August 14, 2004
Upstate Pakistani's deportation saddens his supporters
By HANNAN ADELY
THE JOURNAL NEWS, New York
Supporters of a Pakistani immigrant who was detained in 2001 after taking
pictures of an upstate reservoir said yesterday they were saddened to learn
of his deportation.
Ansar Mahmood, 27, had been detained for nearly three years. He was put on a
plane to Pakistan at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday
Critics viewed the case as an overreaction to terror threats after the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was one of several high-profile officials who
fought on Mahmood's behalf. "It is a regrettable decision," Schumer, D-N.Y.,
said yesterday. "In this instance, the punishment certainly does not seem to
fit the crime."
Mahmood learned he would be deported last month but did not know on which
day he would have to leave, said Susan Davies, an organizer of the Ansar
Mahmood Defense Committee, which was formed to help the former pizza
"It is a loss for all of us who worked with him and got to know him so
well," Davies said.
A month after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mahmood was arrested after taking photos
of the reservoir. He had asked security guards there to take his picture
with the Catskill mountains in the background. The guards called police.
Mahmood was cleared within 48 hours of any connection to terrorism, but when
investigators searched his apartment, they found he had co-signed an
apartment lease and registered a car for a Pakistani couple with expired
On his attorney's advice, he pleaded guilty to avoid a harsher sentence. A
court, though, convicted him of "harboring illegal aliens," which made him
subject to deportation.
Mahmood came to the United States in April 2000 after winning an immigration
lottery. By working up to 14 hours a day as a pizza deliveryman and living
frugally, he earned enough to move his parents and younger sisters in
Pakistan out of poverty.
Schumer, along with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Charles
Rangel, lent their support to Mahmood, along with elected officials from
other states, and urged Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to release
During his time in jail, members of Mahmood's community rallied to his side.
The Ansar Mahmood Defense Committee held rallies, wrote letters and visited
Mahmood at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center.
Supporters offered jobs and places for him to live upon his release.
Davies said the situation was sad.
"He was a real friend, and we had a picture of what it would be like for him
to come back to the county," she said, referring to Columbia County. "We got
to know him so well, we knew the gifts he had the intelligence, the
warmth, the humor and generosity."