Chasing Dreams By Immigration Means

Immigrants, too, are involved in public service — even if it isn’t always the majority

Intashan Chowdhury is a first generation Bengali immigrant serving as the borough administrator of Prospect Park, New Jersey. But what makes Intashan’s story even more special? He is just 22-years-old — in effect making him the youngest public administrator in the history of the state. Intashan’s journey is one of hard work, dedication, and of tremendous inspiration to all; it shows how no barrier can’t be overcome.     

A New Generation and a New Story

When you think of public servants, everyone has a different vision of what their ideal candidate may look like. Chances are, when taking historical context into account, Intashan Chowdhury — a 22-year-old, first generation Bangladeshian American — doesn’t fit those preconceived notions. Chowdhury acts as the borough administrator of Prospect Park, New Jersey, after being appointed by his mentor Mohamed T. Khairulla, who is currently serving as the town’s mayor. At such an age, in fact, Chowdhury is the youngest person to ever hold the position, which is as prestigious an honor one would think possible. After all, government and politics is often viewed as a grown person’s game, so breaking the mold in this way — as well as with his ethnic background — is an accomplishment.

But when you step into his office, this historic feat isn’t made obvious. There are dozens of papers and boxes around the room — sometimes not-so-neatly organized. Chowdhury works diligently, but also with a sense of urgency; he is totally focused and unconcerned with his accomplishment when it’s brought up to him. He is proud of it, to be sure, but brushes it off like you were simply complimenting the color pattern of a tie, or acknowledging the nice wallpaper displayed on a computer. On the side of the room, hiding next to a cabinet drawer, is a plaque featuring a story from The North Jersey Record that had been done on him. Yet not only is it not hung up on the wall in his office, but it isn’t even unwrapped.

“I don’t know, I guess I just forgot about it; didn’t really dawn upon me to hang it up. Maybe I should.” says Chowdhury.

Instead, Chowdhury invests himself in his work. He works to make the lives of those living in Prospect Park as fruitful as can be, and it isn’t easy. Like his background, the borough has its own fair share of an immigrant population. With the current political climate, immigrant and immigration topics are some that are at the forefront of people’s minds, and that is something public servants like Intashan are aware of. But after all, he is just one cog in a machine full of individuals tasked with taking these issues head on — most notably being Mayor Khairulla.

“I talk about immigration all the time because it’s my job that I be aware, but that guy  (Mayor Khairullah) knows everything that has to do with it. He’s a true expert, and he’s able to understand how things work especially because of his experiences,” says Chowdhury.

Just one week after President Trump’s Executive Order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Mayor Khairullah — himself Syrian-born — responded quickly to the threat by joining the ranks of sanctuary cities. On February 3, 2017 the Mayor signed his own executive order declaring Prospect Park a sanctuary city for immigrants. By that order and due to the genius of our founding fathers’ principles of federalism and dual sovereignty, the Mayor prohibited the use of local resources to enforce federal immigration policy. It took until November 2018 for the New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to issue the “Directive Strengthening Trust Between Law Enforcement and Immigrant Communities” (Directive No. 2018-6) circumscribing state, county and local enforcement activities.

“Being the youngest anything, being the first anything, being the longest anything, it doesn’t mean anything,” says Chowdhury, “It really doesn’t par up to anything if you don’t deliver.”

Mayor Khairullah’s actions speak volumes, and he stresses the importance of these issues pertaining to all Americans; they are complicated and multifaceted ones. For immigrants, it isn’t always easy, but Mayor Khairullah says he believes Intashan has what it takes to face the trials at hand.

“Intashan is dedicated, hard-working, and incredibly motivated. Having someone like him around is of tremendous benefit,” says Khairullah, “I think he can go very far.”

Although, rather humorously, he does add that sometimes Intashan’s choices for sports teams can be questionable, and particularly his affinity for the New England Patriots, since any Boston-based team is the antithesis to the rooting interest for sports fans living in the Metropolitan area. “Yeah, he can get into some trouble with sometimes,” says Khairullah.

People like Intashan Chowdhury are a rare breed, not necessarily in the sense of local government like Prospect Park, but the nation as a whole. The current makeup of the nation’s various state legislatures — while improving — is still bereft of many foreign-born people, which often results in situations that do not reflect the population.

Add to that his remarkably young age, and you can see the unique situation at hand, perhaps one that is foreboding of what the future of government may hold. With all of this, he remains excited about his career, but ever so modest and unbothered by his extraordinary circumstance.

“Being the youngest anything, being the first anything, being the longest anything, it doesn’t mean anything,” says Chowdhury, “It really doesn’t par up to anything if you don’t deliver.”

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