New York, NY —
Supporters of an influential New Jersey Muslim leader are cheering a ruling from a federal judge that allows the imam to stay in the US. Mohammad Qatanani, who heads the Islamic Center of Passaic County, not only won his fight against deportation, but was also granted permanent resident status, along with his wife and children. Star Ledger reporter, Brian Donahue was in the Newark courtroom. He says the decision came as a welcome surprise to Qatanani's friends and family.
DONAHUE: I think there was a sense that even if they won, people in the community thought that if they got a stay of deportation, that they would have to continue to fight this case. But to have just come out and gotten everything he wanted and a green card and now he's here permanently and can be a US citizen in 5 years, I think that was a surprise. It was almost kinda like, ok well we won but what's the catch, what are gonna have to do next and there was nothing. There was just, there was an appeal, the government can appeal, they have 30 days to decide but there was a sense of, 'Oh my gosh!' They really won, they won big time.
Immigration authorities claimed that, on his green card application, Qatanani failed to disclose a prior arrest and conviction in Israel for being a member of Hamas - a group the U.S. classifies as a terrorist organization. Qatanani denies being a Hamas member and says he was detained, not arrested, while traveling to his native West Bank in 1993.