Fairness is Sought in Immigration Policies Regarding Deportation and Immigration
We want to think of the United States as an example of a fair legal system. People have many rights and countless venues of exercising them. When any of our rights are even so much as threatened, we sue and are financially rewarded for whatever perceived or actual wrongdoing has occurred. In criminal cases, even the most notorious criminals are given the chance of a fair trial. Even people with a violent criminal past are given many times the chance to live free in the society, earn a living or many times be supported by the state.
The justice system attempts to be fair through its ability to apply the law universally, but take into consideration the specific circumstances, character and potential future re-offenses of an individual on trial. It seeks punishment and restitution, but also rehabilitation. Or so we would like to think.
The laws of the United States are complex, a combination of many factors, including considerable public and private pressure. Many laws are reactionary – an incident has occurred that has threatened the safety of an individual or the public at large and that incident has prompted the enactment of a law. Sometimes those laws have major consequences for groups or individuals that were never intended or taken into consideration when the law was passed.
The clash of those two forces that so vigorously govern our American lives has resulted in devastating consequences for my brother, Emanuel Sumanariu, and our entire family. The law exponentially amplified the punishment of a crime for which penalty and restitution has been enacted years ago. The punishment not only doesn’t fit the crime, but it is a gross injustice for the many people it affects today.
Seven years ago, my brother used a stolen credit card at a casino in Las Vegas. He was caught. He was advised to plead guilty and bear the consequences of his actions. He did. He got his wake up call to straighten up his life. He completed probation and restitution as ordered by the court.
He changed his environment by moving to Missouri along with my parents four and a half years ago. He got a job that he has kept and advanced in for four years. He got married, bought a house, bought cars for himself and his wife, and had a baby. His wife was going to school to be a nurse. He was planning to go to college when she was done. They were both working hard. He worked overtime whenever he could. They were making ends meet, paying taxes and providing health insurance and financial support for three children: two that were living with them, their son together and hers from a previous relationship, as well as his son from a previous relationship who is living in Washington state.
One Saturday morning, their life was shattered. He was arrested and put in jail without bail. They had no idea what was going on or why this was happening. He wasn’t allowed to put on his own shoes. He was taken at a distance of three hours drive from their hometown, Union MO, to the Mississippi Detention Center. He could be visited 15 minutes weekdays, one hour on weekends. His family can only talk to him through the phone, not allowed to even hug him. He cannot hold his baby. He can only use the calling cards provided by the detention center – $1 a minute. He sleeps on a one-inch mattress on a metal shelf with no pillow.
Apparently, because of his conviction seven years ago, he was subject to deportation. He has been a permanent resident since 1997, when our family came to the United States. His lawyer never informed him of an automatic deportation consequence as a result of his plea. When he was arrested in April he was told that somehow “he had slipped through the cracks” and now, when the statute was six months away from being expired (seven years), they have proceeded with the deportation process. Mind you, he never tried to hide – he transferred his probation from Washington to Missouri, even renewed his permanent residency card in the meantime.
He has been detained for almost three months. He lost his job. His wife had to rely on family members to help with childcare because they cannot afford daycare. They lost their children’s health insurance and he is unable to pay child support for his older son. She has been forced to ask for government support and use food stamps. They are unable to keep up with all the bills and their credit is affected because they have built their lives based on both incomes.
My parents had to take out a home equity line of credit to pay for legal counsel. They had to hire a second lawyer in Las Vegas that filed for his case to be reopened since his legal counsel at the time failed to advise him of the ramifications of his plea. My brother thought he was paying for his crime. He didn’t know that even after his debt to society had been paid, he would continue to be punished for it, along with his entire family. The case was deemed “too old” to be reopened. But it is not too old for the system to base his deportation on! His deportation hearing was today, June 21st, and now it is official – he is scheduled to be deported. It had been postponed pending the result of the motion in Las Vegas.
At his first hearing, the judge asked him if he is going back to Romania. Or perhaps Canada, or Mexico? We were in disbelief. The letters of support from church, co-workers, friends and family did not matter. My brother and I were in high school when we came to the United States. This is where we grew up, this is what we have come to call our home. His parents and I, along with his wife, his children, and extended family here in the United States are all American citizens. He has no place to go “home” to. This is his home.
This is where the justice system was fair and accomplished its goal: punishment, restitution and rehabilitation.
And this is where the law failed.
The current law gives grounds for deportation for permanent residents that are convicted of aggravated felonies. He didn’t know that could be a consequence of his plea. And the elected officials passing this law did not take into consideration that the definition of an “aggravated felony” is different in different states. What he did in Nevada might not been classified as such in another state.
So what was the law seeking to accomplish? Remove an individual that is considered a threat to our society, a person who is unworthy of remaining in the United States. If he was a danger to society, why was he allowed to still be here for six and a half years and build a life only to be taken away from it?
What is this law accomplishing in my brother’s case? It is taking a hard working and honest individual, a father, a husband, a provider, the man who pays taxes and pays his bills and spends his income in the United States, the man who has taken responsibility and paid for his mistakes and who has his entire life and his entire family here and forcing him out of the country.
What will happen? His wife will be forced to either relocate or have a long-distance marriage. The financial burden will be tremendous. She has another son whose father is here and would be forced to give up her time with him or choose between her husband and her son. My brother’s biological children will be on state support for their health and financial needs. They will likely have to foreclose their home or declare bankruptcy. Her credit will be affected, and their whole life is ruined, without either of them being aware that this was even a possibility. In an economy where unemployment is at an all time high, he has maintained his job of four years only to have it taken away from him.
In addition to emotionally and financially ruining a family, the law will effectively take the financial burden of this family, that my brother was bearing, and it will place it on the state, on the tax payers.
Who wins? How is America better off?
How is this law just in my brother’s case? It isn’t.
It is a gross injustice that an individual who is lawfully residing in this country has no recourse in this instance. It is a shame to this country’s reputation that the enactment of this law does not take into consideration his circumstances in a country where individual rights are paramount.
There is absolutely nothing more that my brother could have possibly done right. Nothing.
And it still doesn’t matter. How is this possible?
I was in disbelief when I found out about his arrest. Surely it was a mistake, they would let him out in a week, allow him to return to work so he can support his family. If there is a hearing scheduled, he will go and make his case to stay. He has a house, a family, he hasn’t been hiding and he has nowhere he could possible run to. Surely they would consider his family. But a month passed before the case was started, no bail. I went to visit my family in Missouri for two weeks in April – I try to go once a year with my children. They didn’t get to see their uncle this time. I had to drive six hours total to visit with him for one hour. I couldn’t hug him. I felt so helpless. I felt his hopelessness. It was heartbreaking. It still is. Another month passed by and on June 7, word that the case in Vegas is “too old” to be reopened, and that at the hearing scheduled today his deportation order would be signed. It was.
What can I do? What can any of us do? We feel hopeless. I feel hopeless.
All I can do is to plead with the representatives of the very system that is failing us now and that is tearing us apart.
Please, as citizens of this country, as tax payers, as family, as friends, we beg you to do something about this injustice. We beg of you to do something to allow my brother to stay and rebuild his life and continue to support his family, our citizens. This is what America is about, and he is the type of individual that this country needs. There is no other place that he belongs to. Please find a way to help our family stay together.