Musings on Immigration

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Cross National Representation in the 2010 Winter Olympics

The Vancouver Games has been a showcase of cross national representation. Many athletes such as ski crosser Chris Del Bosco have had a choice in deciding which country to represent. Although Chris was born March 30, 1982 in Colorado Springs, CO, he skis for Canada. His father is a Canadian citizen which gave him dual citizenship allowing him to ski for either team.

Yuko Kavaguti, a figure skater, is Japanese but skates for Russia. She was born in Aichi, Japan on November 20, 1981 and currently resides in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since 2003, Kavaguti has lived and trained in Russia and was awarded her Russian citizenship in 2009. Unlike Chris she has no family ties to Russia. In fact she has to apply for a visa when she goes home to visit her family. She says that “People who follow sports understand that I’m not a traitor. I still consider myself Japanese. I chose to compete for Russia because I didn’t have a [good] partner in Japan.” Yuko also shared that she has always wanted to compete in the Olympics and did what she needed to fulfill her childhood dream.

Errol Kerr, who is also a ski crosser was born in New York but competes for Jamaica. He trained in California and he qualified ninth among the 33 riders who made their way down Cypress Mountain on Sunday, the culmination of two years of hard work after making the switch from Alpine racing. He is competing for Jamaica to honor his father, Errol Kerr Sr.

Cross country skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong was actually born in Scotland, but moved to Ghana when he was a year old and remained in Africa for the next two decades. “When people notice I’m skiing and I’m African, they’re always surprised,” Nkrumah-Acheampong, 35, who’s known as the Snow Leopard, told the Daily News. “People’s first impression when they see me is, ‘What is he doing here?’ But they get over it when they see me ski.”

Chris, Yuko, Errol and Kwame are examples of how the world is shrinking and how national identity is become more and more relative. No where is this best exemplified then on the Olympic stage as athletes compete for their sport’s most prestigious honor.

BIA on Application of the Modified Categorical Approach to Conviction Assessment

Another bad decision issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals, February 19, 2010 — more often in recent months the Department of Homeland Security is trying (successfully sometimes) to go behind a state court’s conviction records to sustain removability charges against an individual in immigration proceedings. Obviously the line between federal and state is becoming very blurred, and it seems as though regardless of the conviction issued by a state court, federal court judges have free will to re-define the actual meaning of a conviction!! It is difficult enough when the immigration laws treat certain misdemeanor convictions as felonies, but the added burden of having to argue against the admission of facts, evidence, police reports, etc., is ridiculous!! Why not just combine state court and immigration court proceedings, and make life that much easier for the government?! This is absurd and immigration judges should not have discretion to re-try a case which has already been decided in a state court!!

10 Americans Arrested in Haiti

In the days after the Haitian earthquake, Laura Silsby made a series of calls around the country to mobilize a trip to rescue orphaned children from the disaster. She enlisted members of her Baptist church and told them she had all the necessary paperwork. A few days later she was arrested along with nine other Americans while trying to bus 33 children into the Dominican Republic. She now claims to be a misguided good Samaritan but what the do-gooders allegedly did was not just misguided. It could be criminal, and Haitian authorities are right to hold them accountable.

It doesn’t help matters that we are learning that Ms. Silsby is in a significant amount of debt- trafficked children are a hot commodity, each one could fetch thousands and thousands of dollars in the illegal adoption market and goodness knows how much in more sordid markets. Clearly, complying with the law was not first and foremost on Ms. Silsby’s list of priorities. These children could never have been adopted by US citizens or anyone else. How would a court have verified their identity? Did Ms. Silsby stop by the public records office in Port Au Prince on her way to the Domincan Republic, rummage through the rubble and find copies of all of the birth certificates? Did she have the proper parental consents? Did a Haitian Judge release the children for adoption? No, No and No. A Dominican judge could not have issued adoption decrees for these kids. And even if one did, how would Ms. Silsby have gotten them passports to allow them to travel to the US with their adoptive parents? This is where her good samaritan story falls apart at the seams. As she knew then and we all know now- she could not and that is why she had to lie to get the kids accross the Dominican border. So we see that Ms. Silsby would never have been able to place these children for adoption as she claims- at least not legally.

