News & Politics

ICE Reportedly Detained a 40-Year-Old Massachusetts Mother for Political Reasons

She has an eight-year-old son and is now on a hunger strike.

Photo Credit: Steve Ahlquist

Siham Byah, a 40-year-old Massachusetts woman with an eight-year-old son, was placed in ICE custody November 7 after she went to a check-in at the ICE office in Burlington, Mass. She is now on a hunger strike.

Byah’s check-ins were “usually on an annual basis,” according to her lawyer, Matt Cameron. This is not Byah’s first time facing deportation. Byah, who is Moroccan, has been living in the United States since 1999. According to ICE, she was “first ordered removed in 2006 for failing to appear in immigration court.” Her lawyer says stays were allotted. In 2012, she had another removal order, but it was dismissed after an appeal. As WCVB 5 reported, Byah completed her required ICE check-ins.

Cameron said in a press release from activist group Movimento Cosecha that Tuesday’s “decision was not made by the New England Field Office, and that it had come directly from DC. We have still not been provided with any reason why they have chosen to treat Siham this way, and must assume that it is politically motivated.”

Byah resides in Nahant, Mass. While she is on a hunger strike, her son, who is a U.S. citizen, is with the Department of Families and Children.

A statement from ICE spokesperson Shawn Neudaeur says, “ICE deportation officers arrested Siham Byah… on an outstanding final order (deportation order), issued [by] an immigration judge... Ms. Byah has a criminal record that includes convictions for misdemeanor offenses.”

Cameron has disputed this claim, tweeting:

In addition to participating in Occupy Boston, Byah “has been an outspoken advocate for social justice, LGBTQ rights, and Arab Spring movements against repressive Middle Eastern regimes,” according to Movimiento Cosecha.

Cameron told WCVB 5 that Byah is a “freedom fighter. She believes in freedom and has been fighting the dictatorship in Morocco for many years.”

Activists are rallying around her case and protested at ICE’s Burlington office on November 7.

A rally, organized by Movimiento Cosecha and IfNotNow Boston, was held the evening of November 8 outside the JFK Federal Building Immigration Court in Boston. Byah’s friend Malika MacDonald spoke at the protest, saying, “Siham is not a criminal. Siham has never been convicted of a crime. Siham was complying with immigration. Yet they still ripped her 8-year-old little boy away from her.”

She read a statement from Byah’s brother and also raised concerns about the well-being of Byah’s son:


While Byah is on hunger strike, activists are calling for others to join hunger strikes in solidarity. There’s also a #FreeSiham Support Fund, and a request to call elected officials and ICE.  

If she is deported, Byah’s son could go to Morocco with her, according to ICE. Byah’s lawyer filed for an emergency hearing to stop the deportation. According to WCVB 5, Byah “is seeking political asylum.”

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.