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Deportation's not the worst that could happen
September 23, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

For nearly 20 years, Hessamddin Norani and wife Sedige Khazravi have run a small convenience store in North Buffalo, working 15 1/2-hour days, seven days a week. The couple face deportation if their request for asylum is rejected by an Immigration Court judge.

Norani, a Jew, and Khazravi, a Muslim, face a potential death by stoning if sent back to their home country.
posted by jdfan (59 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Absurdity abounds this day and age. Yet you can't soften law.
The only thing that can help is protesting executive powers (not necessarily national levels). It's sometimes the only way we can get the powers that be to guide by the spirit of the law rather than the letter.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2008


One of the issues is whether Norani is, in fact, Jewish. He maintains his birth certificate shows his mother was Jewish, and that the Farsi name for Jewish appears on it.

Well, it's about time issues like that were resolved by petty beaurocrats usch as immigration officials, in order to determine if someone is so Jewish they get to remain in the US or just Jewish enough to get stoned to death in Iran.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2008 [12 favorites]


These people need to be kept in the US at all costs. Imagine if their method of creating an extra 98 days in a week (even if all of them are just 1/2 hour long) were to fall into the hands of terrorists!
posted by DU at 11:29 AM on September 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Okay -- I am honestly not trying to belittle the situation here. But I've read both links, and nowhere do I read that there are any imminent and obvious reasons why his asylum plea COULD be rejected. Both articles simply focus on what a tragic situation it would be if he were -- and, well, it would be just as tragic if I were hit by a car when I left work tonight. But the fact that such an occurence would be tragic is undermined by the fact that the risk of that happening is also extremely slight.

What I'm missing is where it says there's an immediate risk of his appeal being rejected. I may have just missed it -- and please point it out if I have, because I feel like a heel right now -- but at present, this just reads like "oh mercy, this completely hypothetical situation would be sad."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on September 23, 2008


The brothers initially were sent to the United States on a tourist visa with the blessing of the Iranian government, so doctors could examine a suspected cancerous growth Hamid had on his leg. While here, their parents decided to have them legally adopted by an uncle to avoid their conscription in the Iranian army, then at war with Iraq.

What a terrible article. It pulls at all the heart stings without explaining WHY the heartless immigration deparment wants to deport them after 20 years? I assume that these people are in the United States illegally - i.e., without the permission of the U.S. government.

I'm an immigrant in Sweden. I pay my taxes, obtain my visas in good time, stay out of trouble, and generally do my best to follow the laws. I recognize and accept that am a guest in this country. I have no little sympathy for other immigrants who break or ignore the rules and then expect special treatment.

Perhaps they should apply for an Israeli visa.
posted by three blind mice at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2008


“I worked hard, paid taxes, opened my business with my own money and never took one penny from the government,"

Obviously, he doesn't know how to work the U.S. system. OUT!
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2008


I have no little sympathy

Little sympathy.
posted by three blind mice at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2008


I have no little sympathy for other immigrants who break or ignore the rules and then expect special treatment.

It speaks much about you, that you believe the desire not to be murdered by fundamentalists is a request for special treatment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2008 [32 favorites]


NYANA, brilliant, free legal help, exactly for cases like this.

Since 1949, NYANA has helped over 500,000 people find a better life in America.

Over the years NYANA provided resettlement assistance to Jewish refugees from Cuba, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Iran, Syria and the Soviet Union. NYANA’s experience in addressing the cultural and emotional needs of a diverse Jewish population adjusting to life in America prepared the agency to help refugees of all faiths.

posted by nickyskye at 11:46 AM on September 23, 2008


PS sent the link to this story to NYANA
posted by nickyskye at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2008


HIAS: The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society should be able to help too...
posted by Asparagirl at 11:51 AM on September 23, 2008


I have no little sympathy for other immigrants who break or ignore the rules and then expect special treatment.

It speaks much about you, that you believe the desire not to be murdered by fundamentalists is a request for special treatment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 AM on September 23 [+] [!]


This.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2008


It pulls at all the heart stings without explaining WHY the heartless immigration deparment wants to deport them after 20 years? I assume that these people are in the United States illegally - i.e., without the permission of the U.S. government.

It's "legal" to be in the US while your asylum request is processed. But if it is denied and you have no other means of entry (likely as asylum is a last resort for many), deportation is the next step.
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It speaks much about you, that you believe the desire not to be murdered by fundamentalists is a request for special treatment.

The line of asylum seekers who legitimately (or conveniently) fear for their lives is long. Why should people who (I assume) did not follow simple rules get a pass to the front?

Why have rules if every case is a special case?
posted by three blind mice at 12:01 PM on September 23, 2008


It's "legal" to be in the US while your asylum request is processed. But if it is denied and you have no other means of entry (likely as asylum is a last resort for many), deportation is the next step.

Yes, but in most countries you generally loose your right claim for asylum if you wait 20 years before making an application.

Asylum is a first resort, not a last one.
posted by three blind mice at 12:06 PM on September 23, 2008


nowhere do I read that there are any imminent and obvious reasons why his asylum plea COULD be rejected.

