Immigration Reform needs more than new policies.

A recent PBS interview with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano discussed immigration policy reform and enforcement. What follows below is the text of a response to her, posted on the PBS web site, just below the interview.

I hope Ms. Napolitano reads this posting and learns from it. There is a personal note for her at the end.

The process for a legally admitted immigrant to become a permanent resident is a bureaucratic nightmare with cold-hearted, exploitive and nasty features that would repel any American who wants the system to to do its job in a fair and open manner.

Example? There is a form essential to the process that an innocent applicant may encounter if they need to appeal an adverse decision. The form invites you to apply for an “oral hearing” if you send $110 along with the form.

That will be the last time you be invited to a hearing. A series of Star Chamber hearings will follow over the next 6 months. There will be no notice to you any of those hearings. They will take place before panels you have never heard of, in locations you have never been or even invited to. You will never be told in the report of one hearing that there is another coming up.

These “hearings” will each produce one more level of peril in the form of a denial of your appeal (the appeal you were never allowed to actually make.) Copies of the rulings sent to you contain no information on how to step into the process and stop the madness. These “rulings” even allege you were present “pro se” at these secret hearings.

When you go to the USCIS Field Office and ask what happened to your right to appear at the the hearing you paid for, you will be told that there is no record of such a form or the $110 you paid for it. When you show them evidence that they cashed the money order and show them the originals of their own formal receipts acknowledging that they got the money order and it was for a hearing, they tell you, “That does not matter. Your $110 is gone, the rulings against you are made and confirmed. The case is closed. Go away.”

When you persist in asking the Field Office, “What did you do with the form I sent asking for an oral hearing?” they will tell you, “Because you paid the $110 and submitted the form, this is now an immigration court matter. Go to the court.”

So you go to the immigration court, ask to see a judge, and the court administrator says, “We have no record of this so we cannot help you. Go to USCIS Field Office.” (the one that sent you to the court).

So you back to the Field Office and they say, “We cannot help you. The case is closed. There is no procedure to re-open the matter. ”

When you persist, you will be told by a Field Office Supervisor, in a very caring and sincere way (I am not being sarcastic. His sincerity and and friendliness made his responses all the more Orwellian), “It’s not a good idea to demand to see a judge because it is possible the judge will look at the immigrant’s status (the adverse rulings) and have an officer arrest them right there and put them in prison until they are expelled from the country. You really do not want to take this to a judge.”

He continued, “Just be aware that unless and until you (pay thousands of dollars to) start another application, and meanwhile the immigrant stumbles into the hands of Homeland Security, the immigrant could be arrested and deported. Just trying to help you know the situation. sir.”

By now you know I am not talking theory. This our story. The immigrant is my wife whom I met more than 25 years ago in her home country and finally married slightly more than 2 years ago when she was here on a legal visa.

I am an 80 year-old Korean War veteran who has been diagnosed and is in treatment for memory loss as a result of my age and diabetes. The original rejection happened because in an interview I volunteered information about a marriage and divorce 60 years ago but could not remember where to find documents to confirm it happened. Had I not volunteered that information, they would never have known it.

After the original rejection and filing of the request for the hearing, I had an investigator and a paralegal work together to find the missing documents. I had them ready for the hearing that never took place.

Instead, all we have gotten is one Star Chamber ruling after another issued through a system that is a solid wall of denial and rejection.

As a result, my wife is now at risk for arrest and deportation. She cannot work. She cannot travel to see her children. She is now an illegal alien.

Visits to our state’s very high profile Senator are received politely but, based on the lack of any substantive results, they do not appear to have the ability to do anything other than be sympathetic.

So, as promised at the start, to speak directly here and now to Ms. Napolitano, who I hear is a good and honest public servant . . .

“M’am. with all sincere respect and hopes for your success, I am not sure you realize what a deeply flawed mess you are trying to fix. The Augean Stables were a flower garden. The existing system is broken at the most fundamental level when an honest citizen’s rights are chewed up and spit out. I am not so paranoid as to believe we are the only ones caught in similar bureaucratic nightmares. Fixing the entire immigration system may call for more regulations and more policies, but unless the ones in place are made just and accessible to honest citizens, you are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

PS – I want my $110 back, or the hearing it paid for.”

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