In order for the verdict of any hearing to deliver justice, the full context of a case must be understood. This is especially true for the case at hand. Although this court will determine the custody of Naseem Johnson Byah, the difficult situation he faces is not a simple custody dispute. Siham Byah, Naseem’s mother, was his sole caregiver for his entire life. There has never been any question of Siham’s parental fitness.
We are not really here to determine which of Naseem’s parents are best suited to raise him. We are here because Siham, fleeing political repression in Morocco, was deported suddenly at a routine immigration check-in. DCF’s plans for Naseem do not represent Naseem’s best interest. This is a backup plan created to deal with the traumatic effects of state action which disregarded Naseem’s welfare in the first place.
While in detention and after being deported, Siham took every possible step to secure a caring home for Naseem. First, she identified a caring foster home for Naseem where he could remain in his community and continue his regular schooling. DCF rejected this recommendation. Next, Siham worked to establish a secure home, school, and mental and primary health care around her parents’ property in Morocco and worked with DCF to complete all the necessary paperwork so Naseem could visit, but DCF claimed the papers were lost and refused to give the family a second chance. At every turn, Siham’s efforts to look after her son’s well being have been blocked and ignored.
The agencies involved in Naseem and Siham’s story have not been impartial or apolitical. ICE prioritized Siham for removal because of her vocal political activity, following a troubling pattern that has been documented in several cases nationwide. Later, DCF used Siham’s political activism as grounds for refusing to reunite Siham and Naseem. While the past injustices of these agencies is not the subject of this hearing, the case to deny Naseem’s reunification with his mother is inflected with this bias. Furthermore, failing to reunite this family would compound these harms to Siham by adding the effective termination of parental rights to her deportation, and extend these harms to Naseem by denying him a loving parent.
This hearing will determine whether a child who has grown up for 9 years with a loving, supportive mother in Massachusetts will be consigned to spend the next 9 years living with a previously disengaged father in Maine. We urge the court to consider the full context of this case and prioritize only Naseem’s interest; It is clear Siham is the best parent for this child. This court has the final word on this matter, and the time to act is now.
Please join us by adding your name in testament to the injustice done to this family.