In the summer of 2012, the Mohammed brothers made their first trip to Houston. Mohammed saw it as a fresh start. His last job in Afghanistan had been as a child soldier for the Taliban, once their rule ended. In America, after having sold drugs and broken the law on trips through Pakistan, he was trying to make a fresh start. But when he landed in Houston, Texas, he was already more than halfway back.
For a month, Mohammed and his brothers, Ahmad and Nazir, bunked in a tent in a city park called Near Northside, whose population of whites, blacks and Asians largely made it their legal home. And there they lived in what they described as an “otherworldy” environment, surrounded by fences and owned by one of the biggest private prisons in the country. They didn’t feel so different, at least to some degree, from the others there. It was just out of sight and out of mind.
Back then, the brothers stayed in a city park called Near Northside with their cousin, Ahmad, 31, a former combat medic from Afghanistan who has since worked as a firefighter and medic in the Houston area. He still does, along with his brother Mujahed, 32, a former state trooper and a U.S. citizen.