Here's a dandy reason for them to be nervous:

"The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show."

Even more forthrightly:

"WASHINGTON — Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test, according to an analysis of Justice Department data.

The analysis suggests that the effects of a patronage-style selection process for immigration judges — used for three years before it was abandoned as illegal — are still being felt by scores of immigrants whose fates are determined by the judges installed in that period."
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why should people who (I assume) did not follow simple rules get a pass to the front?

Why should people assume they did not follow simple rules? And why should people who flouted stupid ("I assume") rules be punished?
posted by DU at 12:15 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why should people who (I assume) did not follow simple rules get a pass to the front?
Instead of assuming, you could read the goddamned article and know for sure that, hey, these guys did follow the rules, are following the rules, and are getting screwed.

But far be it from me to inject facts into a good stemwinder shitflinger about immigration, which is what this is bound to turn into. I have to admire everyone who lines up to throw the metaphorical book at people like these despite the abundant, overwhelming, glaring factual evidence that:
  • The United States immigration system is broken.
  • The rules for who gets to stay and who gets to go are, at best, capricious and arbitrarily enforced.
  • The people making the decisions are rankly political appointees selected almost solely on the basis of their loyalty to the Bush administration rather than any reliable measure of competence.
  • People who have been following the rules for, in some cases, decades are finding themselves being deported for no readily apparent reason other than that the Administration wants to make an example of them.
But, by all means, let's have a screaming match. Let's once again have an argument between people who acknowledge the actual realities and people who apparently are not only disinterested in the facts but deliberately choose to ignore or distort them, so as to pigeonhole people who want to live here so badly that they endured almost impossible odds to get here, spent their entire life savings trying to follow the rules of an incomprehensible system, and are presently being demonized after serving their community for two decades.
posted by scrump at 12:25 PM on September 23, 2008 [34 favorites]


Hamed Norani doesn’t want history repeating itself. He said the family has gone through its savings trying to keep his father in the country, spending more than $200,000 on attorneys, including payments to three firms in Buffalo, with little to show for it.

“After 18 years of going through hell, this has got to come to an end,” he said.
This makes it sound like this process has been going on for 18 years, not that this is some recent new plea for asylum. What makes you think the law has been broken? Nowhere does it say that, TBM.
posted by MythMaker at 12:29 PM on September 23, 2008


Why have rules if every case is a special case?

Looking past your assertion that every naturalization case is expected to be treated as a special case by legitimate asylum seekers, it is because we're human beings, not mindless automata.

And when we are cognizant that deporting someone to a country will presumably result in their torture and disappearance, perhaps that merits a closer look.

If an official in Sweden held your life in balance by the stroke of a pen, you might perhaps be a bit more sympathetic. Maybe not. Either way I presume (perhaps incorrectly) that you have the option to return from Sweden to your home country, without threat of punishment, and that likely colors your views.

Maybe because these individuals do not have the option of safe return that is available to you, you might reconsider your opinion. Or not. It's up to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:34 PM on September 23, 2008


But, by all means, let's have a screaming match. Let's once again have an argument between people who acknowledge the actual realities and people who apparently are not only disinterested in the facts but deliberately choose to ignore or distort them, so as to pigeonhole people who want to live here so badly that they endured almost impossible odds to get here, spent their entire life savings trying to follow the rules of an incomprehensible system, and are presently being demonized after serving their community for two decades.

Scrump, I actually did read the article -- and it didn't make it sound like he "endured impossible odds to get here." What I read is that he came here on a medical visa to get a cancerous growth on his leg treated.

I hear you for wanting to understand these kinds of things on a case-by-case basis, but at the VERY least, the linked articles do a piss-poor job of spelling out OUT that case -- spelling out the SPECIFIC challenges this one couple face and the SPECIFIC threats to their being accepted for asylum actually are. Yes, they have spent a lot of money over the pat 18 years on legal advice -- so have many other couples. Yes, IF they are rejected they could face harsh treatment if they are deported -- so could every asylum seekers.

There has to be SOME specific SOMETHING unique about this couple that could potentially threaten their chances and cause a judge to reject their plea. The articles linked do not, to my mind, spell out what that specific something unique actually is -- on the contrary, they do not give any sense that there even IS any cause to fear their being accepted for asylum, so I'm left thinking, "well, yes, it'd be awful if their plea was rejected, but it doesn't look there's any reason to think it would be, so....why are you telling me this again?"

That's all I meant, anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on September 23, 2008


There has to be SOME specific SOMETHING unique about this couple that could potentially threaten their chances and cause a judge to reject their plea.

But there doesn't. That's what's so terrifying about the NYT and WaPo articles. I mean, an immigration judge appointed by Bush denied more than 90% of asylum claims? 90% of asylum seekers in his court were lying, or unworthy? Really?

The system, and the people who run it, are capricious. And ignorant.

