What’s Your Game Plan?

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress had a kumbaya moment and passed the immigration reform bill. If that happened, what would your game plan be? Presently, nobody quite knows how the reform bill will look. However, there are about four things that people predict you and I will have to deal with if, or when, the bill is signed into law.

1. Coming out. This is probably going to be the hardest and scariest decision you’ll have to make because of its consequences. There are many ‘what if’s’ that you will need to ask yourself: “What if I’m forced to tell my employer that I used fake documents to get the job?” “How will I go about paying my back taxes?” “If I come out and fail to pass any one of the many requirements they have, will I be deported?” “Do I have the money to pay fines as well as possible attorney fees?” “What will my friends and family members say when they learn that I’m undocumented?” These, among many other questions, should be considered before you decide to come out of the shadows.

2. Fines. We will probably have to pay a fine of some kind. Let’s face it, we broke the law and since this is not 1986 and our president is not Ronald Reagan, I doubt that someone is going to walk up to us, thank us for being undocumented and then give us Amnesty. Though we don’t know how much the fines will be, my guess is that unless Congress does away with the “fine the illegals” idea, the fines will be anywhere from $1-$2,000 a person. It’s important to consider the paying of fines as a possibility and figure out where you will find the money to pay them.

3. Temporary visas. We may or may not get a renewable temporary visa to stay and work legally in this country. My hope is that we’ll get green cards and that we won’t have to leave the US for the visas or green cards to be processed. Leaving of course would mean more spending in order to become legal. The truth of the matter is that most of us aren’t rich and it would be nice if Congress did us a kindness and really put that into consideration as they work on the immigration bill.

4. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting is something that we immigrants are used to. Some of us have waited patiently for decades, with the hope that the American people would officially acknowledge our existence and toil to legalize us. If lawmakers like the “Gang of Eight” and Marco Rubio have their way, we’ll all be required to go to the back of the Green Card line. This line still has individuals in it who applied to come to the US way back in the 80s. That was when parachute pants were in, and bangs that reached for the heavens were said to be “totally rad.” The way the current immigration system works, it may take us a couple of centuries to get the papers needed to live and work legally in the US. Congress needs to figure out a way to speed up the Green Card process. Otherwise, they would be letting us die of thirst at the side of the fountain.

If congress passes the immigration reform bill, we’ll all be able to hit the reset button of our lives. We’ll finally be free! We won’t need to look over our shoulder for ICE agents or freak out when someone knocks on our door. We’ll be able to tell the whole truth about ourselves to anyone and everyone, and we’ll no longer be preyed on because of our undocumented status.

There is no better day than today for you to be strong and courageous. It’s time you worked on a game plan just in case Congress does the right thing and allows us to live and work legally in this great country.

 

Meeting Your Deportation Officer

Here are 7 things you need to consider or do before you meet your Deportation Officer (DO) for the very first time.

1. Arrive early: You’re probably not going to be the only person reporting to the Deportation Officer, so find out what time the offices open and try and get there at least 30 minutes earlier.

2. Confirm the office location: Make sure you know the exact location of the place where you are meant to report. You can find this out here: http://www.ice.gov/contact/ero/. Also, call the number underneath the address to confirm that it’s the location you’re meant to report to.

3. Leave electronics in your car: Some buildings require the people in deportation proceedings to be searched and then pass through metal detectors. I really hate this process. It’s a pain in the gluteus maximus but what can you do? It’s best to leave your electronics in your car. By electronics, I mean Cell phones, iPods, iPads, Walkmans, boom boxes, record Players, etc.

4. Carry your documents & ID: Make sure you carry your Drivers License or some form of ID with you. The officer may ask to see it if that is your first visit. He or she will also ask to see your deportation papers, so it would be kinda nice if you took them with you. The meetings are typically really short; it’s the wait that takes an eternity. So far I have had 2 meetings with my Deportation Officer and they have each lasted a maximum of 5 minutes.

5. Carry a book: Is there a 900-page book you have been dying to read? Take it with you, you will probably need it because of the wait. Here are some suggestions:  Atlas ShruggedGone with the Wind, or something you can identify with, like Les Misérables. If you have an antisocial disposition, then a pair of shades and earplugs will come in handy, just in case the guy or gal sitting next to you has the urge to talk your ear off.

