Imam Zoubir Bouchikhi: Arrested Shortly Before Deportation

Yesterday Ilyes and Omar Bouchikhi, aged 13 and 11, left school early to attend a protest on behalf of their father, Imam Zoubir Bouchikhi. Bouchikhi, the spiritual leader of a mosque in Southeast Houston who last year was detained for five months, was arrested once again Tuesday evening.

His wife Mounira Belhacel-Bouchikhi told Hair Balls that their attorney, Brian Bates, has been working to reverse her husband's January 24 deportation order before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. She said the family is devastated by his arrest almost two weeks prior to the deadline.

"We have a deportation notice saying he will be deported on the 24th... We've tried to look for our rights but at the end, we're going to accept it. If he's going to be deported, it's fine, he's going to be deported, but unfortunately yesterday they just come and picked him up. He was detained again for no reason, no explanation."

Belhacel-Bouchikhi said the family has been here legally for 13 years. Three of their four kids are U.S. citizens and the family fears being separated.

The Algerian family is supported by Mauri' Saalakhan, president of the Washington, DC-based organization Peace and Justice Foundation.

The Houston Muslim community is also rallying behind the Algerian family's efforts in convincing immigration authorities to release their spiritual teacher until the court of appeals passes judgment on his deportation order. There is a protest planned for tomorrow, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 126 Northpoint Drive, where he is believed to be detained.

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Paula Beltrán
Contact: Paula Beltrán