'Who will take care of my kids?' asks mother facing deportation threat

Rojina Akter worked six hours at a dollar store on Tuesday, took an hour-long bus ride home, sat on the couch of her two-bedroom apartment in Elizabeth and contemplated her uncertain future.

Her husband, Amenul Hoque, was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Jan. 17 at the Newark fried chicken restaurant where he worked and was deported Monday, ICE confirmed. 

Rojina Akter, second from left, with her 11-year-old son, her daughter Evana Akter, 19, and her 15-year-old son inside their apartment in Elizabeth on Tuesday. 2/13/2018 (Marisa Iati | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Ahead of a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE on Thursday, Akter, a Bangladesh native, said she wondered whether authorities would deport her, too, and what would happen to her three children.

“Who will take care of my kids? They’re too small,” Akter, 39, said Tuesday in an emotional interview at her home. “I don’t want to leave them alone here.” 

A rally in support of Akter is scheduled for Thursday from 8 to 11 a.m. outside of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building at 970 Broad St. in Newark. 

Emilio Dabul, a spokesman for ICE’s Newark office, said Hoque had been ordered removed by an immigration judge and the agency in January was ready to execute the removal order. 

“His wife’s case will be reviewed based on case-specific circumstances, as is done in all cases,” Dabul said. 

Immigration advocates say stories like Akter’s show a sea change in officials’ priorities for detentions and deportations. Immigrants without criminal records who were considered low priorities for removal used to be able to regularly report to ICE and be released with another check-in scheduled in six months or a year.

President Donald Trump in his first month in office, however, signed executive orders significantly expanding the categories of unauthorized immigrants who could be targeted for deportation, including those with final removal orders like the ones Hoque and Akter received in 2011. 

ICE officials made 143,470 administrative arrests nationwide in 2017, up 30 percent from 2016, according to data on the agency’s website. Deportations were down slightly, from 240,255 in 2016 to 226,119 last year, the data shows. 

“I think that there’s a real fear of the brazenness, the speed at which people are being deported and the fact that pickups seem so arbitrary,” said S. Nadia Hussein, a co-founder the Paterson-based Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative. “It’s like Russian roulette right now.” 

Seeking political asylum

Akter said she and Hoque, 51, left Bangladesh in 2000 after Hoque’s brother was arrested by political opponents without warning and jailed for nine months. Fearing for Hoque’s life, the couple and the two children they had at the time moved to Botswana, Akter said. 

Amenul Hoque, 51, in New York City’s Central Park (Courtesy of Evana Akter)

The family faced danger there, too, Akter said. She said…

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