Where is Immigration Justice (Non-fiction)

By Neelu Randhawa

 

Illustration by Julio Salgado

 

When I was in the 9th grade, I dove in a swimming pool and one of my front teeth became damaged (I was taken to the local dentist’s office and of course, I was very apprehensive. After getting my teeth splinted, he asked me, “What do you want to become when you grow up?” After the third appointment, my answer was, “A dentist.” Till then I wanted to become a doctor of medicine because sixty per cent of my family is in the medical field. It was this initial exposure to the human side of dentistry that made me consider further exploring the career. That summer I worked in Dr Goel’s dental practice, Dentist Kennewick, as an observer and formed a permanent bond with dentistry.

I graduated in 1995 as a dentist and began my own dental practice in India. The practise grew from one to two locations very rapidly. I have always felt that the community should benefit from personal good fortune. In my effort to give back to my community I became a member of Red Cross and Rotary clubs. I motivated a few dentists to form a team and we soon organized free dental camps for the underprivileged. This seems like such a long time ago.

In 1996 I got married and in 1999 I found it necessary to leave India because of physical and emotional domestic abuse in my marriage. Actually, I feared for my life. America stood out in my mind as the one place on earth where a person could live free and secure, and so I brought my son with me to America.

Determined to establish a new life for my son and myself, I went about discovering the requirements for establishing my dental practice in the United States. I found out that I can practice after going to additional schooling. I passed my dental boards, applied to schools, and went for interviews. I was placed on the waiting list. The reason I was given was very simple…my pending immigration case

My brother, a naturalized citizen filed for me in 1988. In 2001 I filed for adjustment of status. I was called for interview in 2003.The officer told me that they need my birth certificate which I sent out. In January 2004 they sent me a letter that they denied my adjustment as I had filed prematurely. I retained a lawyer and tried to reopen the case. In 2005 I finally got an answer from Department of Homeland Security that I should go ahead and re-file. In 2005 I re-filed and was called in April for my second interview. In June 2006 I was denied the second time. This time they told me that I waited too long to file the adjustment. The wait our years of wait I found out that they could not make the adjustment of status as they themselves took so long to decide on it that the original paperwork my brother had filed (a naturalized citizen). It was revoked under the Patriot Act, which had passed in 2002. (It says that if you don’t pursue your case within two years the original petition will be revoked). The irony is that I was pursuing it since 2001. I have filed a motion to reopen my case, which is pending since 2006.

Now I have to wait 10 more years for my turn to come. This is going to be a burden on me financially. Recently I got a ticket for driving without CA license. The cop was not even ready to see that I had a valid ID license and insurance. I still got fined for $1052.Now with all the other problems I have one more fear. I fear that I am going to be stopped again and given another ticket. I am paying a heavy prize for something which should have been fixed a long time ago.

I hear all these things from people who have no clue what an undocumented person has to go through. I was documented and fell into the undocumented category only because somebody at immigration didn’t do the job they were supposed to do. I have a son who was six months old when he came to the US, now he is twelve years old. He dreams about driving one day, having his driver’s license or going to college. He wants to go to Harvard. Maybe he can achieve that goal, but what if my case is not resolved and he ends up a person who once had a dream? This Dream Act needs to pass for me, my child, and the millions of other kids whose parents dreamt of raising their children in the US as citizens.

We common people have no aspiration to be mentioned in big history books, we just want respect, and the ability to live with dignity. My mother is frail and sick; I have not seen her in over ten years and still cannot see her for at least another 11 years. Even that is only if everything falls into
place with immigration.

I can cry, but that causes pain and anguish in my son. I want to go back but then I fear that my ex is going to take my son away. Instead I dream and I want him to dream, to focus. I want to dream him to know that he can achieve anything if he dreams and is ready to put hard work to achieve it.

I dread the people who are so passionate about deporting or punishing undocumented aliens. They claim they want justice: where is my justice? I did everything I was asked to do and my case is still pending and far away from being resolved. How long must I wait? How long does my son have to wait? In the end, I look for peace in God’s word and I am waiting for that one person who will go through my entire file and can give a favorable decision.

When I see the laws many want to pass, more questions rise. Have they forgotten that their forefathers came to this nation because they saw a better future for their children? Many people have taken refuge here as this country signifies freedom. I think the children have forgotten that the first generations of people who immigrated to the US were faced with many struggles and only survived because somebody opened their heart and country for them. Why has this become such a hard and difficult process? Historically, the United States have always been a melting pot, the borders have been open, and all people from all around the world came to the new found lands of America. I understand that things have changed. Americans need to be vigilant about security: they have to make sure that their country is safe. In fact, safety is the very reason people from different countries immigrate here. It was that very reason which brought me here.

Incredibly, it is the failure to maintain a safe America for all who wish to be American that separated me from the goals and purposes I had established when coming to America. I wish only to provide a secure life for my son and myself.

I read once, “Little by little, the bird builds its nest. My own life has been a similar process of building a metaphorical nest. My biggest dream is to become a dentist. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss bringing a smile on a patient’s face after the treatment. In the end all I am trying to do is, raise my child, and raise him to be a good citizen. All I want is to build a home where we both have the right to be safe to dream, where my son can live freely.

Comments

One Response to “Where is Immigration Justice (Non-fiction)”
  1. Collis says:

    Neelu,

    Bureaucracy exists to serve itself. It has abandoned it’s purpose; instead, it believes it’s only goal is a mechanized factory-like world of clerks and administrators dedicated to forms, confusion, rules and mysterious codes that maintain its sovereignty over the daily affairs of others. The fact that you’ve persisted, for years, in spite of the efforts to thwart your goals in a hell of an achievement. Keep going; you’ll reach the other side.

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