In Memoriam

Today, UCLA alumnae and immigration activists Tam Tran and Cinthya Perez died in a car accident in Maine. Though I knew neither personally other than having had a conversation with Cinthya in regards to why I had added her as a friend on Facebook, I feel that this post is necessary in a way that few others on this blog are.

Tam and Cinthya were enormously important to the Dream Act movement. They proved that undocumented immigrants can be successful and did what many of us should have been doing long ago – giving voice to those who could not speak for themselves. More importantly, they were a prime example of what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication, and served as a counter-argument to nativist cries that immigrants are detrimental to US interests.

Tam was a PhD student in American Civilization at Brown University and Cinthya was the first undocumented student to attend Columbia’s School of Public Health. Tam testified before Congress and her family was detained because she spoke up for her rights. I can’t imagine any individuals more important to US interests.

I’m echoing another blog post when I say let’s not forget Tam and Cinthya. Let’s remember that they were great women, not numbers in a system that refused to recognize them as such.

It’s a great, sad irony that this news comes to us only a couple of days before students all across the country receive their diplomas.

So long Tam. So long Cinthya. I celebrate your lives.

There’s no other witnesses, just us two

I removed some blogs from my follow list, mainly because I follow too many blogs and it seems to be affecting Blogger’s ability to update my new item list on the dashboard. If you don’t post something every couple of days, I usually stop following. The exceptions are people who are important to me in one way or another, usually because they always post interesting things, so I’m willing to wait them out for a bit.

Found an interesting blog that I’d like to share with you: Jong-Min lives on the east coast and blogs about being undocumented. I haven’t seen a lot of well-written blogs by undocumented people, so this is a really good example of one. Check it out. I’m not the only undocumented writer on the internet.

On the subject of writing and the DREAM Act, I’m continuously amazed at the rancor and infighting taking place daily on the DREAM Act forums. You’d think a community of similarly disenfranchised people would stick together instead of trying to prove how much better they are than the rest. For a group of students who are supposed to be the enlightened future of the nation, they sure do act like a bunch of fucking idiots.

Example: one guy constantly asks every new female poster what she looks like and whether or not she’ll date him, and argues with other people who tell these new posters to be aware of this tool. If you search for threads where he’s posted, I guarantee you’ll find some mention of how much of a player he is, and how ugly all the girls on the forum are. He also has a wonderful blog where he writes about his daily failures in the realm of picking up girls, grammatical/spelling errors included.

It’d be nice if this community were an actual community, but I guess that’s also a dream that will be unfulfilled.

Speaking of unfulfilled dreams, immigration reform is going down the drain fast. I hope Obama decides to stand up for what he advocated during his campaign.

I finally updated my links list in the sidebar. Sorry if you linked to me from your blog and never got your link back until now. I’m working on it, and Blogger’s template sucks. I need to switch to WordPress.

Please read this article

Two weeks ago, Newsweek ran this article, by an undocumented student who was forced to drop out of Berkeley after one semester because of financial hardship. I wish there had been more interaction between undocumented students at Cal. While there was probably nothing anyone could have done for her, at least she would have had support from those of us who were in the same situation. I know what it’s like to want something so badly and then to have to let it go. I did spend three and a half years at community college before transferring to Berkeley.

The good thing about this article is it shows how driven undocumented students are. We are not here to steal your wages or destroy your country. We’re here to make a life for ourselves which includes the possibility of going to college, falling in love, getting married, and everything else Americans take for granted, including the right to a driver’s license and federal aid. I’m sure that this girl will eventually return to Berkeley to earn her degree, and that she will succeed.

Every immigration related article or post or youtube video that has enabled comments inevitably receives comments from people who are afraid of immigrants, notwithstanding the fact that most Americans are descended from immigrants. How ironic. Most of these posters know few arguments besides the argument of “invasion” and “ILLEGALS ARE TAKING OUR JOBS!!!!” It’s disheartening to see so many people swayed by fear. I’m definitely going to get some bigot commenting about how I should stop stealing his job and go home, much like I did when I posted something about the DREAM act a couple of months ago.

