Friday, August 15, 2008
My Green Card got lost in a pile. A Broken Immigration System
"Immigration says my application for citizenship is being held up by the FBI pending a name search but I had an interview 18 months ago and was issued a conditional green card," says Fahd Mohiuebin.
"I think the FBI is holding my file because my first name is Arabic"
Fahd's wife is a U.S. citizen and a Caucasian, and Fahd is Indian. They did everything according to the book, went through all the right channels. There is no plausible reason why, since he was issued a conditional green card in February 2005, that his citizenship application would require a further name search.
"My wife and I had a 15 minute interview with an immigration officer and we supplied supporting documentation and proof that we were married - our certificate, photos, etc. He said there would be no problem and I would get my permanent green card in 60-90 days.
After 90 days, I went back to the immigration office in Spokane. They said my file was pending an FBI name check and I asked them how long it would take. The immigration officer said that he had no idea because Immigration is not a part of the FBI; they are an independent body. There was nothing I could do. The only thing Immigration told me was that the FBI conduct name checks weekly but I didn't know how far I was up on the list.
I phoned the FBI three times but my call just went to voice mail and I never received a call back. I had to renew my work authorization permit so I could continue to work - it was good for a year and I applied for a renewal two months before it expired. My work permit expired October 23rd and now I am worried. The people I worked with treated me like a family but I had to give up my job.
I went to immigration and they said I could legally work when I get my renewal card. Immigration is now working on issuing renewals dating back to July 25th so I'm expecting a long wait - at least a few months.
Immigration said that technically I should have a temporary green card but in order for me to get a permanent card, it has to be within two years of my wedding date. I was married May 15th, 2004. Now that the FBI has taken so long, I don't fall under this category.
My wife is frustrated. If I can't get my green card we might have to split up - her family is here and her mother needs looking after as she is diabetic. I am 28 and my wife is 29. Both our families are pressuring us to have a family but everything is on hold. I don't know what the future holds.
I don't know if my file is sitting on a pile with the FBI or if they are going to do anything at all. My wife and I need to know if I have a future life in America. I don't know what to do or where to turn."
Utica, NY: Hatem F. is an Iranian citizen, born in Kuwait. He is a permanent resident with a green card and applied for U.S. citizenship in 2002. Hatem waited until July 2005 to get an interview to be granted citizenship, only to be told that his application would be rejected.
"But I was given the option to withdraw my application and apply again," says Hatem. "These were my choices given: if I didn't withdraw my application, it would be rejected and the procedure would take longer than if I withdraw right away - it doesn't make any sense."
Talk about a Catch-22!
"The immigration officer said that I was all done with the background check (which took since 2002) and if it was rejected I would have to go through another background check. But another check would be unnecessary if I just reapply.
No reason was given to me about having to file another application, but she promised that, if I applied again, by December 2005 I would be granted another interview. This was July.
So I withdrew my application and that same day I filled out another application form and sent it overnight express to the Vermont immigration center.
December came and went. I am still waiting. My green card has now expired and I applied to renew it. Here is the real kicker: because I have a citizenship in process, they won't renew my green card so now I am in limbo. Immigration gave me a stamp on my passport saying that I was lawfully admitted to the U.S. and I am allowed to work but they told me not to travel because there might be some delays getting in and out of the country.
Two months ago Immigration sent me a letter, informing me that I had an interview, then two weeks later I received another letter stating that "due to unforeseen circumstances" my interview was canceled.
I don't feel the security that I used to. My mother is sick in Kuwait and I can't take the chance to visit her - I am not sure if I will be allowed back into the U.S. Now I feel a captive in this country. To be honest, I don't know what to think. I love this country but I don't know who is benefiting from leaving me in the dark."
Both these stories sound like a scene taken from a Kafka novel! Sounds like both Immigration and the FBI are employing stall tactics.
Not even Hatem's congress representative could help. "My congresswoman finally contacted Immigration, but all she got out of them was that they were waiting for my background check. "
With the advances we have in technology, why would it take years to gather information about someone? "I am disappointed," says Hatem. "The reason I came to this country is because we are supposed to be treated equally.