Vote for change!

December 1, 2008

Wait, I know, you all already did that a month ago. Well, it’s small-scale follow-up time!

Please take a moment to read my “idea” and vote on it, if you so desire.

Relief for families of immigrants

You will have to register at change.org, but it seriously takes one minute.

While you are at it, vote for the DREAM Act as well.

Thank you for your consideration. 🙂

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getting tough

November 8, 2008

I hadn’t seen any of these articles before, but I just read the fifth of this series of reports in the New York Times. The theme is “efforts by the government and others to compel illegal immigrants to leave the U.S.”

The last article is actually about hospitals “repatriating” legal immigrants who need ongoing medical care for critical injuries or conditions. Meaning, if you are here legally, but uninsured, and get sick in a way that is too expensive, the hospital will eventually send you back to your home country. What humanitarians we’ve become.

Repatriating the sick: Immigrants facing deportation by U.S. hospitals

States take new tack on illegal immigration

Immigrant v. Immigrant: A Somali influx unsettles Latino immigrants

Businesses push back: Employers fight tough measures on immigration

The hospital’s burden: Deported in Coma, Saved back in the U.S.


missing: humanity

November 1, 2008

Last week while I was at the jail with some immigration attorneys and other law students, one of the other student’s former students (she used to teach high school) was detained by ICE and taken to the very same facility where we had been doing intakes. Around the time we left the facility tired and drained from asking the same questions and hearing one depressing, usually senseless detention story after another, this woman’s favorite former student was on her way to the end of life as she’s known it for five years.

Apparently this young girl had been caught entering through Mexico some years back with several other family members. Since she’s from Honduras, she couldn’t be quickly returned (as is normal for Mexican illegal entrants), so they were all given court dates and released into the U.S. Rather than going to court, they traveled north to reunite with the family already here. The girl adapted to life in the U.S., learning English and graduating from high school with plans to go to technical college. She had a baby not long ago.

So while we happened to be at the jail, ICE came to their house looking for her brother and when she said he wasn’t around, they asked her name. When they looked it up they found she also had a deportation order and detained her. She asked to go in the house and see her baby, and to get a sweatshirt, and they said “No” to both requests. Her brother came home while this was happening, so in the end, their mother, who has temporary protected status in the U.S., lost her two children and has to care for her granddaughter until the daughter is back in Honduras after the inevitable deportation.

It’s ironic, because during our time at the jail, we started talking to two of the ICE agents who are in charge of the detainees. At one point the more offensive of the two defended their tactics, saying things like, “Well, we don’t detain just anyone.” He made it sound like they go after criminals and also pick up just a few unlawfully present workers along the way. He said something about how they have to pick up those who’ve had like “15 voluntary removals at the Mexican border.” It was a really sarcastic comment. The funny thing is that I met at least five detained guys who had no criminal records whatsoever. They had all been picked up during a traffic stop. The detained brother and sister had never been arrested. They were like any regular students. Except they are treated like criminals. Why wouldn’t they let this young mother, who hadn’t even made the decision to come to the U.S. in the first place, say goodbye to her baby? Or get a sweatshirt? It’s ridiculous and inhumane.


dilemmas

October 28, 2008

I need the advice of strangers. Please give me your advice, as a law or non-law person. Please don’t hesitate. I know dozens of people look at this page each day. At least a third of you should have enough time to make a comment. Don’t let me down. ::end of begging::

So it’s that time to think about Summer 2009. That may sound ridiculous to the non-law reader, but around my school, November 1st marks the official opening of career services (ie. staff whose job it is to help us find jobs) communication with first-year students. The point is, I need to start figuring out what I should do next summer.

Here are some facts to consider:

1) As most of you know, I am quite certain I will pursue immigration law upon graduation.
2) I am not quite as certain but still basically planning to open my own immigration law practice upon graduation.
3) I already know at least one area I will certainly practice (within immigration law). But I want to focus on some other areas as well, but I’m not sure what those will be yet.
4) I’m currently going to school in college town, about an hour and a half from hometown, where my husband F lives.
5) I am not really, under any circumstances, interested in doing court work, ever. Writing – maybe, but I have about no desire to ever argue in court. I’m not saying I won’t do that ever, but it’s not appealing to me in any way.

Options possibly on the table:

  • Los Angeles. Pros: going to work for a solo immigration professor who I know and respect; learning firsthand from a woman who runs her own law practice (with staff); opportunities to work in the practice area I want to eventually do and two others I am interested in; it could be fun to be in L.A. for the summer. Cons: L.A. is very far from where I live; not seeing my husband most of the summer; probably not making much more money than I would need to live on.
  • Law School clinical program. Pros: Interesting array of work which would expand my horizons; seven free credits toward my law degree for the summer work, plus another eight credits in the 2009-10 school year by continuing to work on the cases started during the summer (ie. less class, more practical law experience next year); spending the summer just an hour away from F, meaning I can keep doing the M-F at school, home on the weekends deal; this could possibly help me graduate early, which I am definitely considering to save money. Cons: My school does not have an immigration professor, so even if there were immigration law issues to come up in the community I would be working, I don’t think I could really “take” any of those cases as a student since there would not be a supervising attorney to help; having to commit (I think) to spending next school year doing classes and the clinical – this isn’t necessarily bad, but it will take time away from any immigration work, and also mean I can’t pursue a project/research/teaching assistantship, which is one of my plans to avoid paying tuition the next two years; they only take six students for the clinicals I am interested in, so I don’t have any idea what my chances are.
  • Hometown: Pros: Possibly working at an immigration firm at home; saving money by not paying rent elsewhere all summer; spending the whole summer like a normal married couple; Cons: I have one friend who can refer me a specific firm, but I have no idea what kind of work I would be doing; probably not doing any work in the practice areas I am specifically interested in within immigration; wearing suits all summer.
  • Other: Could be: Interning at some national immigrant rights’ organization or other organizations that do immigration law; working at some other sort of law firm in my hometown; bartending; anything else you suggest. (Kidding about bartending, I hope).