Then there are those who think that becoming “legal” is as simple as following some sort of quick, painless, but expensive process. Most of these people have no idea how much time I and other “illegal” and undocumented immigrants have spent trying to figure out this supposedly “easy” process. Think before you speak, that’s all I ask. Look through immigration procedure and tell me how easy this process is. Tell me that if you were in my situation, you’d have already figured it all out, or would have gone back to your country. It’s easy to say something like that when you don’t have to make the hard decision.

Facts

There seems to be some confusion regarding my legal status. Here are some facts:

I’m 25 years old and currently undocumented. If all goes well, I’ll be 30 when I get my green card. I’ve lived in the US since I was 11. There are several ways to expedite the petition process:

The first: I can get married to a US citizen. This is the quickest, as well as the stupidest option, unless I marry someone for love. It is illegal to marry for green cards. Who wants to marry me!?

The second: I can have an employer petition for me, at which point I will work for said employer until I receive a green card. This option is not readily available to me because employers have to prove that they could not hire a qualified US citizen for the same position. Because I only have a BA (two actually), employers can still prove that I’m not better than most American hires.

The third: President Obama can sign the DREAM Act into law, giving me immediate conditional permanent residency because I attended and graduated from a US high school as well as graduated from college.

The fourth: The USCIS (immigration service) can work to speed up the processing of visas available for immigrants, as well as give me back my original dependent petition priority date, which was in 2001 (the date my parents applied for green cards for the whole family). Currently, my priority date is in November 2007, when my independent petition was submitted by my parents. The current priority date set by USCIS is in January 2003. Once the USCIS priority date reaches November 2007, I’ll be eligible to receive a visa, and following that, a green card. The priority date is supposed to move month by month, but sometimes it regresses.

I came to the US legally. I’m undocumented because my visa expired and I aged out (turned 21) before my parents received their green cards. Therefore, I wasn’t eligible for a green card as a dependent. My sister received her green card because she was a dependent at the time their petition was accepted.

I’m ineligible for federal financial aid, government grants, various scholarships, and I’m unable to get any loans because I need a US citizen cosigner. I’m also unable to legally work unless an employer is willing to sponsor my petition for permanent residency.

Hope that settles some confusion.

Dreaming

I dreamt about JJ a couple of days ago, woke up and thought I’d actually seen her. Then I realized it had been a dream. The subconscious is a powerful element. How else do you explain a vivid dream where everything she says sounds perfectly logical, where I hear her laugh and see her smile and feel her hugs. I don’t even know how many weeks it has been since we’ve spoken. Like X said, I’m in the moment of remembering the good moments now.

Dreaming reminds me of Murakami. More importantly, dreaming reminds me of the DREAM Act and immigration reform, which I’ve mistakenly stopped mentioning on this blog. Please do some research on immigration reform and support the DREAM Act. For many undocumented students such as myself, it’s the only chance for a better life. At the rate my immigration petition is moving through the system, I’ll be 30 years old by the time I get a green card. I’d have been in the US for 20 years; two-thirds of my life would have been spent in California.

A couple of my Bay Area friends stopped by on the way home from the San Diego Comic Con. It’s been several months since we’ve seen each other. The last time was the Tuesday before I left Berkeley. I’d gone to San Francisco to see them and we ended up going to a Ramen restaurant in Japantown, on Post and Laguna, then drove to the Sunset to go to a Japanese dessert cafe. Today, we went to Subway and had a good hour all together before they left to drive the five hours to SF. It’s a shame Richard went to Japan and didn’t come to SDCC. Chris and Luke more than made up for his absence though. They’re wonderful people and they make me realize how lucky I’ve been to meet them.

A first step towards freedom

DREAM Act and U.S. Immigration Policy

Everyone should know about the DREAM Act. If you support immigration reform, you should support the DREAM Act, because it is a logical step towards legalization for many immigrants. Note that I didn’t say “illegal immigrants,” because I happen to be one of many originally “legal” immigrants who will benefit from this bill. Ironically, the only reason I’m now “undocumented” and technically “illegal” is because USCIS didn’t process my family’s petition for residency in good time, so I aged out. More on this later.

