Imagine that after 30 years living in your home, in your community, you were told you must leave – no questions asked. Furthermore, the move is at your expense.
That is exactly what has happened to a Michigan woman.
The woman moved to the United States 30 years ago. She raised three children, had a house cleaning business, worked 7 days a week, and paid taxes. She has no criminal record and a pending motion for a stay of removal in federal appeals court. Yet, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) ordered the woman to back her bags, purchase a plane ticket back to her native country Montenegro, and be at the Detroit Metro Airport on November 9, 2017.
What went wrong?
The woman's family says everything was fine until she met with immigration authorities in 2001. At that time, she and her then-husband gave conflicting information to an immigration judge. While he said they were married before the woman entered the U.S., she told the judge that the two met after she arrived. She tried to explain, but apparently the judge felt they were both lying and said they would be deported for doing so. However, the woman received a stay because of her kids.
A few months ago, the woman had another interview with ICE, in which she was approved for a work visa. However, during a second interview, she received the shocking news that she was being deported just days before an appointment with a surgeon to discuss treatment for her scoliosis.
According to ICE, the woman would be banned from re-entering to the U.S. for 10 years, but that the family could apply for a waiver that would allow her to return. The American Immigration Council said the process would not only take a year or longer, but approval would be a long shot.
We need to find a permanent solutions for these types of situations. While these immigrants are classified as "illegal", most have led exemplary lives, held jobs, contributed to the community and the economy, paid taxes, and lived, for all intents and purposes, as American citizens. Most immigrants came to the U.S. for opportunities that early settlers, including our Founding Fathers, came here for – to start a new life. They become an important part of our economy and we benefit from the labor work they do; most perform jobs that many U.S. citizens don’t want. By way of example, a substantial number of immigrants work jobs in agriculture. If they were deported, what would happen to the states whose economy is heavily dependent upon the crops they produce? How does a border wall and mass deportation assist these employers and employees and at what unnecessary cost to the taxpayers? Furthermore, our current government seeks to deport immigrants using the very tax dollars these immigrants are contributing.
Why can’t a country founded by immigrants find a sensible way to allow them to stay and continue contributing to its’ economy? America’s ‘greatness’ will not be achieved by deporting millions of people who are otherwise abiding by our laws. Instead of divisive walls and mass deportations, let’s pause and have a serious conversation about what “equal justice under law” means in America.