"The September 2007 ruling by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals and the panel's denial in April 2008 of a request for reconsideration had drawn criticism from immigration and refugee groups and medical ethicists. The board concluded that because the woman had already been mutilated, she no longer had a legitimate fear of further persecution, which is required under U.S. law before asylum can be granted."
posted by rtha at 1:00 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


But there doesn't. That's what's so terrifying about the NYT and WaPo articles. I mean, an immigration judge appointed by Bush denied more than 90% of asylum claims? 90% of asylum seekers in his court were lying, or unworthy? Really?

Was that information in this specific article? That's all I needed to see. If it was, then fine. If not ,then my complaint (which is a complaint about poor journalism, not the legitimacy of this case) still stands.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2008


dhartung : It's "legal" to be in the US while your asylum request is processed. But if it is denied and you have no other means of entry (likely as asylum is a last resort for many), deportation is the next step.

Assuming the worst happens and their asylum request was denied, is there any reason we would have to deport them back to a location where we knew they could come to harm? Couldn't they just retire to Canada or Mexico? (Which would still be some unbelievably unfair bullshit, but better than being stoned to death.)
posted by quin at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2008


"I decide who is a Jew!" Hermann Göring
posted by Skeptic at 1:08 PM on September 23, 2008


Anyway, now that I have successfully Godwinned this thread, let me put in some words of reason.

This is a situation that it has become quite common here in Europe. Since in many countries claiming asylum is the most likely, if not the only way of gaining a residence permit, there are a lot of asylum applications, many of which deserve to be taken with a grain of salt.

However, the very number of asylum requests, and the fact that the asylum system (rightfully) includes a very many safeguards and possibilities to appeal make that some asylum procedures drag on for years, if not decades. When the asylum requests are finally rejected, the asylum applicants have often taken root, and deportation, even when there originally no legitimate grounds for asylum, can be quite a heartless punishment.

What needs to be fixed then? Any system that restricts normal immigration so much that it makes asylum the only available option for people who don't really need it and often do not really want it either. I always remember a conversation I had with a Spaniard who had emigrated to Belgium in the 70s, and who, fifteen years later, was still angry that "the Belgians" had "forced" him to claim political persecution to gain residence!

I don't know whether Mr. Norani is really Jewish or not, although I tend to think that the immigration authorities probably have good grounds to believe that he isn't. However, I also believe that, if they wanted to deport him, they should have made it earlier.
posted by Skeptic at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Was that information in this specific article?

It's in the NYT article I linked to.

A money quote (there are several in both the NYT and WaPo pieces):

"In Houston, for example, Judge Chris Brisack denied asylum in 90.7 percent of his cases, while other judges in that city averaged a 79.1 percent denial rate. Judge Brisack, a former Republican county chairman who also works in the oil business, did not return a call."

You're right that the fpp link wasn't the greatest article. But it's also a local-news-outrage! piece, kinda, and honestly I wouldn't expect them (in an article like this) to recap the Bush Administration's dismantling of the civil service hiring process at Justice and Immigration. People who read the article and want to know more of the wider context can probably use google to do so.
posted by rtha at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2008


A money quote (there are several in both the NYT and WaPo pieces):

"In Houston, for example, Judge Chris Brisack denied asylum in 90.7 percent of his cases, while other judges in that city averaged a 79.1 percent denial rate. Judge Brisack, a former Republican county chairman who also works in the oil business, did not return a call."


But that's my point -- the example the article used was of a judge in Houston, Texas. This couple is in Buffalo, New York. There's rather a difference between the two.

But it's also a local-news-outrage! piece, kinda, and honestly I wouldn't expect them (in an article like this) to recap the Bush Administration's dismantling of the civil service hiring process at Justice and Immigration.

Well, then since it's a local news piece, they should find local examples of crappy judging rather than having to go to the clear opposite end of the country. Otherwise this comes across as a fearmongering fluff piece, which doesn't help the actual cause.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2008


Empress, I'm not sure what we're arguing about. The Buffalo news piece isn't great. But it's not completely crap, either. And since we're all reading it online, it's really not that hard to build some context oneself, to try to see where this case in Buffalo might fit. Buffalo isn't a nice place that's separate from the rest of the INS/ICE/whateverthey'recallingitthesedays system, and the system itself is horrendously fucked.

Certainly, if I were seeking asylum, I would not be comforted by the fact that judges in FL and TX and [other places where I am not] are ignorant political hacks who got there jobs by patronage. It would not give me faith that the judges in my jurisdiction are any different. If I'm already an immigrant at the mercy of the system, a system which holds the power to literally send me back to my country to be killed, I would not be comforted at all.

A couple minutes' googling found me this page, listing the judges in Buffalo. Another few seconds found me the asylum denial rates of judges:

Michaelangelo Rocco ranks #6 on the list, with better than 92% of asylum cases denied.

Philip J. Montante denied more than 76% of asylum cases.

Still and all, it wouldn't have killed the reporter to put some of this in (or the editor to not take it out).
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why should people who (I assume) did not follow simple rules...

This and similar sentiments show a misunderstanding of the way legal immigration works (or doesn't) in the US. Unless you have some special talent or connection or are in the immediate family of a citizen, the rules are byzantine and stacked against the average immigrant ever becoming a citizen; if you are able to navigate the maze you can expect a wait of at least six and possibly over 20 years. The current issue of Reason magazine (which is not yet available online) features an examination of the system and comes to the conclusion that legal immigration is so difficult that illegal immigration is inevitable.
posted by TedW at 1:52 PM on September 23, 2008


Does anyone here know what sort of immigration status you need to have to legally own a business in the U.S.? Would they have had to have a specific kind of visa to do this?
posted by fingo at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2008


“But far be it from me to inject facts into a good stemwinder shitflinger about immigration,”

Say what you will about immigration, but Stemwinder Shitflinger is a hell of a trial lawyer.

Generally though we should favor asylum and immigration. It’s who the U.S. is supposed to be, as a matter of principle - we’re not Europe.
We’re not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
...Or something.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The current issue of Reason magazine (which is not yet available online) features an examination of the system and comes to the conclusion that legal immigration is so difficult that illegal immigration is inevitable.
To get totally tinfoil-hat on this, it's not all that hard to see this as a desirable political outcome for the hard right in the United States: it guarantees a more or less endless stream of illegal brown people to rail against during elections. Reforming the system would start to rebalance the scales, and take away a wedge issue.

Fuck. They've done it to me again. As Teresa Neilsen Hayden said,
"I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist".
posted by scrump at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not only should this couple NOT be deported, they should be held up as some kind of example--they don't have religious prejudices, they're hard-working, and they've stayed married for years. That's supposed to be the American Dream, isn't it, to build a life for yourself like the one they have?

You know, if they were asking to be on a Reality Show instead of granted asylum, as a married Muslim and Jew in NY, they'd probably stand a better chance. Yes, that's how messed up this country is.

I'm completely floored by the 90.6% rate of denials in the appeals process, as well. Which countries do most applicants come from where we do grant them asylum?
posted by misha at 2:28 PM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I decide who is a Jew!" Hermann Göring

That was not Göring, that was Karl Lueger (pronounced loo-AY-ger), the mayor of Vienna a century ago. He ran on an anti-Semitic platform, but (to quote the linked Wikipedia article):
Historian William L. Shirer wrote that "…his opponents, including the Jews, readily conceded that he was at heart a decent, chivalrous, generous and tolerant man. So there is not a lot of evidence to support his large effect on the views of Adolf Hitler." According to Amos Elon, "Lueger's anti-Semitism was of a homespun, flexible variety - one might almost say gemütlich. Asked to explain the fact that many of his friends were Jews, Lueger famously replied: 'I decide who is a Jew.' " Viennese Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, who grew up in Vienna during Lueger's term of office, recalled that "His city administration was perfectly just and even typically democratic."
(Bold added.) In German, it's "Wer ein Jude ist, bestimme ich!"
posted by languagehat at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's not all that hard to see this as a desirable political outcome for the hard right in the United States

Definitely, and its benefits aren't limited to the electoral politics it generates. For a certain fraction of capital owners, undocumented migrants from Latin American have a hugely profitable effect on the labour market, not simply in places we traditionally think of, such as California farm country, but also in major metropolitan areas like Chicago. This has also at the very least cushioned the impact of the removal from the economy (via incarceration and felonization) of unbelievably large fractions of the male African American population, if not knowingly facilitated it.
posted by kowalski at 2:51 PM on September 23, 2008


I have to admire everyone who lines up to throw the metaphorical book at people like these despite the abundant, overwhelming, glaring factual evidence that:

scrump, you make some excellent points, and I agree with you on all of them. I'd just like to take issue with something you kind of seemed to assume (and maybe I'm completely wrong) - that this is unique to the United States. See below:

* The [Insert country name here] immigration system is broken.
* The rules for who gets to stay and who gets to go are, at best, capricious and arbitrarily enforced.
* The people making the decisions are rankly political appointees selected almost solely on the basis of their loyalty to the [Insert political leader / dictator's last name here] administration rather than any reliable measure of competence.
* People who have been following the rules for, in some cases, decades are finding themselves being deported for no readily apparent reason other than that the Administration wants to make an example of them.


Apply as necessary to almost any country you want. I've worked in roughly 15 different ones in the last year and I would pretty much say the same about every one. In most places you get to stay or don't based on who you know and how much they like you.

The movie Children of Men always makes me reflect on what a knife edge all of these different immigration systems balance on. You yank one part of a stable society off the shelf (an economic downturn, a terrorist attack, a political coup, etc.) and just watch how fast nations are going to zip up their borders and get rid of all the not-like-the-others. We're very scarily close to that scenario now, arguably more so than most nations.

That's why this is such a critical issue that a) the majority of the voting public doesn't really know nor care about (in this traveler's opinion) and b) the next administration desperately needs to address and (hopefully, in some ways) begin to fix, right up there with issues like the economy and the war. Its because, whether we like it or not, we have the burden of responsibility that leadership in the free world has cast upon us, and the rest of these nations that operate very much the same way as us will never have pressure to change until we start acting the part that our founding fathers once envisioned us acting. I can apply that last sentence to a lot more issues than just the immigration one, but I'll save that for when we get to those topics.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Its because, whether we like it or not, we have the burden of responsibility that leadership in the free world has cast upon us, and the rest of these nations that operate very much the same way as us will never have pressure to change until we start acting the part that our founding fathers once envisioned us acting.
Absolutely. You're describing what I think of as the "moral imperative" issue for the United States, and it's one that I vigorously agree with. I have a lot of problems with American exceptionalism, but one area in which I don't have a problem with American exceptionalism is the "we can and should lead by example" argument. Yes, we are a de facto empire. Yes, our actions have a disproportionate effect on the rest of the world. Yes, we export our culture in a way that hasn't been seen on this scale or at this speed in human history.

But all of those things can be turned from bad, negative, destructive aspects of America into positive (or at least neutral) aspects of America. In much the same way as California tends to lead the rest of the United States, the United States can, and should, lead the rest of the world. One of the ways in which we've completely failed to do so is in finding a balance between corrupted capitalism (as it exists now) and complete altruism (impractical ideals like total socialism). If any society on the face of the planet can do this, we can, if we're willing to put our shoulder to the wheel.

My biggest dream, and my biggest hope, is that we can outgrow our fears and the harness of "it can't possibly work, so let's not try" to create a world in which everyone's basic needs can be met. Yeah, it's recklessly idealistic of me, but I live in the only society that could remotely hope to accomplish it, and we're closer than we've ever been to having leadership in Washington that might sign onto that kind of seismic shift.

I used to think that we should lead, follow or get out of the way. But at this point, we can't follow, and we can't get out of the way: we're too pervasive, too powerful, and just too massive to do either of those things. So we have to lead. The only real question is what kind of leadership we provide. We've had 8 years of one type of leadership, and we can see the effects worldwide. Time to try another one.
posted by scrump at 3:47 PM on September 23, 2008


Smedleyman: Generally though we should favor asylum and immigration. It’s who the U.S. is supposed to be, as a matter of principle - we’re not Europe.
We’re not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
...Or something.


Would it work, though? I tend to think that if we (or Europe, for that matter) threw open immigration to anyone who wanted in, there would be an immense torrent of poor from all over the world. It would be like osmosis - they'd come in until they had equalized the economical gradient, until there was no more opportunity here than there was in their home country. We'd be a third world nation in under a year - one with a larger, richer overclass than most, but all of the problems associated with large-scale crushing poverty.

This kind of strategy worked in the past partly because it never was truly implemented (there's always been some restrictions to immigration) and partly because transit was harder (providing a higher 'activation energy' for the process.) Now, I tend to think it would be a disaster.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:19 PM on September 23, 2008


“I tend to think that if we (or Europe, for that matter) threw open immigration to anyone who wanted in, there would be an immense torrent of poor from all over the world.”

Yeah, I’d suspect so. I’m not advocating there not be rules and some restrictions. I’m appealing more to the better expressed moral imperative type arguments above.
The U.S. is not French or German or English. We don’t have a thousand years of ethnic or religious tradition. Hell, a 100 year old building out here is marveled at.
But it’s who we’re supposed to be.
We’re supposed to be about an ideal and principles as our foundational truths - not that we share a similar ethnic heritage - quite the opposite in fact. If it hurts, if it’s a burden - so be it. It’s our duty. It’s what that statue in New York is supposed to represent.
And we’ve fallen down on being the shining beacon of liberty in so many ways.

Given that they’re legitimately oppressed and within a reasonable legal architecture - we should grant asylum to oppressed people on the very basis that they are oppressed.
Besides, we’ve picked up so many smart folks that way.

I don’t know what makes an American more than that “yearning to breathe free.”

But just throwing the doors open - you’re right, no.

Still, I’m one of those old school bastards that think we should oppose despots on principle. We should actively spread democracy and our ideals of liberty and justice for all people.
If that means we don’t do business with China because they electro-roast people’s gonads or Paraguay because they oppress their people, so be it.

Practically speaking - yeah, doesn’t look like we’re going to buy into that one either any time soon though.

But if it means some sacrifice on my part so these kinds of folks don’t have to go back to their oppressive regime, I’d be for it.
I don’t know what kind of people are sitting on those benches either. I can kill in cold blood, but I couldn’t knowingly send someone into a meat grinder.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:14 PM on September 23, 2008


As a local I really have to say, in an area where the population is dropping by thousands on every census, where unemployment and poverty are rampant, and something like twenty percent of properties are abandoned, the mind boggles that someone would want to reduce that population by two, cut a successful business from the tax base, and increase those abandoned buildings by one.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:31 PM on September 23, 2008


dhartung : It's "legal" to be in the US while your asylum request is processed. But if it is denied and you have no other means of entry (likely as asylum is a last resort for many), deportation is the next step.

Assuming the worst happens and their asylum request was denied, is there any reason we would have to deport them back to a location where we knew they could come to harm? Couldn't they just retire to Canada or Mexico? (Which would still be some unbelievably unfair bullshit, but better than being stoned to death.)


Having worked in an immigration program where occasionally deportation came up, I understand that there's no legal way to turn them over to another country. If they're here illegally, based on what the judge determines, then we can only return them to their country of origin, unless they have the good sense to flee to another country and claim asylum there. Since the US is being so shitty about it. Really, wouldn't this couple be exactly the kind of people the Bush gang would want to hold up as an example of Iran's dastardly behavior, just to make a point? And some of these judges have ordered virtually instant deportation--from the courtroom to the bus to the airport or a holding cell where no one can reach them. They have no rights at that point. Thank you, once again, all of you who voted for the fucking Republicans in the last eight years.
posted by etaoin at 7:38 PM on September 23, 2008


HOLY SHIT I lived across the street from this shop for years and I visited them every day for gum or candy or a soda. Oh Jesus. They are the sweetest people alive. I talked nails and makeup with Sadie.
posted by oflinkey at 7:58 PM on September 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the excellent discussion guys. Yes, the local reportage is teh suck but I thought it was an interesting story that would lead to good, thoughtful, and insightful discussion. You did not disappoint. I lived right around the corner from these very nice folks a few years ago.
posted by jdfan at 8:06 PM on September 23, 2008


Empress, I'm not sure what we're arguing about. The Buffalo news piece isn't great. But it's not completely crap, either. And since we're all reading it online, it's really not that hard to build some context oneself, to try to see where this case in Buffalo might fit.

I'm arguing because I'm clearly being asked to feel scared for these poor people, and I'm not sure what the threat is. Yes, "a few minutes' Googling" on my part could turn up plenty of examples of the threat they're under -- but " a few minutes' Googling" could also have been something that the reporter did in the first place. It's the REPORTER'S job to "build some context," not mine.

Again, they seem like very nice people, and yes, I believe they absolutely should be allowed to stay in the country. What I DON'T see is that there's any evidence anyone's going to disagree with any of that, though; all I get is the circumstantial assertion that "but 90% of the time in Texas people are rejected." Well, that's interesting, but where's the specific threat HERE? Was I just being manipulated? Did the reporter want to comment on a national issue and shoehorned a local angle in because he had to? Did the reporter want to do a local puff piece, but when he found that there really wasn't any threat, did he just kind of fake it?

This is either a story about the immigration system in general or this is a specific story of this one couple. Right now it's neither.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 PM on September 23, 2008


"I decide who is a Jew!" Hermann Göring

That was not Göring, that was Karl Lueger (pronounced loo-AY-ger), the mayor of Vienna a century ago.


languagehat, the quote is attributed to both, and this is probably a case of Göring having himself quoted Lueger. The context in which Göring is supposed to have said it was in defence of his right-hand man, Erhard Milch, the architect of the Luftwaffe's reconstruction during the '30s, whose alleged father was Jewish. I say "alleged", because, when "Aryanisation" started, Milch fils produced a signed affidavit by his mother claiming that he was the product of an affair with a "100% Aryan" lover. This produced much merriment among the Nazi hierarchy, cut short by Göring's defence of Milch.

(Milch, who seems to have been a truly despicable character, later betrayed Göring by siding with Himmler and Goebbels against him, and, after the war, was convicted of crimes against humanity for his use of slave labour during the war.)
posted by Skeptic at 1:31 AM on September 24, 2008


ThreeBlindMice, I thought your comments in this thread clearly show that you

A. are making unfounded assumptions

What makes you think that they "just filed" for asylum? It states in the article that their case "bounced around in the courts for years."

and

B. have a personal bias against other immigrants that you perceive to be "not following the rules."

So you followed the rules, and your process went well. Congratulations. I can't tell you the number of applicants I know who have had entire apps lost, rejected for bizarre reasons, delayed with no explanation, etc... And that's just in the States.

Yes, it's a terrible article, designed to elicit emotional response - which it clearly did.
posted by HopperFan at 6:11 AM on September 24, 2008


Yes, "a few minutes' Googling" on my part could turn up plenty of examples of the threat they're under -- but " a few minutes' Googling" could also have been something that the reporter did in the first place. It's the REPORTER'S job to "build some context," not mine.

Empress, I do see your point (and, completely off-topic, I love your nick). But if there was ever a time to not expect the Fourth Estate to really do its job, it's now. Don't expect them to to build context, or give more than 1.5 sides of any story. Do expect to have to do some digging yourself, whether it's to fact-check something or see the bigger picture. Expect to do this whether the article comes from the Podunk Picayune or the Grey Lady herself. Sadly, it's not what they do anymore (if it ever was).
posted by rtha at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2008


But if there was ever a time to not expect the Fourth Estate to really do its job, it's now. Don't expect them to to build context, or give more than 1.5 sides of any story. Do expect to have to do some digging yourself, whether it's to fact-check something or see the bigger picture. Expect to do this whether the article comes from the Podunk Picayune or the Grey Lady herself. Sadly, it's not what they do anymore (if it ever was).

Pffft. I'll start doing that when they pay me to. The Fourth Estate is indeed stumbling, but not THIS badly. There are still good reporters out there, and even the mediocre ones would have written an article that didn't require me to fanwank it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2008


Fanwank! Never heard that before, but I love it. And I agree with you, EC - the article was very poorly written.
posted by HopperFan at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2008


Pffft. I'll start doing that when they pay me to. The Fourth Estate is indeed stumbling, but not THIS badly.

Well, okay. But I sure hope the color blue looks good on you, because that's what you'll be (from holding your breath waiting for the Fourth Estate to step up to the plate). They're stumbling badly wrt asking Palin hard questions; they stumbled, crashed, and burned in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The big papers hardly took notice of the mysterious firings of U.S. attorneys until TPM and the McClatchy papers started making a lot of noise about it.

You may be able to trust them to give you a jumping-off point on a story, but you trust them to give you the full context and information at your peril. Your choice.
posted by rtha at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2008


But I sure hope the color blue looks good on you, because that's what you'll be (from holding your breath waiting for the Fourth Estate to step up to the plate). [...] You may be able to trust them to give you a jumping-off point on a story, but you trust them to give you the full context and information at your peril.

rtha, I'm honestly not asking for as much as you think I am. In fact, most other journalists seem to be able to make the connections I'm asking for just fine, and they also manage to be able to put them into the article. I'm not asking for an entire dissertation, I'm simply asking a reporter to ask "what is the Buffalo INS judge's record." Or simply to say "X judge didn't accept the plea from the rabbi that [this word] was the same as 'Jewish' in Farsi." Or even "they've been rejected twice already and this is their last chance."

I didn't get any of that. All I got was "it'd be really sad if they don't get to stay."

"Yes it would, but they look okay, is there any reason to think they won't get to?"

"....People in Texas don't get to."

"That's Texas. They're not in Texas. What about where they are?"

"...It'd be sad if they don't get to stay."

"I agree. But it'd also be sad if they got mugged. Or shot. Or their house burned down. Or if they were kidnapped by Reticulans. Any one of a number of tragedies could befall this noble, noble couple, just as any one of a number of tragedies could befall any of us. And these tragedies would all be sad. So out of all of the many potential tragedies that could befall anyone in the human condition at any time, why have we chosen to focus on this couple and this one possible turn of events at this specific point in time?"

"...Because it'd be sad."

....I know you don't trust the press, but this isn't a question of the fourth estate's hands being tied, this is a question of someone not knowing basic storytelling.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on September 24, 2008


"Ok, look, I decide who decides who said who decides who is a Jew!" - Hitler
posted by Smedleyman at 12:21 PM on September 24, 2008


Canada: unbelievably unfair bullshit but better than being stoned to death.
posted by Mitheral at 5:00 PM on September 24, 2008


Apparently reading the article and understanding it are two different things.

Let's set out whatever facts can be gleaned, along a timeline:

pre-1984: Uncle living in US, presumably as a citizen or some kind of permanent resident.

1984: Kids sent to US on tourist visa, ostensibly to seek medical treatment for one of them. Note that this was after the Islamic Revolution. This will be shown to be relevant later.

approx 1984: uncle naturalises kids by adopting them. (it's a moot point, but I don't quite understand how kids can be adopted when they have living legal guardians, but I'm assuming this decision was politically motivated, due to the US-Iran situation at the time. You'd normally assume that the parents would have to relinquish guardianship, but obviously the US wasn't in a position to liaise with the Iranian legal system to determine if this had happened)

1988: Father gets US visa (type not specified), arrives in US. Note again that this is post-1978.

1993: Mother gets US tourist visa. Now, we're talking 15 years after the Islamic Revolution.

X months later, depending on length of tourist visa: mother's visa expires, and she most likely becomes illegal in US.

Next 19 years (father) / 14 years (mother): Parents remain (illegally?) in US, but take up (or continue) paid employment (also illegal?). From the time their visas expired, it's reasonably likely that they were not following the rules, unless through the immigration / asylum application process they were granted temporary bridging visas with gainful employment as a legal possibility. It's reasonably safe to assume, though, that they never had any intention of following the rules covering their initial visa applications, but that's only speculation, and possibly not legally relevant here.

Presumably, the parents came to the attention of immigration officials sometime during these 19 years. At some point, they commenced asylum proceedings. Here the facts are very murky, because there's a chance that they would have originally applied for citizenship via general migration channels (family reunion / sponsorship), and only turned to the asylum option when that avenue was exhausted. Either that, or they effectively went underground, and only brought up the asylum claims when they were found by the officials.

At this point, the precise legal details specific to the jurisdiction are crucially relevant, so it's hard for me to comment. Eg: can somebody on a tourist visa apply for citizenship via normal channels? What if their visa had expired before they applied? Would their visa have been invalidated if they had lied about their intentions for visiting the US? Did the visa contain conditions against applying for citizenship, as it does (now) against entering the US to smuggle drugs or commit acts of terrorism (the idea behind these bizarre-sounding conditions is to render the visa invalid from the beginning, removing the person's legal standing to use the court system in the country). Are there special provisions if it's impossible to apply for citizenship offshore, ie in Iran? Details, details, details.

