A Time for Confession

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Recently I read the confession of reporter, writer and Pulitzer Prize winning author Jose Antonio Vargas. Put on a plane with false documents by his mother in the Philippines, he arrived at the age of 12 in the United States. He went through our school system, and eventually graduated from elementary school, high school, college and eventually landed work as a journalist. His hard work and determination not only won him the Pulitzer Prize, but helped him interview prominent and famous people as well as have a promising future. When he confessed that he is an undocumented person that future has now become uncertain.

Any way you look at it, he had rotten choices to make when he learned that he was an undocumented person at age 16. Go back to the Philippines or stay and try to make a good future for himself here in the United States? Doing what some Americans would call as the “right thing” would have put him into poverty, destitution and being banned for at least ten years from ever entering the United States again. Ten years that he became a productive and hardworking person in this country would have been wasted. While I do not call for people to go out to break the law or to break immigration law, I will tell you a story of what happened about someone who did “play by the rules.”

That person was me. I did everything I could to get my wife into the United States legally from South Korea. I did all of the paperwork, went countless times to immigration centers in the Chicago area, and waited and waited and waited. Finally, after a year and a half, I decided to bring my wife to the United States no matter what immigration said. I got her in “legally,” but immigration had simply never given her the temporary legal paperwork they should have. And when we tried to get some action going, we got the same answer, “we are in the war against terrorism.” Meaning, if I pitched an argument one too many times my case would not have been considered and my wife would be forced to leave the country.

Immigration personnel for the most part were rude, nasty and at times cruel to me. The mistakes immigration made on my paperwork was astounding, and I truly feared that my wife would be imprisoned and forcibly deported because of the messed-up paperwork by U.S. immigration. The whole process was beginning to get too complicated, so I hired an immigration lawyer. Even with an immigration lawyer it was all touch-and-go. I eventually got my wife her permanent residency paperwork—three years after I applied for it! For a year and a half she was not allowed to come to the United States with her husband, and for another year and a half we were in legal limbo on her immigration status. Sadly, we were far from being the only ones going through this legal hell. There was a lot more that happened to me that I will not write here about going through U.S. immigration because I still find it a painful and frustrating experience.

You can imagine the time I had to take off from the company, the trips I had to make to South Korea at my own expense, and how much it cost me to hire a lawyer to get my wife through the byzantine bureaucracy we call U.S. immigration. I certainly will never forget it, and certainly will never forgive what U.S. immigration did to me. Unlike most Americans, I have personally dealt with the immigration system, and it has left a bad taste in my mouth. Listen, I am a U.S. citizen, I pay my taxes and I have not broken any laws (at least nothing beyond maybe traffic violations). What I was put through tells me that U.S. immigration barely works or does not work at all, is a waste of the taxpayers’ money, and is largely broken and unworkable. As I said while I do not believe nor advise people to break the law, and that includes immigration law, I do have sympathy for the undocumented because of my own painful personal experience. And I can certainly empathize with Jose Antonio Vargas who now may not have a future in this country.

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