The definition of “trafficking in persons” is a long one but the following clause is included in the definition “the transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of fraud, of deception, or the abuse of power of a person in a position of vulnerability”

So let’s analyze Ms. Silsby’s actions under the definition. Were the children “transported, transferred, harbored or received” by the individuals in question? Clearly, they were. Did the individuals in question use fraud, deception or abuse of power? Clearly, they did. Were the children and their parents vulnerable people? Undoubtedly so. If we look at the law and the facts- there is no doubt what happened is child trafficking. There is no sub clause that states “but it’s ok if you work for a church.”

The US hasn’t experienced anything close to the devastation caused by the Haitian earth quake in recent years. The only thing that comes to mind as being in the same ball park would be Hurricane Katrina. So let’s say the same individuals went to New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina and convinced some parents to hand their children over to attend “a camp” and then placed these children for adoption. We’d all be furious no matter how well meaning the rescuers were. We would expect criminal convictions and custodial sentences.

Even if we assume that all anyone wanted was for these Haitian children to have better lives, what allegedly took place was still wrong. Parents were asked to make a snap decision in a time of enormous stress and uncertainty. They received no counseling. They did not sign any documents. We don’t know if they even knew what they were doing- some were told that their children were going to a camp. Nobody confirmed that the people who were allowing the child to be taken were in fact the biological parents. There was a huge power differential here. How would these parents- who have no money, no resources, probably don’t have a telephone much less a computer- ever have been able to find their children or fight for their return once it dawned on them that their children were never coming back?

So what now? No harm, no foul. The children have been returned to their parents; shouldn’t we just leave it at that? I don’t think so. Somebody has to be made an example of and I think these 10 people are it. Haiti needs to take a stand and protect its children from all would be traffickers- whether the children are destined for adoptive parents in the US or the sex trade in south America. If there’s a prison still standing down there- that’s where these people need to go.

An Update–The Line? What Line? The More Tragic Truth Emerges About Legal Immigration

In October 2009, I wrote a blog talking about the disastrously long waiting lines for legal immigration to the United States. In Get In The Line? What Line? The Tragic Tale of Employment Based Immigrant Visa Delays, I stated that:

This delay in legal, employment based immigration is a crisis for America. If you are an intending immigrant, and your immigration option is employment based, do you have the patience the wait 15 years for your green card? Can you do better in Australia, Canada, or even back home in our home country? What is the cost to our future competitiveness of a broken legal immigration system? What is the cost to U.S. innovation?

The Department of State just released its annual numbers for cases received by the National Visa Center, awaiting issuance of an immigrant visa at a consulate. The report says this:

The following figures have been compiled from the NVC report submitted to the Department on November 3, 2009, and show the number of immigrant visa applicants on the waiting list in the various preferences and subcategories subject to numerical limit. All figures reflect persons registered under each respective numerical limitation, i.e., the totals represent not only principal applicants or petition beneficiaries, but their spouses and children entitled to derivative status under INA 203(d) as well.

Okay, the bottom line numbers? Bad, very bad. The total Family Numbers waiting for a priority date: 3,369,455, including 1,727,897 in the Brother and Sister (FB-4) category. At the 65,000 annual number level for that category, that is a 26.5 year wait (ignoring per country limits). The total Employment Numbers awaiting a priority date: 130,509, including 119,759 in the EB-3 category. This is at least a 3-4 year wait (again, ignoring per country limits). So, 3.5 million people waiting in line, or is it? The reality is worse. These do NOT include the those cases pending at USCIS!

If we ad in the numbers pending at USCIS (as best we know them), the situation is far more grave. Family based petitions pending at USCIS in June 2009 (no new numbers are easily available), were 1.1 million, bring the total backlog to 4,400,000 for family cases. Employment based cases pending at USCIS in June 2009 numbered 80,000. This bring the total up to 210,000 for EB-3 cases. Wow!

It gets worse though when you realize this simple fact. The numbers from the National Visa Center do not include cases for folks NOT consular processing. Frankly, and just just like in October when I first wrote about this, we do not really know exactly how many cases are pending immigrant visa availability. What we do know is that the legal immigration system is broken.

When we hear politicians and uninformed folks yelling about illegal immigration and telling folks to wait in line like everyone else, the answer is, What Line?

These numbers once again poignantly express the dilemma that legal immigrants have. Many feel, justifiably, that any immigration reform must FIRST focus on legal immigration reform, cutting down wait times to reasonable periods, BEFORE anyone who entered into or remained in the U.S. without permission is given ANY legal benefits. The answers are simple here, the question is, are there any politicians with enough courage to vote for real legal immigration reform?