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Monday, October 18, 2010

Nine Years

And counting. It was this month in 2001 that I first received notice to appear before an immigration judge. That's when my "removal" proceedings began. Happy Anniversary to me!

I'm still in Los Angeles, but I wait for the knock on the door in the middle of the night. ICE agents usually show up at 6 a.m., fully armed.

I moved here with my family from Canada, when I was two years old in 1962. I'm a legal permanent resident of 48 years. I am 51 now, with the most recent 9 years spent fighting for my right to stay in the only country I've ever known. The 9th Circuit just denied my due process claim against the Board of Immigration Appeals. How could I have filed my last petition within the 90 day time limit if the Board never served me my Final Removal Order?

How could I have ever imagined that a $50 eight-track tape deck would, thirty-one years later, place me on the wrong side of a DOJ tribunal and the agency charged with keeping us safe from terrorists? The conviction no longer exists. I managed to get a lower court to reopen and vacate a 30-year-old expunged misdemeanor (all the court documents were destroyed by fire years ago), but I can't get the U.S. Department of Justice to stop blocking my efforts to get this dang deportation order lifted.

Federal bureaucrats hate to lose. I guess that's why the Department of Homeland Security illegally yanked my bond in March of 2008. I'm one of those immigrants "at risk". I assure you, waiting for heavily armed Federal agents to wake me up at 6 a.m. to take me to a lock-up facility is a form of mental torture.

I found out shortly before removal proceedings began, that my maternal grandmother’s family was Jewish. A familiar story. Then I found out I was being kicked out of my homeland. Another familiar story.

As my son Max and I watched the New York Times documentary on Zebulon Simantov, the last Jew in Afghanistan, he asked me why Simantov won’t leave Afghanistan. Knowing the answer, I told him. "He doesn’t want to be forced out of the only country he’s ever known. With even one remaining Jew, the Taliban can’t claim victory."

Not that I can compare the Department of Homeland security and its puppet DOJ tribunal (The Board of Immigration Appeals) to the Taliban.
Or can I?

If you would like to help, you can do something. Click on the "follow" button to the right. I don't send out any email notifications. I just want to show the Feds that people are following my story. That small action can have a huge impact. If you'd like to donate to my defense, there's a donate button above. It's been 9 years; maybe you can spare $9.00? It's just a suggestion.

8 comments:

  1. Sadly, I have to update you all with the news that my appeal was denied by the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court yesterday. I'm not ready to write a new post as I'm still in a state of shock. Thanks for all your support and stay tuned for further updates.

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  2. Mike, I'm sorry about the recent denial. It's wrong, senseless and barbaric. I'm also sorry that this long and taxing struggle for sensible and humane treatment by US authorities has been forced upon you. There are so many better ways to invest your energy, gifts and talents. I can only imagine your frustration, anger and anxiety. But it's clear that you're strong, loved and your a fighter. And please rest assured that your quest is just and your unrelenting fight is an inspiration to others, and perhaps the only option for eventually tearing down the wall.

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  3. Mike. You and Lea are very brite people. Personally, I self-exiled to Guadlalajara 2 years ago and have a wonderful lifestyle. Despite the pessimistic news reports about the dangers of Mexico, Guady is always springlike and way less dangerous than LA, my birthplace. The point is that you have options. As a lady friend told me back in the 70s, "it's not where you are, but who you're with that matters." That said, I work at the Vancouver Language Center in Guadalajara. It is Csnadian owned--very laid back. You are perfectly employable anywhere in the world because you are an educated native speaker of English. Chin up. Cheers

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  4. It is truly a sad reality of our broken immigration system. Many of us that are born in the USA, would be facing deportation for misdemeanors charges. This American has lived in America for the past 49-years and is facing deportation from his country because of a misdemeanor charge. Has been battling with the Immigration and Court System for 9-years, this is unjust, is causing undue pain, suffering, mental distress and is a waste of our tax payer dollars. We must shine a spotlight on what is going on with our Broken Immigration and Deportation System!

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  5. Mike, I am truly sorry for your suffering and I admire your courage. I will share your story and hope your struggle will open the door for others who have been mistreated by our immigration system. We Jews were all immigrants to this country, and so many of us stand in solidarity with you and all the other immigrants who are being mistreated. Your case is an extreme, but not atypical of the insensitivity shown by the INS.
    ===Rabbi Michael Lerner, www.tikkun.org

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  6. I'm very sorry to hear about your ordeal Mike and hope that somehow miraculously this will be resolved and that you can stay in the country that has become your home.

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  7. Mike, I don't know you and I'm just some college kid from Wisconsin, but what's happening to you pains me. I've been developing a distrust of the US government for some years and this story reaffirms my resentment for the "machine." Like you said, it's doing merely what it was designed to do. And this machine apparently takes all the time, energy, and resources pursuing efforts such as deporting people by technicality. There is no common sense or empathy here, and as a result you are under much mental torture.

    I don't have any legal advice to offer that you probably haven't heard or discussed with professionals or people who understand law. I won't ask you to "pray to Jesus," because as an Atheist, I don't see Jesus stepping in and kicking some ass in your favor. I don't mean to disrespect you if you are Christian by that remark.

    You indeed have a great fighting spirit, stronger and more deserving of respect than anyone I actually know or have read about. You say that you have spent nine or so years writing petitions and going through bureaucratic nonsense to come down with nothing. I'm going to be crude here, but I know that in the end, you could consider all this effort to be futile. But PLEASE focus on the FACT that you struggled for those nine years to keep your life where you wanted it and you lived it according to how you wanted to. You could have said, "well shit, the US gov is going to fuck me. I'd better go to Canada now versus later," or something apathetic. You're actions these last 9 years should at least mean something to YOU. Fuck anything else.

    I just hope you can give yourself a little peace amongst the terror and anguish in your mind. If there's anything that threatens my own will and character, it's the torture that individuals, or in this case a political state, can push on anyone. They may take you from your loved ones and the cities/coffee shops/fucking fine weather you cherish, but don't let them take your peace of mind and stride. Breathe easy. Please, for your own sake. I know that sounds...pretentious or something. But I mean it and if there's anything I've learned from my recent breakup with my girlfriend (it's piddly shit compared to what you're going through, but it's what I've experienced), it's that they may take your life but they can't take your dignity. And fuck that, because life follows you wherever you go!

    Namaste,

    Kowalski

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  8. I don't know what to say. I'm not used to people being so kind to me. It helps to know that at least some people get it. I'll read these comments when I'm inevitably feeling down. I shall read and re-read these posts in an effort to restore myself. Thank you.

    Jeremy, thank you for your wisdom. Reading your comment was the first time I've cried since this whole thing happened. We're eerily like minded. I know you get it and it means a lot.

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