Ahmed Fahmy sat in the back of Linnaea's in downtown SLO, idly stirring his tea and smiling easily, just one day since his request for a green card was accepted.
- PHOTO BY KYLIE MENDONCA
- SEEING GREEN : Ahmed Fahmy, after years of attempts, received his green card status on Aug. 30.
# Fahmy's serene disposition is markedly different from just a week ago when he sat, framed by the open window at the front of the cafe with hands tensed in mock prayer, and hoped for an uneventful conclusion to his seven-year immigration problems.
Indeed, the SLO yoga instructor's path through the U.S. system chronicled along the way by New Times serves as a sort of Zeitgeist of the nation's post-9/11 approach to immigration. At different points, that path found him caught in the court system, saw him placed behind razor wire in a federal detention facility, and witnessed him at one point holding off Morro Bay police by threatening to slash his own throat. Throughout it all, observers saw a man worried about the impact the process was having on his own children.
Fahmy, an Egyptian ex-pat, has been in the states for more than 14 years and was married to an American woman with whom he has two children. He believes that landing a green card was ultimately a matter of luck, patience, and compassion, for which he's thankful.
"I'm looking forward to being free and getting some normalcy back in my life," Fahmy said. "I just thank all my friends and family in the community for their support. They never let me down."
Fahmy's quest for residency began in 1995, after the birth of his first child, when he applied for a green card. When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, he said, he was still waiting with no word from immigration and unable to renew his work visa. News came in 2003 when Fahmy and thousands of other Middle Eastern- and North African-born immigrants were requested for fingerprinting and interrogation at the immigration offices in L.A.
Fahmy was questioned and held until DHS agents were satisfied that he was neither a polygamist nor a terrorist.
He was released, but for the next four years, Fahmy and his family lived on uncertain terms, encountering agents, Department of Homeland Security actions, and legal proceedings along the way. One incident brought immigration officials to his separated wife's door. Another involved a tense standoff with federal agents, the Morro Bay Police Department, and a disputed warrant.
"It left my kids in a long-term state of fear," Fahmy recalled. "It wrecked us emotionally and financially."
In May of last year, Fahmy re-applied for an adjustment of status: a green card. Just two months later, he was detained for an expired visa and held in a detention center for 31 days, with no knowledge of his case status. But there was a silver lining.
"This time around, I really ran into some great people in government. They really took a look at my case and saw that I had nothing against me," Fahmy said. "It's really restored my faith."
Fahmy's case was finally reviewed for eligibility of a green card and everything fell into place on Aug. 30.
"Our case was based on the fact that if I was removed, it would cause too much hardship on my children," Fahmy said. "My kids were positive and strong throughout the whole thing, but when the judge finally granted it, they were so relieved. I slept really well last night for the first time in years."
Contributor Kylie Mendonca can be reached at email@example.com.