I read an article in the Bender’s Immigration Bulletin (Vol. 13 p. 513, May 1, 2008) that moved me so much that I want to summarize it in this Blog.
The following is a portion of a letter from a child to his deported father:
Dear Dad, I miss you and I hope to see you soon. Today was my award ceremony and I wish you could have been there. I received 5 awards and a special prize of $35.00 on a gift certificate for a perfect score on my science test which you helped me with. I am also letting mom take the awards with her for you to see them. I was very happy that mom was at the ceremony but upset you couldn’t come. Anyway, I miss you very much and hope to see you soon because I have a lot planned for the summer and something special for your birthday. I miss our walks and little talks that we used to have and I am looking forward to doing more of that.
This child’s father was born in Guyana and came to the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident in 1993 at the age of 32. He married a U.S. citizen and had a U.S. born son. After working initially a number of minimum wage jobs, he attended a technical school in New York and became a skilled heating and air conditioning technician. He was a religious man and a talented musician who regularly performed at Hindu services. He also paid taxes.
However, his American Dreams came to an abrupt end in 2002 after taking a brief trip to Guyana to visit his ailing mother. Upon his return, he was detained by the immigration authorities because of a five-year-old conviction for possession of $5.00 worth of cocaine for which he had been fined $250.00. The immigration judge that ordered the deportation expressed regret that he had to do so, as he was constrained by the current immigration law, which gave him no discretion. According to our laws, his productive life in the U.S. did not matter, his U.S. citizen wife did not matter, his U.S. citizen son did not matter, his work history, his religious activities, and the numerous letters of support did not matter. He was deported in April 2004 after spending two years in immigration detention, for an offense that he had committed many years earlier and for which a U.S. citizen may not even spend one day in jail.
Those are the consequences of our unforgiving immigration laws, compounded by the Draconian requirement of mandatory detentions causing pain to family members for a criminal offense to which our criminal justice system might not even impose a single day of jail. This person’s child is not alone. According to a recent study, there are millions of U.S. children who are at risk of losing their parents because of either distant criminal activity that comes to light at some point to the immigration service, or their parents lack of proper immigration papers.
In the above case, the person affected was a Lawful Permanent Resident (a Green Card holder). His wife and children will now have to face the choice of uprooting themselves from the United States and joining their dad in a country where they have never been, a language they never speak, and culture they never knew, or to be separated for decades to come. All of this for an offense whose criminal law consequence was a penalty of $250.00.
In our today’s society, there is little debate about what is happening to a family such as this one. There is a lot of bragging about our family values and moral values, there is a lot of rhetoric about national security and rule of law, but very little talk about the destruction that is befalling millions of American citizens because of an immigration law where family values apparently hardly mean anything.