In recent weeks, several students and student activists have been placed in deportation proceedings, or issued orders of deportation. The case of Ola Kaso, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, represents all that is wrong with the immigration system and should be the last of its kind. The need for passage of the DREAM Act is increasingly urgent. In the meantime, prosecutorial discretion should be exercised immediately to cease deportations of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries, including Ola.
Ola Kaso is about to graduate from high school (at the top of her class!) and start college at the University of Michigan. Strike that, she is about to graduate from high school (at the top of her class!) and be deported to Albania.
President Obama has made immigration enforcement a top priority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In fact, deportations and prosecutions have been occurring at a fast pace, eclipsing the statistics for enforcement under previous presidents. According to a DHS memorandum published last year, ICE is to focus on deporting non-citizens with criminal convictions, and particularly those with convictions for violent or serious crimes. On top of that, President Obama announced in August 2010, in response to pressure from DREAM Act advocates and a request by Senator Durbin, that the deportation of students with no criminal backgrounds would be suspended. In any case, ICE can exercise prosecutorial discretion in determining which cases it pursues. In the case of young adults who did not violate any laws by coming here but who were brought here as infants and children, and who have lived nearly their entire lives here, surely it makes sense to refrain from deporting them given these priorities.
Wait a second . . . Well now I’m confused. ICE just scheduled Ola and her mom, a small business owner, for immediate deportation, on the eve of Ola’s graduation. (Thankfully, it was postponed by a Federal District Judge’s order so she can attend her ceremony.) Why is someone like Ola Kaso, an excellent student with a spotless past and a bright future, being scheduled for deportation now?
Ola entered the U.S. legally with her mother, at the age of four. (Read, she was brought here.) Their asylum case was ultimately denied in 2003, but Ola and her mother had been reporting to authorities in Detroit under ICE Order of Supervision for quite some time.
What can she do? There is no form of relief from deportation available to her. No options exist for her at present to obtain legal status. Although ICE does not have to execute her deportation now, it seems to be pursuing it any way. Her only viable option, and it’s hardly viable for most, is to seek intervention on her behalf by members of Congress. Several U.S. Senators and Representatives have recently urged President Obama to again call for a suspension of deportations of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries, which he is apparently still considering. Perhaps that will persuade ICE to refrain from acting now. After all, its priority is criminals, right?
Well in case ICE does not change its course, some parting words to Ola are in order.
To Ola’s family and friends: I am sorry to say you will have to visit Ola in Albania if you want to see her anytime soon. She will not be able to return to the U.S. for at least 10 years and has little chance of returning sooner. I’m sorry, Cousino High School, you are about to lose one of your celebrated soon-to-be alumna, a role model to younger students. U of M, you are down one brilliant incoming freshman. State of Michigan, you are out an emerging leader and future doctor.
That’s ok, though, Ola. Think about it. If you were to remain in the U.S. and graduate from U of M, likely with excellent grades, you would have to turn down all the offers of employment anyway. Just like the hundreds of thousands of other college students and graduates who have lived here nearly their entire lives. U.S. law does not allow you to obtain lawful employment while out of status and, as already noted, no options exist for you to correct your status at this time. (Too bad Congress still has not passed the DREAM Act, which would fix this oversight.)
So maybe it’s just as well. It should be no problem for you to return to Albania, where you lived for your entire . . . infancy. Well, as long as you speak Albanian fluently, I’m sure you will feel right at home there. The standard of living is probably just like ours here. Ok, so it’s nothing like living in the U.S. and generally has a very low standard of living. And if you don’t speak Albanian, oh boy – you can forget about going to college there, let alone becoming a doctor.
Tough luck, Ola. Well done on striving to reach your full potential and congratulations on achieving that goal. By all accounts, you are a remarkable young woman. The thing is, there simply is not enough room for you and your mother in the U.S. Michigan, in particular, is bursting at the seams with its population. Moreover, the U.S. just is not interested in keeping ambitious, talented students like you, or hard-working small business-owners like your mom for that matter. I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression from complying for so long with all requirements placed on you by ICE.
It’s true, we are a country of immigrants . . . just not immigrants like you. Right?
Maybe I’m wrong about this, and I hope I am. Maybe your case will outrage other Americans, like it has me. Maybe your story will be the one to make people send an email and make a phone call. Maybe because of you, President Obama call for a moratorium on deportations of youth like you, will press in earnest for reform, and Congress will finally pass the DREAM Act. This is the only reasonable course of action, and quite frankly, you deserve it.