INS plans no action on physicist Long-term fate remains uncertain

September 14, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Immigration officials say they have no immediate plans to deport a physicist from Bangladesh who has been struggling to stay in this country since a brutal attack in Baltimore left him brain damaged.

"We consider the issue open and this office will take no action at this time," said Benedict J. Ferro, director of the Baltimore office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "Given his medical condition and his need for rehabilitation, we would look sympathetically on allowing him to stay here temporarily."

But the long-term fate of Ali Reza, once a brilliant doctoral student in biophysics at the Johns Hopkins University, remains uncertain. The 40-year-old North Baltimore resident, who was mentally handicapped by the attack six years ago, won't be granted permanent residency in the United States unless he can show he won't be reliant on public assistance.

"If he wants to stay here permanently, that is going to be more difficult," Ferro said. "We would need some type of assurance that he would be capable of sustaining himself."

Mark Horak, a Jesuit priest and attorney in the Immigration Legal Services division of Catholic Charities, has been trying to help Reza. He said yesterday that a temporary stay does little to improve the situation.

"The INS is not really giving him anything he doesn't already have," Horak said, noting that Reza needs permission to work and possibly to be made eligible for some type of public assistance.

Some of Reza's friends and social workers are trying to rally public support for Reza, who fears that if he returned to Bangladesh, he wouldn't be able to receive the medical and vocational rehabilitation he needs to survive.

They also have made the plea to INS officials that Reza should be given special consideration since his handicap was caused by a violent attack in America.

An intruder broke into his Govans-area apartment in September 1990 and beat him into a coma with a rock, a crime that was never solved.

Neighbors reported hearing a commotion in the apartment that seemed to suggest Reza had confronted a burglar who became violent.

Reza can't remember the attack because the memory was wiped away by his brain injury.

He now lives in a one-room apartment near Johns Hopkins, which he paid for with money from his student stipend.

But his student visa expired June 30 after he made one last failed attempt to pass his courses at the Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics, where he had earned a fellowship to study molecular structures and biological problems.

Reza said he was no longer able to concentrate at the level required to understand complex mathematics.

"I tried, but I just couldn't do it," he said.

The lack of a student visa means that he "has no status in this country whatsoever," said Babette Dalsheimer, a social worker at the North Baltimore Center for the mentally ill.

She has been counseling Reza and hopes to help him find a job and a sponsor.

"Everybody feels bad that this happened to him in this country," Dalsheimer said.

Reza said he has taught himself WordPerfect and hopes to be hired for clerical work, possibly as a typist.

"I think if I had the opportunity, I could learn more things as well," he said.

The North Baltimore Center has set up a bank account for public contributions. A Baltimore County man, who read about Reza's plight, offered yesterday to provide him with free room and board at his home.

Anyone interested in providing help for Reza should call Matt Ward at the North Baltimore Center at 366-4360. (The center is not taking calls over the weekend.)

Horak said that if Reza has money and the promise of a job, he could be eligible for permanent residency.

"We can go back to them then and say, 'He's not going to be a public burden,' " Horak said.

Reza isn't the first foreigner who has found himself in a deportable situation after having been critically injured by a violent crime or accident in America.

Horak said he is also representing a Salvadoran national who became a paraplegic after an auto accident, and a Mexican who became permanently blinded by a brutal assault.

Both men face deportation because they cannot support themselves and they have no citizenship that would enable them to obtain public assistance.

Pub Date: 9/14/96

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