Siham Tinhinan Byah is a beloved community member and activist from the Boston area. On November 7, 2017 she was detained by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a routine check-in at the Burlington, Massachusetts ICE office.
Furthermore, upon Siham’s detention her son, Naseem, was taken into state custody. Despite repeated requests to have her son placed with family
members living in Massachusetts, ICE and DCF told Siham that her son could not stay with the family that she had because they did not have a
multi-thousand dollar pool cover. 8 year old Naseem remains in state custody and his contact with Siham is extremely limited. Ripping Siham and
Naseem apart provides yet another stark example of the gestapo-like tactics employed by ICE.
The official press release produced by the Boston-based Justice4Siham campaign detailed ICE’s mistreatment of Siham, stating, “While in custody,
she had been in and out of solitary confinement, given unhealthy food, and received virtually no medical care when it caused stomach cramps.”
Moreover, as the press release states, ICE repeatedly lied to Siham about her deportation status. She was unexpectedly transferred to a detention center in Virginia by ICE officials without the knowledge of neither her attorney nor family. She was then promptly deported, flown out of the country to Morocco in shackles and handcuffs. When she asserted her right to a reasonable fear interview before being flown to Morocco, which she had been granted earlier, she was beaten down and placed on the plane. ICE
officials did not even let Siham contact her family or lawyer during the
On January 9th at 1 PM in front of the immigrant court at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston, more than 50 people convened to demand the return of Siham Byah to the United States and the reunification of her and her son Naseem. The demonstration took place at the same time as the arraignment of immigrant teenagers in the JFK building. Several people
spoke, including Siham’s lawyer, Matt Cameron, giving detail to Siham’s case as well as other asylum seeking individuals facing deportation. Siham herself through a live phone call addressed the group of demonstrators. Siham stressed the point that her struggle is one that many other families are experiencing throughout the country.
A member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation emphasized that Siham was not only targeted because she was seeking political asylum but also because she was an organizer; one that fought against injustices like police brutality after she was brutalized by Chelsea police and who beat erroneous charges of assault and battery on a Chelsea police officer.
After the speakout, the group marched to the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families chanting “DCF have a heart, don’t tear families apart,” demanding that Naseem and Siham be allowed to communicate freely. Demonstrators also called on ICE and DCF to respect Siham’s wishes to have her son live with family members instead of remaining in foster care. Signs read “Justice for Siham, Justice for Naseem’” as well as “Don’t tear families apart.”
What has become clear is that the situation happening to Siham is in fact, as she said, not isolated. On January 12, detained immigrant activist Ravi Ragbir, leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition in New York City, was detained by ICE. Inquiries to ICE from both his wife and lawyer regarding his location were unanswered. This seems to have become a formula for deporting immigrant activists that are on ICE’s radar.
Several organizations in the Boston area are continuing to build a campaign demanding justice for Siham and her son Naseem. Organizations including Boston Feminists for Liberation, The Party for Socialism and Liberation, Democratic Socialists of America and others have come together to fight diligently alongside Siham, and her partner Aziz, to achieve justice. The Jan. 9 demonstration is just the beginning. The campaign has organized several mass call in dates to decision makers across the state of Massachusetts demanding Siham be given the rights to communicate with her son, to provide a passport for Naseem, and to honor Siham’s request for asylum.
Additionally, Siham’s input has been integrated into every decision the campaign makes. She has called into every organizing meeting from Morocco, and has worked tirelessly with the campaign to ensure that the messaging, strategies, and tactics of the campaign are broad enough to garner mass support but uncompromising of her anti-racist, liberatory politics. Siham has not stopped fighting for her own freedom, and the freedom of others. The Justice4Siham campaign will continue to fight with Siham in the struggle to obtain justice for her, her son, and for all immigrants suffocating under the boot of ICE suppression.
“Without a concerted and organized escalation campaign we will never achieve justice for Siham and Naseem.” says Michael Flowers, one of the organizers of the Justice4Siham campaign. The Justice4Siham campaign is organizing another demonstration slated for January 27 in order to continue to build public support, awareness, and outrage over Siham’s case.
There is no doubt that achieving Justice for Siham will be an arduous task. However, organizers involved in the campaign are prepared to continue building enough public pressure to achieve justice for Siham so she can be reunited with her family and do what she has always done: struggle to get justice for others.