Saturday, May 15, 2010

One Immigrant's Story

In light of recent events in Arizona to strengthen Federal law regarding illegal immigration and the subsequent brouhaha over that law, I asked a friend about her own immigration story. She immigrated from the Pacific Islands some years ago. I wondered what the process was like when she became a citizen, and what her take is on those who come here illegally. She has graciously allowed me to reprint in full her response to my questions. Out of respect for her privacy, her name shall remain anonymous. And now, her response to my many questions.

Just to set the scenario, she came to the country initially to attend her sister's wedding on the West Coast, and to see the country.

So here is my story:

At my sister's wedding, I met her employer, who offered me my sister's job at his company. Not wanting to violate the terms of my visitor's visa, I filed all the necessary documents for a conversion of my visa from tourist to a 3rd preference status with existing employment, before I began working. Four years later, I received a notice from the immigration office that my petition had been denied and I had 15 days to leave the country voluntarily or face deportation proceedings.

I talked to an Indonesian co-worker how he went about his visa application; apprised him of my situation and he gave me the name of his immigration lawyer. The lawyer filed a petition for reconsideration immediately. After about two months, we received a notice that the petition for reconsideration was again denied. A second motion for reconsideration got the same response plus a date to appear in immigration court. I asked the lawyer my recourse in case I lose again in immigration court and he assured me we could go all the way to the Supreme court. Which at that time, I was determined to do. He suggested that perhaps it would be easier for me to just get married (several of my men friends did offer) but somehow, it just did not sit well with me to do that. By the way, the reason they gave me for denying my petition was that I "entered obtained the visa fraudulently; that I had intended to stay all along, etc, etc.

I went to immigration court with my lawyer. I could see from the back of the room my attorney talking to the immigration lawyers and then my lawyer walked over to me and said: "They say that if you were to plead guilty to the charge that you are here illegally, they will give you a green card." I was of course surprised but skeptical. So I asked my lawyer: "How do I know that they are really going to do that; that I am not going to be cuffed right after I plead?" My lawyer assured me that it was an honest-to-goodness offer and he would make sure of it. Imagine my surprise when after I faced the judge; the charge read to me and I was asked, "how do you plead?" The immigration lawyers rattled some legalese and thirty minutes later I was handed my green card!

You can just imagine the emotional distress I had to go through. from the time I filed my first application in 1968 to the time I got my green card in 1977, nine years had elapsed. In 1976, a brother whom I loved dearly died and I couldn't even go home for his funeral. It turns out, according to my lawyer, he convinced them that I was prepared to file a suit in civil court. They knew they would lose because there is no way you could prove intent on my part and that would have set a precedent. The immigration service is usually able to scare people into leaving with the notice: "you have 15 days to leave voluntarily or face deportation proceedings." My lawyer informed me that due process required them to file a suit in immigration court.

So, today, with all the debate about immigration, you can guess how I feel about people who refuse to get in line and go through the process. I learned a lot about due process and working within the system and the many ways the system can be circumvented, in talking to others who had the same problems. For the most part, the American process is based on the honor system. So people who do not subscribe to any personal honor code can circumvent, not only the immigration process but the entitlement programs. I chose to be an American and I resent the idea of the country's finances being drained by illegals.

She's not the only one by a long shot. The Pew Research Center has found a broad support for the Arizona law:
Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.

After being asked about the law’s provisions, 59% say that, considering everything, they approve of Arizona’s new illegal immigration law while 32% disapprove.

While young people are generally split on the law, most approve of showing documentation:
[snip] However, even most young people approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status; 61% approve of this element of the law while 35% disapprove. Larger percentages of older age groups support this provision.

In the "More Bad News For Obama" Department, there is this:
As has been the case since last fall, the public is highly critical of Barack Obama’s handling of immigration policy. Just 25% approve of the way Obama is handling the issue, while more than twice as many (54%) disapprove. That is little changed from last month (29% approve) and down slightly from last November (31%).

In the current survey, 76% of Republicans disapprove of Obama’s handling of immigration policy, while just 8% approve. Independents disapprove of Obama’s job on the issue by more than two-to-one (57% to 25%). Even among Democrats, as many disapprove (38%) as approve (37%) of the way he is handling the issue, while a quarter (25%) offer no opinion.

Great thanks to my friend for allowing me to tell her story. It is most relevant to the current climate around Illegal Immigration, and Immigration in general. As more states look to add this type of legislation, as cities and even schools* enact boycotts of Arizona, in essence thumbing their noses at Federal Law, this issue is far from resolved.

Kinda makes you wonder what's going to happen in November, doesn't it?

*IMHO, it was reprehensible for the school superintendent to make this decision. It was purely political to keep a Chicago team from playing at a tournament in Arizona, one for which they had worked HARD, and had absolutely no input into this horrible decision. The claim that it might be threatening to members of the team is ridiculous - none of them are illegal aliens. They let their students go to China, but not Arizona?? For them to have this taken from them for pure politics is reprehensible.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why this is even a matter of debate. It is against the law to enter this country without documentation. What part of "illegal" do these people not understand? Sheesh.


SFIndie said...

I don't get it either, Rev. What is so hard to understand about "illegal". All the nonsense about how no hotels would have workers and no restaurants would have dishwashers if not for the "illegals" is crap. Every organization, regardless of size, that employs illegals should be fined enough of an amount that it hurts them where it their bank account. There are enough legal immigrants and citizens looking for jobs who would willingly wash dishes and make beds.

It's an insult to every immigrant who entered this country legally and went through the process. If you disagree with the process, lets make reforms to it. But to approve of illegal behavior is ridiculous.

I think I may try to go to Arizona for a weekend and support their tourist industry!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

You are exactly right, SF. And get this - with all the blowhards in LA, SF, and the Governator, CA has an almost IDENTICAL law on the books! So, what does that say abt the mayor of SF, or the city of LA, not to mention the GOVERNOR? Are they willing to forgo all state (and federal) monies because they think illegals should be able to come in at will? Sounds like it to me. And really - when CA pays almost $11 Billion because of illegal immigrants, and is talking abt cutting Welfare from American citizens, that says something.

I have to admit, the thought crossed my mind abt Arizona, too. Their law is not fascism, or engendering a "police state," or any of that.

I agree - these places who knowingly hire illegal immigrants to make/save money should be fined. And it is crap to claim no one else will take them.

Great comment!