Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Immigration system needs a comprehensive reform.

How many times do you hear do it legally, be on line, do it thru the right way. Well, a perfect example how the Immigration system needs a constructive reform.

After a two-year long distance relationship, Nancy and her fiance were finally reunited in the U.S. Immediately upon entering the U.S., her fiance filed for adjustment of status and his green card application was filed in September, 2002. They did everything by the book, followed all the immigration laws. Trouble was, the government didn't.

We met when I was working in Germany - he is Romanian," says Nancy Harris (not her real name pending a lawsuit). "I came back to the U.S. in 2000 and my fiance was finishing his PhD, so he couldn't arrive until 2002. We were married at a courthouse in downtown Manhattan. Right away, he applied for a work permit but it was delayed beyond the point that was legally allowable. There were no explanations given, we were just given the 'run-around.'

So many things went wrong with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that I could go on for hours. There was absolutely no reason for any delays. My husband had to start a job in January at Mt. Sinai hospital but without the work permit all he could do was volunteer without pay. Finally, he was so frustrated that he went to the INS office and told them he wouldn't leave until he was granted a work permit. They just called the police. My husband must have filled out 50 inquiry forms.

The three-month time limit to be granted a permit always expired. The details of these permits, the endless paperwork, goes on for hours, years... And the INS are never helpful; they don't even live by their own rules. Not once was there an answer to our inquiries. In the past five years, I contacted Hillary Clinton, a few members of Congress, the offices of George Bush and Dick Cheney. I think that the only reason he got any help was because Cheney's office finally looked at the applications. My husband is a scientist and works in biotechnology - I think the U.S. can benefit from his expertise and this is the treatment he received.

He applied numerous times for advanced payroll - permission to leave the country. He got a work permit but without a green card, we have no idea how many jobs he was turned down.

I can't even start to calculate the expense. We even paid for some forms twice, such as advance payroll and work permit applications. And for his initial application for adjustment of status, we weren't even given a receipt of any information that the INS had received our check. This would have been in 2002. Finally, we found out from Western Union (the only company that issues a cashier's check) that it had been cashed. I now have a form that says our money was received in 2002 and the form was sent to us in 2005! They took our money and gave us nothing in return.

My husband is now working at NYU, most likely at a lower position than if he had been issued a green card years ago. Biotechnology companies are always looking for scientists, it is a very desirable position. But he couldn't apply for grant money - which is a major funding source for scientists - and we have been economically challenged because of all this, maybe not as bad as some people, but frustrating nonetheless.

We did everything the right way - the exact government protocol. As far as I can tell, they punish people like us who do things by the book. I don't blame people who work here illegally. At the end of the day, what is the INS accomplishing? The magnitude of how disorganized they are is unbelievable - if they could misplace and lose all our forms, how can they screen terrorists, how can they protect us? Instead, they are harassing law-abiding people and I certainly don't have any confidence in their screening process. And our tax money pays for this fiasco.

I hope something comes of this, a change to these archaic immigration laws - if for no reason other than more people won't have to go through the INS mess.

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