So help! I need advise, insight from people who know or don’t know me, who know or don’t know about the law.


when the world looks increasingly gray

October 25, 2008

Thursday I went with a small group of law students and attorneys from an immigrant justice organization to one of my state’s two detention centers for detained immigrants. Since there are no Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities up here, ICE basically rents space in county jails to detain immigrants on their way to court or eventual deportation. Our goal was to do intakes, basically interviews, of the 175 newly detained immigrants in the jail to see if any of them had a case that would merit pro bono legal services.

I spoke with six Chinese restaurant workers, all of whom had been in the U.S. since the early 1990s, none of whom had ever been arrested for any sort of crime. All had been picked up recently for driving – either with a taillight out or speeding – and detained after the local police determined they were possibly in the country illegally. Only one of them spoke a little English. It was one of the sadder half hours I can remember.

Several months ago I read a book by Jennifer 8 Lee (yes, middle name is really 8) called “Fortune Cookie Chronicle,” where she did some investigation on the underground world that staffs the hundreds of thousands of Chinese restaurants that serve bland, not-very-Chinese food in strip malls and small towns across the U.S. From reading this book and other stories about illegal Chinese immigration to the U.S., I can assume at least some of these men paid tens of thousands of dollars to enter the U.S. illegally. They have probably worked 70 hours per week, occasionally asked to travel from state to state or city to city to work for a different restaurant, for the last fifteen years. Only one was under 30, the rest were between 50 and 60 years old. Their faces were so sad and hopeless.

I wanted to so bad to sit there and try to ask them questions, resurrect some of my old Mandarin (although none of them spoke Mandarin as their first language, that much I could tell). I wanted to confirm my theories about how they had arrived here, what states they have lived in, find out if they had wives and children in the U.S. Only one of them had a relative legally in the U.S., a daughter, who lived in North Carolina. That one has a possible but very unlikely claim to immigration relief, the rest are likely to be deported.

I talked to a Cuban with a criminal record who never filed for his residency (all Cubans entrants have a right to file for permanent residency within a certain time frame of their legal or illegal entry) and is now in constant limbo. He served a prison sentence for a deportable crime, but since we have no formal relations with Cuba, he cannot be deported. He was released under an order of supervision but missed some meetings and is now back in detention. I didn’t understand what happens with deportable Cubans, but one of the lawyers explained he would eventually be released under supervision again. If he violated, he would go back in detention, and on and on. He is a person with no place, home, no foreseeable end to living in linbo. He has no chance to become legal in the U.S., and cannot return to his home country.

And of course I talked to more than a dozen Mexicans. About half had been moved to immigration detention after being in jail for something. Most were minor things, like public intoxication. One had been stopped and searched by a police officer while biking to work. The officer found heroin. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not very sympathetic to people here illegally who either use or sell illegal drugs, but I had to wonder why a police officer would stop and search someone riding their bike anyway. My guess is racial profiling and the fact that the guy “looked” illegal.

The other half of the Mexicans I talked to were either taken by ICE from their homes or detained after a city police officer stopped them for a light out on their car, for speeding, or for driving without a license. Like the Chinese, they had no criminal record. They mostly wanted to know when they would get deported. They just wanted to get out of the detention center and get back to Mexico.

Apparently, this is one of the “nice” jails. It was pretty clean and bright, but I don’t think jail is ever nice. Most of the immigrants were depressed and desperate. One guy’s U.S. citizen wife was suffering from leukeumia but he was scared to fight his deportation so he had already signed his removal. Another guy didn’t remember his wife’s cell phone number and was not allowed to access his own phone even to get the numbers to call his family. He had been detained for three weeks and figured his wife and kids didn’t even know what had happened to him. He had just vanished one day…


hope dashed

October 5, 2008

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 cannot help but like. Theirs is the sort of story average Americans wouldn’t bat an eye at. Carlos was a model immigrant – a devoted student, fluent in English, successful in all the standards of American culture. Yet the demands of our immigration laws keep him out and exile his city-school-teacher wife. It is a tragedy. The couple has a few very remote leads, but it appears they have on some level resigned to move on. I certainly don’t blame them. Immigrate2us is so full of support and hope for them, but there’s almost never a way around a false claim to U.S. citizenship. The hope for their situation turned out to be some sort of rumor or misunderstanding.


reasons I'm in law school

September 30, 2008

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.