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Weeping

My grandmother was a young teenager  in 1911 when she sailed, alone, past the Statue of Liberty into New York harbor. She was fleeing her homeland at her mother’s insistence: her father had been murdered in his bed, in front of his family, by an angry mob — murdering Jews was a frequent public sport in eastern Europe, as lynching African-Americans was in the southern U.S. My grandmother’s mother feared for my grandmother’s safety: she was the oldest child, she was in the public eye because she was a Jew attending the local Christian girls school.

My granny made her long slow way from Vilna in Lithuania to Hamburg, where she found passage, steerage, in a ship bound for New York. And when she sailed past the Statue, she knew she was safe, that whatever trials lay ahead, no one would try to murder her for her religion.

The obscenity perpetrated on January 28 by the current U.S. regime puts the lie to my granny’s sense of security. This sense had already been challenged in the 1930’s, when the U.S. denied entry to her mother and sisters: they were murdered, down to the smallest infant. On January 28, her refuge was completely dismantled.

The current White House incumbent, having no sense either of law or history, has separated families of people whose lives were in danger in their home countries. He has made a travesty of American ideals of justice and liberty. I spent a good part of this morning weeping for the murder of my country’s ideals, but it is afternoon and I am trying to act.

It is a hard and lengthy process to get a green card – from 18 months to decades – and once obtained, it must be renewed on a regular basis. Throughout the process the applicant does not know the status of the application until completion. Although you need not have been here for any specific number of years to apply for a green card, the card is “conditional” for 2 years. (You must be here for at least 5 years before applying for citizenship.) To apply, you must:

  • Be in the U.S. legally, either on a student visa or a work visa;
  • Have a sponsor;
  • Be vetted by Immigration and Customs in a thorough security check;
  • Undergo blood and medical exams, interviews and language proficiency tests (even when English is the applicant’s first language);

If you are here illegally, either because you outstayed your tourist visa, or because you came in undocumented, obtaining a green card may prove difficult unless:

  • You are the immediate relative of a US citizen (parent, spouse or minor);
  • You married a US citizen, having come on a tourist visa or visa waiver and (although specifically intending to get married and stay on such a visa would be considered fraudulent and make you ineligible);
  • As an overstay, you may qualify if “grandfathered” under a provision of the law known as INA section 245(i), which allows individuals “out of status” to pay a penalty fee and proceed with the application.

For refugee status, the bar is even higher.

Yet the regime is turning away green cardholders and refugees, causing pain, chaos and great fear.

The upshot is likely to be an increase in terrorism, not a reduction, and this is quite likely what the regime wants — the more fear they can sow in the U.S., the more the citizens will acquiesce in their extreme actions.

In the meantime, while the Statue and I and millions like me weep, Canada is welcoming all U.S. green cardholders. I am grateful to the Canadians, but I am deeply ashamed.

Here at home, the ACLU and the American Immigration Lawyers Association stepped up to provide pro bono legal support to people who had been detained by Homeland Security at airports around the country. If  you have any money to give, please provide support to these organizations as they try to keep us a country of laws and justice.

 

(With thanks for their input and clarifications on the green card process to:  Judy Resnick, Erin Mitchell, Pamela Potter, Cajsa C. Baldini, Sylvia Titgemeyer, Aimee Hix, DavidLori Flemming and Karyn Rotker. )

 

Important note: The information contained on this post does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. It is based on the best information I have but I am not a lawyer; please contact an attorney if you require legal advice on immigration, green card, refugee, asylum or any other immigration problem.

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  • Judy Resnick

    I am an Immigration Lawyer for more than 20 years. Some of your statements are not correct. Overstays can and do get Green Cards. Those who entered lawfully on a visa (“overstays”) may qualify for a Green Card if they are the immediate relative of a United States citizen (parent, spouse or minor child). In addition, certain other overstays may qualify for a Green Card if they are “grandfathered” (deemed still eligible under a law that has ended) under a provision of law known as INA section 245 ( i ) which allows individuals “out of status” to pay a penalty fee and go forward on their Green Card applications. You are correct in noting that it is a very difficult process, and that some people here for many years never obtain the approvals or qualifications necessary to get a Green Card through any one of the pathways in the law needed for lawful permanent residency.

  • Thanks, Sara, for sharing your personal, heart connection to what’s happening re immigrants right now, and for putting out info re the pathways to what should be “safe” and legal status.I’m co-chairing a group participating in the Sanctuary movement here in Amherst MA. Every voice and every bit of info helps those of us who are just now learning the history of immigrants in US, and learning what must be done now locally to step up and stand with immigrants under siege. This is a time when thinking globally and acting locally seems more compelling than ever to me.

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