Cross posted from The Virtuous Republic
Usually on immigration, I’m pretty hardcore, but the following story bothers me for several reasons. The family in question, lives in the same township as I do and the school that they send their children to is only a couple of miles from The Virtuous Republic’s bunker. Here is their story:
An immigration agent called Maha Dakar to his office a few weeks ago and told her the time had come to make a choice.
Dakar began to weep.
The choice was simple, yet impossible: leave behind her Green Township home, her four young daughters and her husband and move to Jordan alone, or take the girls with her and subject them to a new and frightening life in a country they’d never seen.
Her husband was not permitted to go with her. She was not permitted to stay.
How could she decide, Dakar asked, when neither choice would keep her family together?
How could any mother do such a thing?
The sympathetic immigration agent gave Dakar a reprieve that day, but it will be short. She must report to him again in August with a plan to leave the country by October.
“We are willing to leave, but we want to leave as a family,” Dakar said last week. “We have no future because we don’t know where we will be.”
The family is on the verge of being split because of a rare combination of bad luck and uncompromising immigration laws, both in the United States and at least a half dozen countries around the world.
As Palestinians born in Kuwait, both Dakar and her husband, Bassam Garadah, are considered “stateless.”
In other words, they have no country to go home to.
Dakar carries a Jordanian passport and can be deported to that country. Garadah, who carries only Egyptian travel documents, cannot go with her or move anywhere else.
The couple came to America legally in 1997, they have permission to work and pay taxes, they report monthly to immigration officials and they have filed the paperwork necessary to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Unlike many of the 200,000 people facing deportation from the United States each year, Dakar and her family did not break any law.
They were deemed deportable after the courts rejected their application for political asylum, a decision that does not bar them from seeking citizenship but limits their time to do so.
It’s time the couple doesn’t have.
A huge backlog in applications means Dakar’s request for residency in the United States won’t be processed for at least five years, long after she is due to be deported.
“Our government wants people to do things the right, legal way,” said Douglas Weigle, the family’s attorney. “The only problem is the system is broke.”
The system may be flawed, but immigration officials are quick to point out that this case is more challenging than most.
The children – Basma, 9, Yasmine, 8, Rima, 7, and Dana, 5 – were born in America and are U.S. citizens. They can move with their mother or stay with their father.
That, of course, leaves the couple with an agonizing choice.
“I cannot make this decision,” Garadah said last week as he watched his four girls play in the living room of the family’s townhouse. “I cannot break my family.”
It is, in many respects, a family that is as American as any other.
The girls, each with the same jet-black hair and big brown eyes, bound around the house giggling and playing. They show off their American Girl dolls to visitors and talk excitedly about the new “Harry Potter” movie.
They have, clearly, embraced life in suburbia.
They attend Springmyer Elementary and divide their free time between soccer, swimming, piano and ballet lessons.
Evidence of their American childhood is everywhere: the hula hoop propped against a wall in the living room. A violin tucked beside the couch. Dolls scattered on coffee tables.
“This is my home,” Basma said. “America is like my roots.”
Those roots already run deep, despite the family’s short stay in the United States.
Many relatives are U.S. citizens or are in the process of becoming citizens, including Dakar’s parents, Garadah’s parents and several siblings.
Dakar, 39, is a fixture at Springmyer and volunteers for the PTA. She has a degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in biotechnology, but her main job now is raising the kids.
Garadah, 38, has supported the family by working long hours almost every day at an Avondale grocery.
It has not been easy lately, Dakar said. But it is the best life they have known.
“I love living here,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful country.”
Time running short
They don’t want to leave but say they would gladly do so if they could go together.
Basma summed up her parents’ dilemma last month when she spoke at a seminar on immigration issues in Cincinnati.
“I can’t live without my family,” she said. “I can’t break my heart in two pieces.”
Dakar and Garadah have struggled, along with immigration officials, to find a solution to their problem. The legal paperwork is stuffed into a folder several inches thick.
It chronicles one failed attempt after another to find a country that will accept the entire family.
They first tried Kuwait, the country where they were born, but were refused because of their Palestinian heritage. Jordan would accept Dakar but not Garadah, while Egypt would accept neither.
