News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A partisan political reason for our dysfunctional immigration system?

I host a website,, that invites U.S. immigrants from all over the world to tell their immigration story in their own words. In it, you’ll find inspirational accounts of new arrivals brimming with the joy of living in the world’s most vibrant nation. You’ll also find the horror stories of families caught in the bureaucratic quagmire of our dysfunctional immigration system. The stories of spouses and children separated by seemingly capricious decisions from our immigration system are heart-wrenching:

“My wife was alone at the time of birth of our child. My case is still in immigration process. Sometimes my wife visits me and we spend a few months together. God help us, we are still waiting for immigration to enable us to live together.”

“My husband was asked to leave the country after filing for his residency in 2004. He was deported in 2005 without any explanation. I call USCIS every month and get different answers.”

“I am US-born citizen who filed a Petition I-130 back in 2003 for my husband, a citizen of Mexico living in the US since 1992. Approved in 2005, my husband was summoned right after his approval for removal from the US. -- I have paid over 7500.00 since January in lawyers fees and have been told to get us out of a removal defense it will cost another $4000 more. We are broke now. We are poor with three small children and have no working forms for my husband. What would you do?”

On June 11, the Washington Post broke a story that may offer a clue for some of these nightmares. “Immigration Judges Often Picked Based On GOP Ties” by Amy Goldstein and Dan Eggen reveals a pattern of political partisanship by the Bush administration in the appointment of immigration judges.

A quote from the Washington Post article:

“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.”

To be sure, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has a long history of red tape and inefficiency. The USCIS is the last U.S. government department to still use a paper filing system. However, appointing judges whose main qualifications are political loyalty seems like pouring sludge into an already badly-running engine.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez