Immigration service gets tough -- with hard working Ukrainian immigrants
Well, the immigration service has decided that given the dangerous times we live in, it's time to crack down on illegal immigrants. Sounds like a good idea?
Yeah, but let's not arrest any immigrants who have criminal records, or who might have terrorist ties, or who sneak in and burden our health and social services. No, that's too hard. Let's hit on a Ukrainian family that's lived in the States for 15 years using valid work visas while their application for asylum was being processed, and who in the meantime worked hard, played by the rules, and contributed to American society. Check out Cyber Cossack for more links on this scandalous story, including where you can link to protest. Learn how very different the statistics are for Ukrainian immigrants and Hispanic immigrants.
I guess we are just not demographically politically important enough. Low hanging fruit, is what we are. Easy to find and deport.
This is no way to treat a family.
Not here. Not in America. At least not in the America I thought I knew.
Pounding on the door of the family's new and heavily mortgaged home in Little Falls, coming under cover of early morning darkness, nearly a dozen armed agents barging in, running up into the bedrooms, leading away in shackles a weeping mother and father and their two stunned young sons.
Then imprisoning them all for a month, without a trial. Until they are deported.
Of course, they are immigrants. And that, apparently some people believe, excuses virtually any excess.
Because that's the way we now treat many immigrants. Even those like the Karnaoukhs, who have been here 15 years.
Sviat Karnaoukh, 21, a senior in mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, whose culminating project -- had he been allowed to finish it and get his diploma in May -- was to develop an artificial vertebra that might be used to help people with spinal injuries.
Igor, his younger brother, who celebrated his 20th birthday in jail. He'd be finishing this year at Passaic County Community College in Paterson.
Vassili, 44, their father, who recently earned an associate's degree in computer programming from a private proprietary school.
Or Maria, 43, their mother, who until recently worked behind a Plexiglas partition as a teller in a credit union and now, behind the Plexiglas partition between me and her in the Elizabeth detention center, sobs whenever she thinks of the home, the job, the cars, the family she certainly will lose.
Because, unless their lawyer wins a last-minute appeal, the Karnaoukhs will be deported. By the time you read this, they may have been. Leaving everything behind to Maria's 64-year-old mother, Olga Khoma, who now must live alone, who cannot speak English, who cannot work, and who cannot make the $2,000 monthly mortgage payments. Or the payments on their two cars.
She won a green card -- permanent residence -- through a lottery.
"Never do I think this thing would happen," Maria says. "In Ukraine, yes. Not in America."
What happened was that Vassili, originally here in 1991 on a tourist visa, applied for asylum because, he says, his participation in the then fledgling Rukh party endangered him and his family.
He was denied asylum, but appealed the decision. Meanwhile, he says, he and other members of his family continued to receive work authorization cards. Vassili says he assumed that, because he continued to receive those cards, because he had hired lawyers -- spending more than $10,000 -- to work on the case, and because he had heard nothing from immigration officials, he and his family could stay.
"Mistake," he says over a telephone, from behind the Plexiglas wall.
Another assumption that was dead wrong: Because he lived like a middle-class, hard-working, taxpaying, guy -- paying tuition to send his kids to Catholic schools, then to college, and strapping himself with a mortgage on his new house -- he thought he could catch a break.
"We do not hide," he says. "We do not break laws. Why are we in prison? Why are we treated like criminals?"