At a recent green card interview, the officer asked my client, “Why did you return home in 1985 and 1988?”
“To give birth to my two children,” she responded.
“I couldn’t afford the health care here.”
The officer gave me a confused, dazed look.
I couldn’t bite my lip.
“Sort of kills the anchor baby rhetorical nonsense, doesn’t it?”
When it comes to immigration, quite often, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
For instance, over ten years ago, in my capacity as a citizenship and naturalization lawyer, I wrote a series of articles that explained why Congress should pass legislation approving waivers for immigrant veterans who committed certain offenses, related to mental illnesses caused by their military service, making them subject to automatic deportation.
I was shocked to learn about the number of immigrant veterans, facing removal, who were incarcerated at the El Centro, California Dentention Facility, alongside individuals whom I represented. Thus, I endeavored to tell their story, the story of expedited citizenship which never materialized for them.
Obama was president then. Trump is president now.
The issue persists.
Prior to my youngest son’s birth, my wife and I flew cross-country to attend my law school class reunion. She was in her first trimester of pregnancy.
I hardly considered the possibility of delivery on board the flight. However, premature births do happen. Sometimes they occur on plane rides between countries.
In such situations, determining the citizenship of the child can pose one of the most daunting questions of immigration law.
My father became a naturalized citizen in 1951. From start to finish, the paperwork took less than six months for the government to process.
His journey to the United States, the prelude to naturalization, was fraught with danger and discrimination, neither of which deterred him from his mission to provide a modest level of financial support for his mother and siblings living abroad in poverty.
When he was sworn in, he had no idea that one day he would vote in the presidential elections for John F. Kennedy.
What’s the number one cause of the breakup of immigrant families when the immigrant parent is a permanent resident?
Aggravated felonies ?
Failure to naturalize?
When I’ve posed this question at public forums, critics attempt to undermine its importance by suggesting it asks the immigration equivalence of whether the chicken or the egg came first.
Actually, it’s doesn’t.
Rather, their knee jerk response reflects a reckless indifference towards the failure of lawful permanent residents to take actions to ensure family unity.
Although it doesn’t happen often, the detention of U.S. citizens who are unable to prove their United States citizenship takes place more than the public suspects.
The recent news story of Lorenzo Palma reminded me about this sad reality.
A few months ago, two twin brothers in the mid-60s came to my Riverside immigration law office to discuss a letter they had received in the mail a few days before.
They had been scheduled for an appointment at the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office to provide proof that they were really born on American soil.
They had been U.S. citizens since their birth over six decades ago. They had no arrests or convictions. They had faithfully paid their taxes each year and owned homes. They were married with adult children.
They now faced possible deportation.
They were born in a Texas border town with the assistance of a midwife.
For months, the signs were clear.
A revival of an anchor baby attack was on the way.
Most colleagues scoffed at my warnings. They claimed the battle against xenophobic terminology had been won. The era of using mean-spirited terms, like anchor babies, for political purposes had passed.
I was a town crier, a few said, over-reacting to isolated news events.
Sure, just like the building of new detention cells is unrelated to future arrests and deportations.
Alarmist or not, here’s what I saw.
There are no winners in wars.
It’s just a matter of degree.
Both sides lose. One side loses less.
I was warned.
About the darkness.
My client’s first master calendar was scheduled for early November. As I walked from my hotel room to the immigration court, it was not only cold, but also pitch black.
It seemed like 9:00 p.m.
It was only 9:00 a.m.
Later that morning, as I sat in the Anchorage immigration court waiting for our case to be called, I noticed about two-thirds of the matters involved Samoans.
In each case the judge inquired about the specific area of their birth. “Samoa or America Samoa?”
Each time the question was asked, the darkness – a legal darkness – seemed to engulf the room.
I was warned.