6. Parking fee: I haven’t had to pay for parking yet, but carrying some extra cash won’t hurt.

7. Be nice: On your first visit, you will probably find something to be pissed off about. I know I did. When you get pissed off, I implore you to try and keep your anger to yourself. I hate to break it to you, but as a person in deportation proceedings, you pretty much have very few rights. Don’t exacerbate your situation by giving the officers a reason to make your life miserable.

Now that you have considered those seven things, here is a breakdown of what I have seen happen whenever I visited my Deportation Officer. Your experience will probably differ from mine, but this is how it typically goes down when your name gets called: After you hand your ID and Deportation papers to the officer, he or she will put your information into his or her computer.

You will then be asked if you live at the same location that’s on your deportation papers. It is best to always keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) updated every time you move to a new place of residence. They not only want to keep tabs on you, they also want to know where to send important documents that pertain to your deportation.

Here is a link to the form you need to fill if or when you have to move (http://1.usa.gov/ZOAdMQ). The officer will also call the immigration court’s toll free phone number (1-800-898-7180) to find out whether or not your first court date has been set. After that, he or she will give you the date of your next visit and then send you on your merry way.

So there you have it. Those were the 7 things I wish someone had told me before I met my Deportation Officer for the very first time. I hope they give you an idea of what to expect when you go there. I wish you well on your first meeting with your DO.

Is Change Really Coming?

I’m seated in a near-empty apartment, trying to digest everything that has taken place in the span of 10 months. Where there was a brown upholstered sofa, now stand two folding chairs. Where there was a glass-top dining table, stands a folding TV tray. My mattress sits on the bedroom floor, and I use mason jars instead of drinking glasses. I have lost many things but, thankfully, I haven’t lost hope.

 Last December, I went to see my no-nonsense immigration lawyer. I mean, this guy is a tell-it-like-it-is kinda guy. The very first time I met him, he pulled a Beyoncé on me and told me that it would be best for me to pack up my things and go back to my home country. He explained that my being out of status for close to 10 years, as well as working without authorization would really work against me in immigration court.

On my second visit, this 7-time winner of the ‘Rising Star Super-Lawyer’ award began to sing a different tune! Instead of reiterating what he had told me the first time, he pretty much pleaded with me to buy time and stay in the US. He disclosed that there were changes taking place in Washington, and there was a chance that I would benefit from them.

obama

Earlier last week, President Obama gave a speech in which he laid out his ideas for immigration reform. The president made it clear that there was going to be a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. I was really hoping that he would immediately stop all deportations, but sadly he didn’t. I found it really hard to come to grips with the fact that while he spoke, many like me were being arrested, processed and deported.

President Obama’s outline differed from the proposal made by a bi-partisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight”. In their reform plan, they said that they were going to give us a path to citizenship only when the border was secure.

How secure do these dudes want this already secure border to be? Didn’t they get the memo from the Pew Research Center that net migration from Mexico has come to a standstill? I’m no BS detector but I get the feeling that the 8 gangstaz have come up with a great stalling stratagem. My question to the Eight Gs is this: how many Billion $$ with a B will you continue to flush down the Department of Homeland Security for the sake of Border Security (B.S)?

That said, it is such a relief to know that there is going to be a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. My concern as a person in deportation proceedings is how long immigration reform will take. For me, the deportation clock is ticking. I probably have until December before I get deported. I know I’m biased, but I think that the first step in immigration reform should be putting a moratorium on all deportations. I really don’t want to be among the 2 million who will have been deported by Obama in 2014 if Congress decides to take its sweet time.

President Obama said that we, the 11 million, must be held responsible for our actions by jumping a few “tough, but fair” hoops which include: registering with the authorities (Done), passing security and criminal checks (I ain’t got nothin’ to hide), paying taxes (I’ve always paid my taxes), going to the back of the line (just as long as they let me work legally), and learning English (which I clearly cannot speak).

For someone like me who graduated from college, these hoops can be easily jumped, but what about the millions of undocumented immigrants who have no formal education and are unable to pass English language tests? Will they have to be deported or forced back into hiding? They, too, have contributed greatly to the building of this mighty nation. Some of them tear up when they hear the national anthem being sung, and others consider themselves Americans, even though they do not have the legal papers to prove it.

I, as well as the 11 million like me, don’t want freebies or something for nothing. We are smart, hard-working and industrious people. Just give us a chance to prove it. So please put us on a pathway to citizenship and do away with the stipulations. All these proposed hoops may sound tough and fair, but without realizing it they will end up scaring, alienating and hurting the same undocumented immigrants lawmakers are working so hard to help.

Is change really coming? I have a strong feeling it is and it may be sooner than we expect.