Monday, June 2, 2008

Somehow, someway, we have to return sanity to immigration policy

This is nuts. Without a doubt, this is the most infuriating thing I have come across in a while.

A valedictorian in Fresno California is in the process of being deported after his parents appeals for asylum were exhausted. His father has been taken into custody and is in a detention center in Arizona. He and his mother have been ordered out of the country. He has a twelve year old brother who is a natural born American citizen will be expatriated back to Armenia with his mother and brother if the family is to remain together.

Arthur Mkoyan has not seen Armenia since he was two years old, and he does not want to return. He doesn't speak the language and he barely understands it when he hears it spoken to him. "Hopefully, I can somehow stay here and continue my studies here," he said. "It would be hard if I go back."

The Mkoyan family fled the crumbling Soviet Union in it's waning days. Ironically, they did not seek asylum because they were dissidents - they sought asylum because Arthur's father was a police officer in the old USSR, and the family was targeted by independence forces. The families home was burned to the ground and the general store they operated was looted and ransacked.

Seeking a better life, his father left for Fresno in 1991, choosing Fresno because he knew someone who had emigrated there, and soon applied for political asylum. Arthur and his mother arrived in Fresno in 1995, after three years in Russia.

His father's application for asylum, which included his wife and son, was ultimately rejected. Asylum is an arduous process, and asylum seekers must prove they would suffer severe persecution if they return to their country.
Arthur said he thinks it's unfair that he has to return to a country he hasn't seen since he was 2.

He already has been accepted to the University of California at Davis, where he planned to major in chemistry. He would like to become a dentist or a pharmacist.

Bullard High School Principal Glenn Starkweather said he wasn't aware of Arthur's situation but said he had a good academic record. Arthur has just over a 4.0 grade-point average, making him a valedictorian.

"He's obviously a very strong student. I'm proud of him," Starkweather said.

With deportation on the horizon, Silverman said, Arthur has limited options.

Once he is back in Armenia, Arthur could return to the United States on a student visa. Or he could ask a member of Congress to introduce a private bill on his behalf to grant him legal residency, Silverman said.

Arthur contacted Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for help weeks ago. Feinstein has introduced private bills in the past in an effort to grant legal status to individuals.

Feinstein's office is looking into Arthur's case, said Claire Bowyer, Feinstein's deputy press secretary.

Private bills are rarely introduced and often don't pass, according to Feinstein's office. Once a bill is introduced, deportation is halted. If it passes, the applicant receives a green card. In some cases, the bill allows a parent to obtain legal residency along with the child.

"Arthur Mkoyan represents another reason why Congress needs to pass the Dream Act," Feinstein said in a prepared statement. "It is in our nation's interest to provide talented students the incentive to take this path toward being responsible and law-abiding members of our society."
Arthur, clinging to hope that something will give, hasn't told his classmates that he is under a deportation order and will be forced to leave the country. "I can't really concentrate on my studies. It's hard to focus, [but] I'm still keeping my grade-point average high."

I will be contacting my elected representatives and encouraging them to support passage of the DREAM Act, and letting them know that I support making allowances for all of the children who were brought here by their parents and had no voice in the decision. But it's just cruel to take a kid out of their "homeland" when they are too young even to remember, admit them to this country, educate them,and Americanize them - and then tell a 17-year-old they have to go back to a country they can't remember because their dad's application for asylum was denied.

And until we have some sanity restored by legislative fiat, can we please, pretty please, take a look at these kids on a case-by-case basis? They have done nothing wrong and don't deserve to have their lives ripped away.

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