Both have relatives in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but neither is an option because Dakar and Garadah were not born there.
Finally, the family tried third-party countries, such as Canada. So far none has accepted them, although Canadian officials said their residency application would likely be approved.
The catch: It will take about five years to process the application.
“It’s difficult for us,” said Greg Palmore, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman. “We’re trying to secure a country they can go to.” He said immigration officials have shown restraint by allowing Dakar to remain here while she and her husband try to find somewhere – anywhere – they can move together.
But someday in the near future, Palmore said, Dakar will have to leave, with or without her husband and children.
Soon, Dakar and Garadah will have to make the choice they’ve been dreading.
“Our job is to enforce removal,” Palmore said, “and we will get to that part very shortly.”
Uncertainty hangs over the entire family.
A few weeks ago, the subject came up in the car while Dakar drove the children home.
“You can stay with Dad and I can go,” said Yasmine, 8.
“But I need you to help with my homework,” protested Rima, 7.
“Don’t talk like that,” Basma said. “We should all stay together.”
Basma, as the oldest, seems to appreciate the seriousness of the situation more than the others.
On the last day of school in June – after hearing friends repeatedly say, “We’ll see you next fall” – Basma broke down in tears.
That’s when friends and teachers first learned about the family’s troubles. Dakar and Garadah had tried to keep it quiet for as long as possible.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” Basma told Dakar that night. “I had to tell. I was so sad.”
Her outburst prompted friends and neighbors to launch a letter-writing campaign on the family’s behalf. The goal is to convince immigration officials and lawmakers to do whatever is necessary to keep the family together.
“They see the forced separation of the Garadah family as a tragedy,” said Tom Melvin, the principal at Springmyer. “Who wouldn’t?”
Dakar said the letters may not sway immigration officials, but they could help with a last-ditch appeal to local members of Congress. Under the law, Congress can approve a “private bill” that essentially grants a pardon to specific immigrants facing deportation.
The bills are rarely approved – Congress rejected all of them last year – but the Garadahs have asked U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, to sponsor a bill on their behalf.
“We’re doing everything we can,” said Chabot spokesman Gary Lindgren, who said the congressman would consider a private bill. “There’s really not an easy solution.”
He said Chabot’s office sent a letter to immigration officials last week urging them to keep looking for a third-party country to take the family.
“There’s a lot of sympathy, I think, among everyone involved,” Lindgren said.
`It breaks my heart’
Dakar and Garadah are exhausted with worry. They try not to think about the looming deadline, but they can’t help it.
It’s always with them.
“We never, ever thought it would come to this,” said Kristen AbuDakar, Dakar’s sister-in-law. “It breaks my heart.”
She said the family still has hope. But everyone worries about what will happen if
Dakar is forced to leave without her family, if she and her husband finally have to make that terrible choice.
The mother and father considered that question last week, and both just shook their heads.
“It’s not an easy decision,” Garadah said.
Dakar scooped up Basma and looked across the room at her husband.
“It’s balanced now,” she said. “We have the mother and the father. If one person is taken away, this whole circle is broken.”
Some might say, the law is the law. But I say, the father has a job. He pays taxes. The mother volunteers at the grade school and has a master’s degree in the sciences. We have people in this case who have followed the law, got jobs legally, and are well educated and we want to give them the heave-ho?Yet, and I say yet, we cater to the uneducated masses from Central America, who as we have found out over the past months, are likely not even to have a high school education, get payed on the black market and don’t pay taxes, burden our schools, overwhelm our welfare systems, and crowd our jails.
And when we have well-educated immigrants, who follow the laws, who are employed, and who make an effort to assimilate into our culture, we cold heartedly give them the boot.
To me, this is just another example of how our immigration system is broken. Everything is turned upside down. We encourage people without high school educations to enter, we turn a blind eye to illegal immigration, and our elites even wanted to make them citizens, but decent immigrants are sent away.
**This was a production of The Coalition Against Illegal Immigration (CAII). If you would like to participate, please go to the above link to learn more. Afterwards, email stiknstein-at-
gmail-dot-com and let us know at what level you would like to participate.