BANGOR, Maine — A Pakistani man stuck in a Catch-22 situation with immigration officials was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to one day in jail, or time served, followed by a year of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Gene Carter, who said last month that he wants Zafar Iqbal-Khan out of the United States and back in his native country, said in handing down the sentence that further incarceration could delay the Bangor resident’s removal, which was ordered after deportation proceedings eight years ago.
Iqbal-Khan, 41, pleaded guilty in March to one count of willful failure to comply with terms of release under supervision. Carter in October continued the sentencing to Monday to determine if Iqbal-Khan could be removed from the U.S. while incarcerated. The answer was no.
The Pakistani man does not have a violent criminal history but has been convicted in Penobscot County on multiple counts of theft, negotiating a worthless instrument and making false statements. He has used several aliases, including the name Bobby Khan, according to court documents.
Iqbal-Khan entered the U.S. in July 1999 on a visitor’s visa but did not leave as required in February 2000. He was deported from the U.S. and ordered removed in September 2005 after being convicted of crimes in Penobscot County Superior Court, according to court documents.
Immigration officials tried to put him on a plane in early 2006 so he could be returned home, Todd Thurlow, assistant field officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Carter last month. Pakistani officials refused to issue Iqbal-Khan travel documents because U.S. officials produced a copy of his passport but not the original documents.
On Monday, Iqbal-Khan told the judge through his attorney David Bate of Bangor, that when he was arrested in September 2004 for being in the country illegally, ICE officials seized his original passport, birth certificate and other identifying documents. Bate told Carter that ICE apparently lost or misplaced them.
“Mr. Iqbal-Khan was detained continuously for two years and moved around the country from one facility to another,” Bate said Monday. “He was detained an additional four months in late 2007.”
Bate said that his client’s detention violated a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued before Iqbal-Khan was arrested in 2004 that said a detainee had to be released after six months of detention even if he remained in the U.S. illegally.
Carter said that he would not impose a prison sentence on Iqbal-Khan because he had “already adequately been punished while in custody” and because the defendant would have to complete any sentence before he could be removed if Pakistan were to issue travel documents.
“No purpose would be served by further incarceration and it could delay what this court views as the most important outcome of this case — Mr. Iqbal-Khan’s removal,” the judge said.
Carter called ICE’s efforts to facilitate the Pakistani man’s removal “ineffective and slothful.”
As a condition of supervised release, the judge ordered Iqbal-Khan to report monthly in writing to his probation officer about what steps he had taken personally to facilitate his removal. Carter said that he expected the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pass along his concerns to ICE.
Iqbal-Khan faced up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 on the federal misdemeanor.