The DREAM Act was introduced again this year in the Senate. It has been introduced before, and it has failed before, but this year looks very good.

In basic terms, “This bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children (before the age of 16), and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.” (Sourced from Wikipedia, italics are mine)

If passed, this bill will give me and many other immigrants who went to high school and graduated but were not able to afford to go to college or get a legitimate job, the ability to go to school and take part in society, like normal people. We’d be able to get driver’s licenses, jobs, pay taxes, compete for scholarships and take out federal loans. We’d be able to get Social Security numbers, fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for grants and federal aid, and we’d be able to travel outside the US without fear of being placed on a 10 year ban list.

Read the Senate bill here and the House bill here.

There are a lot of arguments against this bill floating around out there. I think the primary argument is that we’d be giving rights to people who came to the US “illegally.”

A good response to this argument is that the Bill focuses on people who were children when they came to the US, and thus had no control over coming here. I certainly did not have any control in coming here. I was 11. Because the bill focuses specifically on people who were 16 or younger when they arrived, it avoids the major issue of so-called “amnesty” for “actual” “illegal” immigrants, the parents of those children. Please note that the bill says nothing about the parents.

Another good response to the argument about illegality is the fact that the bill will benefit many “undocumented” immigrants who came to the country legally, but for whatever reason lost status and are in limbo for a certain period of time. I am one of these people. Here is a timeline of what happened to me:

We came here legally on a B1/B2 visa in 1995 when I was eleven. My
parents extended that visa and then, when my father got a job, changed
it to H1 in 1996. After that my father applied for an L visa and was
denied it. Unfortunately, our lawyer did not apply for an extension of
the H1B visa, and while going through a lengthy process of appeals, my
parents fell out of status at the end of 2000. I was sixteen at that
time.

While my father was going through the appellate process, my mother
found a teaching job and her employer applied for an Alien Employment
Certification (ETA 750) – the first step in getting a green card
through employment, under Section 245 (i).

1) The Application for Alien Employment Certification for my mother
with me as a beneficiary was filed on April 23, 2001 with a priority
date of April 24, 2001. After that the application lingered in limbo
with thousands of other applications between California EDD,
Department of Labor and Backlog Reduction Centers for the next six
years.

Meanwhile I turned eighteen in 2002 and lost my legal status as well.

2) The Application was finally approved by the Department of Labor on
January 2, 2007. Now my mother’s employer could file Immigrant
Petition for Alien Worker (I-140) and my parents could file for
adjustment of status (I-485). Both forms were filed concurrently in
June 2007.

3) I turned twenty one in 2005 and could no longer be a beneficiary on
my mother’s petition or application for adjustment of status.

4) The petition was approved in October 2007 and my parents’
application to adjust status was approved on October 26, 2007.

5) My mother filed Petition for Alien Relative (I-130) for me in
November 2007, receipt date – November 15, 2007.

Technically, I am an “illegal” immigrant simply because of bureaucratic slowdown. Shouldn’t the US government give me my rights anyway? After all, it’s their fault I’m now undocumented. At the very least, the government should streamline their visa and residency process so that people like my family and I won’t have to wait 10 years to get permanent residency. We didn’t do anything wrong.

The argument isn’t merely about me though. There are many people who would benefit from this bill – young adults who want to go to college and live a normal life – you should consider them and what they can do for your society. Oakland just passed a council measure stating that they will give illegal immigrants ID cards, just like San Francisco did recently. I wish I was in Oakland now. It’s a first step towards freedom.

I have to say, my family and I have been really lucky. I got to attend UC Berkeley with in-state tuition because I went to a California high school. My parents paid the full in-state tuition because I wasn’t eligible for scholarships or financial aid. It would have been nice to have a job at Berkeley. I could have had one. I could have been hired by the one of the computing labs on campus. It was a done deal until it came time to verify my employment eligibility.

Now that I’ve made plans to go to grad school this fall, I can’t get any assistance from the government because I wasn’t able to fill out a FAFSA. I got a tuition grant from the school, but that’s not even close enough to paying for tuition. It would be nice to get a job when I get to Virginia, but it most likely won’t happen.

Here’s a link:

DREAM Act community