By: Christopher Punongbayan
In the last week, the cases of two immigrant families surfaced in the mainstream media and highlighted the ways our federal immigration system is failing our country. In New York City, the New York Times covered the story of Qing Wu, a young Chinese American man who committed an offense from which he has completely turned his life around. His reward? Deportation.
In San Francisco, the Asian Law Caucus took the lead on a case involving the deportation of a 13 year old boy for allegedly taking 46 cents from another child in a school yard incident. The case was widely covered by the regional press, including the San Francisco Examiner.
Due to the media spotlight on these cases and the intervention of non-profit organizations, these two individuals have a second chance. In Wu’s case, it appears that he will never be forced to leave and he will have the chance to become a full-fledged United States citizen. In the SF case, the reprieve is only temporary as the family still needs to have their immigration case adjudicated to see if they can possibly remain in the US.
But what about the tens of thousands of others whose cases are not covered in the media and who are left alone to defend themselves from banishment from our country?
Our nation has a proud history of upholding the rights of the politically vulnerable, but it is not reflected in the current state of our immigration laws. We treat immigrants in unduly harsh and inflexible ways that fly in the face of the basic American value of fairness.
How else can it be that we would allow a 13 year old to be deported without even being allowed to see a judge? How else can it be that we would allow a man who served his time then worked hard after his release to become the vice president at a national company only to be deported 15 years after his original conviction?
Our immigration system must be reformed. We must ensure basic access to justice in all phases of our legal system. Immigration judges must have all the tools necessary to review each and every case on their merits and not have their hands tied by the political lobby in Washington, D.C., that wants to shrink the size of the immigrant population in the US.
The Olympic Games just concluded and it was heartening to see the US excel in so many competitions. We, once again, had a global platform where our accomplishments stood as a beacon to the rest of the world. However, from where we stand on the issue of treatment of the foreign-born within our borders, we have a long way to go.