Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, February 07, 2004

"They say 'Welcome to Jordan!' when you arrive in Amman," Hassan said, "But for me it was really 'Welcome to Hell.'"

Hassan was our waiter at a local restaurant. He stood out immediately because of his Brooklyn accent. Over the course of serving us a simple meal of hummos, tabouli, roasted chicken and flat bread, he told us his story.

Hassan came to the United States in 1974 ... he was 17 years old. Growing up in New York, he eventually started a family and later a small business with a partner. Then he made the mistake of obtaining a unregistered handgun for self-protection. In September 2002 he was arrested for carrying the weapon but was soon on probation for the offense. For most American citizens the probation would have run its course and that would, most likely, have been the end of it but Hassan's probation brought him under the eye of the Immigration Service.

In February 2003, Hassan showed up for his scheduled probation meeting and Immigration took him into custody. He was taken to various jails in New York, Ohio and Florida before being deported in May of 2003 to Jordan.

"America is my home ... I'm American ... I have a wife there and my children were all born in the states ... my youngest child, Nikki, is 14 years old," Hassan told us. But according to Hassan, he will not be allowed to return for 10 years.

By that time, Nikki will be 24.

Being forced to leave America was just part of Hassan's nightmare he told us. He had no family in Jordan, no one to help him get back on his feet. He spoke of having to bribe the Jordanian officials so that he could be released to work in the country. He spoke of working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with only two days off per month. He spoke of being barely able to survive on the wages he makes but being unwilling to ask for help from his family in the States.

"I live only in my memories now," he said.


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