole world will see. In the videos, Saad talks about how much he wants to go home. He asks for help, and he asks people to contact him via Facebook. "I ask you guys for your help," he says, speaking English with an American accent. He still spends much of his time in the country where he once lived, except nowadays it's only virtually.

In return, he receives videos in which American teenagers talk about him. One of them is Emily, a young, blonde girl in a black tank top, who uses the screen name "firedancingrose." She talks about the calamity Saad has experienced, and she says that he should be allowed to come home. Saad Nabeel, a boy from Bangladesh, wants to go home, back to Frisco, Texas.

At the beginning of the year, Saad was living in Frisco with his parents, as an ambitious member of the American middle class, a model immigrant. His parents owned a house and two cars, and they both worked. They had left Bangladesh 15 years ago, when Saad was three years old. His father told him about the problems he had had with politicians, and about the persecution and threats that had prompted him to leave the country.

The family went to the United States and applied for political asylum, but after eight years the application was turned down and the US immigration authority informed the Nabeels that they were to leave the country immediately. Instead of complying with the request, Saad's father moved with his family from Los Angeles to Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. But it wasn't as if they had gone there to hide from the authorities. On the contrary, the parents bought a house there, found jobs and applied for a permanent residency permit, a Green Card. The American authorities did not intervene. By then Saad was 11 and had almost no memories left of Dhaka.

According to Saad, in late 2009 his father received a notice from the immigration authority stating that the family's Green Cards would be sent to them in January 2010. But before that happened, immigration officials suddenly showed up at the family's door, took the father to a detention facility and threatened to deport him. The family still doesn't know why. Saad's mother left Texas with her son, and the two embarked on an odyssey that lasted for several weeks and ended with deportation, marking the beginning of Saad's new life.

Mourning a Lost Life

It's usually quiet in Frisco, Texas, during the day, and it's always quiet at night. But it's never quiet in the apartment where Saad's family now lives in Dhaka. For one thing, the apartment is in the middle of an overcrowded city that's bursting at the seams, a place where 14 million people compete for every speck of affluence. But their flat also happens to be next to a construction site where workers are driving piles into the ground for a new building, using a pile driver with a motor that has no mufflers. The men do most of their work at night, when the air has cooled down.

In Frisco, there are no beggars on the side of the road, no cripples, no people with birth defects who extend their stumps, scars and grotesquely deformed bodies toward passers-by -- people like Saad, who dresses in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt. There are no women who hold up screaming, malnourished babies, and no old people on crutches, following the movements of anyone who appears to have money with their milky eyes. In Frisco, there is a stadium called the Pizza Hut Park and a Dr. Pepper Arena.

Saad could treat his time in Dhaka as an opportunity. Few people here are as well educated as he is. But he still mourns the loss of his life as an American, and for him, life in Bangladesh is an imposition, one that he seeks to avoid as much as possible. He doesn't go to school, he has no friends, he doesn't want to learn the language and he rarely goes outside -- and when he does, it is only with his cell phone in hand. He moves cautiously and hesitantly in the streets, as if he expects to be attacked at any moment.

'No Plan B'

As soon as he returns to his room, he sits down at his laptop and searches for new supporters on the Internet, broadcasting his troubles out into the world. An American girl, a member of the Republican Party, posts a video on YouTube. She says that he should be allowed to return to the United States, and that what they've done to him is unfair.

Saad hopes that by generating enough public pressure, by triggering a mass movement on the Internet, he will be able to return home. His cry for help on YouTube was viewed more than 10,000 times in the last four months. An attorney in New York is working on his case. But the latest news isn't good. His application for a student visa was denied. Now he is pinning his hopes on the New York attorney.

And what if it doesn't work? What if Saad Nabeel has to stay in Bangladesh? What's his plan B?

"That's easy," says Saad. "There is no plan B."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Pstreet1 08/05/2010
1. Deportation
After reading this story, I see no reference that would explain why this young man deserves to be in the U.S. His family's request for permission was denied. The fact that it took the U.S. government a long time to deny the request does not entitle them to remain in the U.S. simply because they became accustomed to being in the U.S. One could make the argument equally well that they were given benefits they did not deserve for years. If they were not accepted, they were not accepted. Having grown up in the U.S. does not entitle him to anything.
BTraven 08/09/2010
2.
Zitat von Pstreet1After reading this story, I see no reference that would explain why this young man deserves to be in the U.S. His family's request for permission was denied. The fact that it took the U.S. government a long time to deny the request does not entitle them to remain in the U.S. simply because they became accustomed to being in the U.S. One could make the argument equally well that they were given benefits they did not deserve for years. If they were not accepted, they were not accepted. Having grown up in the U.S. does not entitle him to anything.
I cannot understand why a family which seemed to be very well integrated in the society has been expelled, and that without giving any reasons why the immigration authority changed its mind so quickly. Perhaps some say in the way the family took a loophole other potential immigrants could use in order to live in the States permanently. The reason his parents delivered sound not very convincing to me since Bangladesh does not belong to the countries which are regularly accused of violating human rights. The authorities should have rejected their application much earlier. It makes no sense to deport people after six or seven years.
BTraven 08/11/2010
3.
Zitat von esperontoI think his parents messed up. It does not say, but it can be his parents didnt follow the immigration process properly. My friend was from Bogata Colombia, but her parents movet to the USA when she was 6. They managed to become American citizens after some time. What is left out, is that many immigrants want to hold onto thier old identities, like be dual citizens with thier former lands. Spanish is taught even to 3rd generation immigrants in the USA who are maybe half white. Like if a south American woman has a child with a white, even if she never lived in south America and speaks perfect English with American accent, the spanish language keeps going to that child. I think its alright. I like Spanish more than English, but maybe folks from Bangladesh were avoiding full citizenship or were procrastinating to become full citizens and only ran for a green card at the last second.
Passing the language your ancestors spoke as mother language when they immigrated from one generation to the next is a tradition which is worth having been kept up so long. I am quite surprised to read that the Spanish are so eager to teach their children bilingual because of the documentations broadcast here I got the impression that most people, especially those from Germany, unlearned their mother tongue. Even people who grew up here were not capable of speaking it again when they had been interviewed. It must have something to do with their conservative upbringing where the perpetuation of old habits plays an important role.
esperonto 08/13/2010
4. Democrats are rednecks
My friend, who is an immigrant, said there is a lot of anti-immigration stuff going on and said she was sick of these "redneck" types. I guess normal USA is doing some anti-immigration stuff. USA is starting to seem like Germany! Well I guess its the Democrats waging war against immigrants, so that means Democrats are rednecks! Well, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were rednecks. Obama's mama was a redneck too; guess they are all rednecks. Yeah but they are rich elite, and these old morflagers will to school you. They'll try to turn your brain, because they have got money in the bank. The elite will try to school you.
esperonto 08/15/2010
5. Bangladesh Liberation War
I watched an interesting film about Bangladesh last night. It occurred to me maybe this is part of the reason. The USA had animosity toward the creation of Bangladesh. Though the USA was not mentioned in this film, the Bangladesh Liberation War was one of those classic clod war type scenarios where the USA supported what they considered a lesser evil against what they deemed to be Soviet expansion. I am actually making a list of all such interferences by the USA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clay_Bird http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzzK6lR9kjU
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