But the elephant in the room, which would be blatantly apparent to any lawyer, official or judge involved in the case, is that this is not really some kind of story about hard-done-by victims of persecution, but a systematic program by a relatively privileged family over decades to migrate to the US, following the time-honoured tradition of economic migrants: send the young men over first, to establish a foothold, make money & apply as sponsors or whatever to bring the oldies & other relatives over (eg also by setting up marriages within the expat community).

Not that those motivations are strictly relevant to the legal position, but they do influence the reactions of judges, especially in this area of law, where precise details (often relating to the very basics, such as a person's true identity, religion, political activity etc) are difficult or impossible to obtain, and can easily be falsified by anybody with the will, money and connections.

In many cases, the judgement in these grey areas comes down to the credibility of the applicants regarding certain kinds of issues. For example, if they have a well-founded fear of persecution, why did they take so long to get out of Iran or apply for asylum? A change of law in Iran could be a plausible explanation, but I wonder whether Iranian law is retrospective. In any case, the father left Iran 10 years after the Revolution, and the mother left 15 years after, by which time you would think the anti-mixed-marriage, death-by-stoning laws would have come into force. It's hard to make a call on this, as the article doesn't state the exact year the law came into force.

Another example, which people might find interesting: when somebody shows up seeking asylum, claiming a fear of persecution back home, some of the very first questions you ask are "How did you leave the country? How did you get a passport?" Oppressive regimes tend to give out passports very rarely, and typically only to the in-crowd, and even then, relatives & assets in the home country might be required as a kind of collateral, in much the same way as western countries demand these kinds of things before they'll issue visas, to minimise the risk of people simply never returning home.

Minorities who are genuinely persecuted are rarely allowed to leave the country, so the very fact that somebody is permitted to travel on valid travel documents creates an immense presumption that they are actually fine & great citizens in the eyes of the Government. This would apply as much to the kids' original travel arrangements as it does to the parents, later. If they've been having trouble establishing refugee status, this is probably the sticking point: if the mullahs really want to stone them to death, why the hell did they give them passports & allow them to leave the country in the first place? That's a difficult enough task for even the most law-abiding of Iranians.

As an aside, there are various upshots from this restriction of overseas travel by authoritarian regimes: plenty of refugee applicants claim to have destroyed their documents in a panic upon arriving in the destination country. Others travel overland, helped by people smugglers. Others might have multiple sets of documents, some real, some forged - the forged ones are presented as if they used secret underground black market connections to get out, because they are so much on the Government's watch list. All kinds of permutations like that. All generally well thought out & researched, because hey - these people have usually spent years planning & working out how the hell to get out of their country & into a place with all the wealth & freedoms & whatnot that they (understandably) crave.

Where was I going, through all these digressions? Oh, yes - three blind mice is right, overall. These are the exact kinds of clients you see day in, day out, when working in refugee law: people not so much playing by the rules as exploiting every legal avenue possible to pursue their objectives of (social and) economic migration.

If & when they achieve their refugee status, even through a last-ditch attempt like a humanitarian appeal to the Minister, or - dare I say - by appealing to public sentiment through the press, they deprive a probably much needier applicant of a place; somebody languishing in a godforbidden flyblown camp in Sudan or Pakistan, for example.

Somewhat ironically, these kinds of queue-jumpers are actually exactly the go-getting, entrepreneurial, risk-taking, resourceful types a capitalist system really should be wanting, instead of the less adventurous, less educated, form-filling types who sit for years in camps, hoping that their number will come up.

Where these old folks are concerned, my heart would say "Fuck it, let them stay; they've been in the US for 20 years as good pseudo-citizens, the family's here, and their prospects in Iran are unknown" but that doesn't change the legalistic slant that there's a lot of apparent cynicism & bodginess about how they managed to last those 20 years in America, and immigration systems have a strong interest in not being seen to reward those kinds of applicants, because it only encourages more visa overstayers.

If they ever had a valid claim to refugee status or citizenship according to the rules, they would've become kosher decades ago, without having to fork out $200,000. This current refugee claim may or may not have a sound basis, but it does reek of being a last-ditch attempt by people who really were supposed to have returned home when their tourist visas expired all that time ago.

I honestly wish them the best of luck, though. Dealing with these exact kinds of situations – especially when the prospects don’t look good, the people are lovely, and families may be split apart – is precisely the reason I quit refugee law.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:12 PM on September 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


aw-ful
posted by pwedza at 10:38 PM on September 24, 2008


Check out this helpful graphic explaining the wonders of the U.S. immigration system. It's actually the simplest explanation of how to become a legal immigrant I've yet seen.
posted by MythMaker at 12:23 AM on September 25, 2008


MythMaker: that makes me think: did the foot-in-the-door tactic whereby the kids were adopted by the uncle actually dissolve their legal relationship with their natural parents, making it impossible for the parents to rely on the kids to get them into the country?

A case of shooting oneself in the foot, so to speak. Shooting the foot that was in the door.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:57 AM on September 25, 2008


(also: great to see Terry Colon's work in a different context)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:58 AM on September 25, 2008


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