Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Legal Perils

A few months ago, I blogged on the distressing case of Yaderlin Hiraldo, whose husband, Alex Jimenez, is currently missing in Iraq. Despite the fact that her husband either died, or is being currently tortured by Iraqi insurgents, while fighting for his country, the US government initiated deportation proceedings against Ms. Hiraldo. It was, I said at the time, one of the more tone-deaf moments in US immigration history. What's worse, the only reason the government even knew about Hiraldo's undocumented status was because her husband tried to legalize her status by having her apply for a green card. Had they not tried to go the legal way, the problem would have never manifested itself in the first place.

Today, CNN has a related story of Navy sailor Eduardo Gonzalez, about to be deployed to Iraq for his third tour. His wife is also under the threat of deportation, so Gonzalez is going to war literally not knowing if his wife will be around when he comes back.

What's particularly tragic is that Mrs. Gonzalez did not originally come here illegally. She was a war refugee from Columbia who came with her mother at age five. Now, I'm of the opinion that it is meaningless, absurdist, and malicious to label anyone who comes to the country as a five-year old a "law-breaker" as a result of it (as if kindergarteners have the state of mind necessary to comprehend immigration laws), but Gonzalez was actually given political asylum, so her entrance wasn't illegal after all (as far as I understand the law here). Her mother applied for permanent legalization for herself and her daughter in 2000, which was granted four years later in 2004. However, by that time Gonzalez had married her husband, meaning that her mother's application no longer applied to her own status, and she was left in limbo. A judge recently granted her a one-year extension, but if her legal status is not resolved by June of 2008, she faces deportation.

I mention all this to contextualize the next passage in CNN's article:
That's just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

"What you're talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. ... There's no justification for that kind of policy."

Now, I think in general there is a lot more outrageous about disrespecting our men and women in uniform by deporting their wives than there is in the horror of letting some more brown people in the country. And, to reiterate, I think it is particularly callous and hateful to refer to people who came into this country as five-year olds in this manner. But Krikorian's statement is particularly revealing here because Mrs. Gonzalez isn't a law breaker. She entered this country legally, as a refugee. The only reason her status isn't secured is because of a breakdown in our bureaucracy. If it hadn't taken four years to process her mother's application, she'd be legal. If we didn't penalize her for getting married, she'd also be legal (can I hear a shout out for "family values" anyone?). Only things on our end distinguish her from the perfectly legal and documented immigrants Krikorian claims to have no problem with. You want to know why immigration advocates like myself don't trust folks like Krikorian when they say their only problem is with "illegal" immigrants? Because they don't take their own distinction seriously. And when faced with situations like Gonzalez's, their true colors become clear. It's not about legal versus illegal. It's about less versus more people named "Gonzalez". Xenophobia, pure and simple.


Anonymous said...

Krikorian, clearly, is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

The irony here is that Krikorian, sitting comfortably in a chair while chatting with a CNN reporter on this issue, is able to do these things due to the efforts of young men an women who give up many of their freedoms, and even their lives, just so pontificating miscreants like himself can make statements that are as ill-informed as they are dangerous.