reasons I'm in law school

I’m interrupting the regular programming to bring your attention to the sort of stuff I really care about, to raise awareness of some of the injustice of immigration laws, and to request your thoughts and/or prayers for a wonderful couple whose lives will be decided on by the Department of State this Friday. I wrote this nine months ago on my other blog:

I hear a lot of family immigration stories. Between my near-obsessive activity on immigrate2us.net and the fact that random friends, family and acquaintances tend to share the immigration stories of their friends, family and acquaintances with me – well, it’s a lot of stories.

Yesterday, for example, one of the sales representatives I talk to in New York initiated a three-way call to her friend and I (at work) so that I could chat with the friend whose Swedish husband is stuck in some sort of visa purgatory in Europe. That was a first! The fact that I have not tired of these stories, and truly enjoy directing people in any small way I can, helps me realize this is a subject that is with me for the long haul.

It’s rare though, to hear a story quite as compelling, interesting and terrible as the one I am about to share with you all:

In 1997, Carlos G. was a 15-year-old high-school student in large, modern Monterrey, Mexico. He studied electronics at a competitive school with aspirations toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering and time abroad in Japan. Then his parents split, and his mom decided, against Carlos’ will, that they were going to live in the U.S.

So they went, and along the way, his mom forced him to go through a border checkpoint using the birth certificate of his U.S. citizen cousin. Carlos was caught and “thrown back” at the border, only to have his mom arrange for another family member to assist him in crossing with his brother’s valid border crossing card a while later. He remained in the U.S. until 2007.

During the following years, Carlos started an ESL program at a U.S. high school, quickly learning English, and later Italian, Catalan and French. He again became a top student and went to college. He met and fell in love with Amy, a fellow Chicagoan and U.S. citizen, and the two married earlier this year. Tired of living as an “illegal” immigrant, they sold everything they had and left the U.S., originally planning to live in Spain, but later deciding to return to Monterrey to settle temporarily. At some point, they started researching their immigration options, and quickly realized they were stuck, very stuck.

Very few people know this, but on the short list of things you can never overcome in U.S. immigration, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship among the worst offenses. When the couple showed up on immigrate2us.net, however, a number of us wondered whether the fact that he was a minor and not the one responsible for the decision, might give them a chance at a waiver for the misrepresentation and unlawful presence.

According to attorney Laurel Scott, who specializes in family immigration matters and particularly inadmissibilities and waivers, “For the moment, minors – regardless of how old they were at the time, sometimes we’re talking about babies – are held responsible for misrepresentation committed on their behalf by another. Many attorneys have postulated that misrepresentation requires “intent” and that children under a certain age cannot form that intent. As strong as this argument is, we’re still losing on this argument at the consulate. Remember, consular decisions are non-appealable, so even if you think the consular officer is wrong, generally speaking, you lose.”

It’s difficult to believe, but apparently true, that if a foreign-born infant is admitted to the country with a U.S. citizen passport or birth certificate, they might live their whole childhood in the U.S. believing themself to be a citizen, only to find out that not only are they not a citizen, and that they never, ever will be.

As Amy G. stated on immigrate2us.net recently, “What angers me is that he had no choice – when your parents force you to move illegally and you’re a teen, what are you supposed to do? Disobey your parents, run away and try to live alone in Mexico? It’s not like he wanted the future that faced him in the US, but he knew he had no shot on his own in Mexico.”

Since I wrote this, Carlos and Amy have found some hope. Amy filed a spousal visa petition for Carlos, and they have followed the processing through. In fact this Friday, October 3, is their day of reckoning – Carlos’ visa interview in Ciudad Juarez. After doing more research, Laurel Scott and perhaps other attorneys have weighed in on the situation, suggesting that there is some possibility the consulate will find that Carlos was a minor child when he represented himself as a U.S. citizen, and cannot be held accountable for the “crime.”

What they need is a reasonable consular officer to determine Carlos is eligible for the I-601 waiver of inadmissibility for his subsequent unlawful presence in the U.S. If he is found eligible for the waiver, the rest is near gravy. They shouldn’t have trouble proving the extreme hardship necessary to grant the waiver, which will lead to his permanent residence in the U.S. Amy has done a ton of legal research to go along with their case. She wrote a memo to the consulate that I think would make a lawyer proud, detailing how Carlos’ mother forced him to misrepresent himself and addressing the other legal issues in the case.

Amy has been teaching in Chicago for the past few months while preparing for Carlos’ interview. Carlos has continued to teach English back in Monterrey. The couple is expecting their first child in a few months. Friday will basically determine their future. Will they be allowed a chance to overcome Carlos’ past, or denied outright, with no chance to ever return to the U.S. as a family? If they are denied, this couple will fight, but it’s extremely difficult to fight consular decisions.

I’ll be more nervous for my friends Friday than I could ever be about law school. Law school is important, yeah. But the lives of U.S. citizens forced to fight against their exile from the U.S. – that is important.

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4 Responses to reasons I'm in law school

  1. Amy G says:

    I’m always been touched by how much you’ve cared about our situation. We’re feeling very disappointed about how things went for us yesterday, but it’s the encouragement and support of compassionate people like you that give us the strength to keep fighting for what we believe to be just. Thank you, truly!

  2. […] immigration Tags: lifetime immigration bar Things did not go well in Mexico for the friends I wrote about last week. It’s not surprising, but I feel pretty depressed about it. They are the sort of people you […]

  3. delicioustorts says:

    Amy – I am moved by your story more than most. I completely understand that the two of you need to sort of resign yourselves to finding a third-country option right now. (Vancouver? Seriously, it reminded me of Chicago, has wonderful weather and is a short drive from Washington state).

    Anyway, I hope that after things settle down you will re-start your fight, even if it’s just to set a groundwork for future law changes. I mean writing your elected representatives and trying to advocate for a fairer policy. From what Mr. B said to you, a ten-year old who presents a BC at the border will also get a lifetime bar with no waiver. That is exceptionally harsh.

    Best of luck with the baby and your move. I’m amazed at how you are handling all this.

  4. Amy G says:

    Don’t worry, it’s far from over. We’re just tired right now, and it’s a tough time politically to try to get attention from our legislators, but then again, I’m very fortunate that my Senators are Dick Durbin (of DREAM act fame) and Barack Obama. We’ll get back on it soon because it is absolutely unbelievable that this law continues to punish kids who were so young! Mr. B. actually said it to me: 11, 12 yrs old? Still wouldn’t matter. Not sure why he mentioned those ages specifically, but the point is, it’s unjust and Carlos and I are both determined that this can’t go on.

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