He went from Clin­ton Foun­da­tion Hon­oree to De­por­tee

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Ben San­gari was hon­oured by the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion for his work in ed­u­ca­tion in 2010. Four years later he was in an im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­tre, await­ing de­por­ta­tion back to the United King­dom.

In 2009, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton thanked Ben San­gari for the work he did de­vel­op­ing pub­lic school science cur­ric­ula. The fol­low­ing year San­gari was on stage at a Clin­ton Foun­da­tion event again re­ceiv­ing ap­plause for his achieve­ments in ed­u­ca­tion. Four years later, that all came to an end.

San­gari, a cit­i­zen of the United King­dom, is one of thou­sands of peo­ple who get de­ported ev­ery year for stay­ing in the United States for longer than per­mit­ted—in some cases, like his, only for a few days.

And as San­gari watched Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion speech last week, from his new home in Canada, he found the mogul’s com­ments about the lack of visa en­force­ment ut­terly per­plex­ing.

“If you over­stay your visa, you’re de­ported,” San­gari said. “This is what they do al­ready. It’s done.”

As San­gari found out first­hand, U.S. im­mi­gra­tion law makes life dif­fi­cult for peo­ple who visit the coun­try on visas and then stay longer than al­lowed. Over­stay­ing a visa is a civil of­fence. But in Trump’s Amer­ica, it would be crim­i­nal. Crim­i­nal­is­ing visa over­stay­ers, which his plan pro­poses, would mean the mil­lions of tourists, en­trepreneurs and busi­ness­peo­ple who visit the U.S. ev­ery year would all be seen as po­ten­tial crim­i­nals. And ev­ery visa would be a count­down to a prison sen­tence.

Trump has promised, both in his im­mi­gra­tion town hall with Sean Han­nity and at his ma­jor im­mi­gra­tion speech last week, to pri­ori­tise de­por­ta­tions of peo­ple here who have over­stayed their visas. But the GOP nom­i­nee hasn’t been clear about how ex­actly he would do so. Im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­neys sug­gest two pos­si­ble routes:

First, Trump could di­rect im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to ac­tively hunt down, lock up, and de­port the mil­lions of peo­ple in the U.S. who have stayed longer than their visas al­lowed. Im­mi­gra­tion agents would camp out in front of their homes or try to am­bush them as they go to work. That would re­sult in a mas­sive num­ber of de­por­ta­tions, and be a big step to­ward turn­ing the U.S. into a po­lice state.

“It’s a very in­ten­sive man­hunt,” said im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney Bryan John­son. “It’s a nee­dle in a haystack.”

Four mil­lion nee­dles, in fact, in 4 mil­lion haystacks.

Al­ter­na­tively, Trump could opt out of con­duct­ing mil­lions of na­tion­wide man­hunts. In­stead, he could just re­quire that those who over­stay their visas and then get flagged by po­lice - for in­stance, if they drive over the speed limit, get pulled over, and then give their pass­ports to po­lice of­fi­cers - will get de­ported. And guess what? That al­ready hap­pens. Just ask San­gari. San­gari had a dis­tin­guished ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion be­fore his im­mi­gra­tion trou­ble in the U.S. He is a Bri­tish cit­i­zen of Ira­nian her­itage, and he founded and then sold a com­pany that helped de­velop science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, and medicine cur­ric­ula for Brazil­ian schools. The pro­gramme drew at­ten­tion from Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tors, so he came to the U.S. to look into de­vel­op­ing it for schools in New York. And he didn’t just get at­ten­tion from teach­ers. In 2009, Bill Clin­ton wrote him a let­ter prais­ing his work, as the Buf­falo News re­ported.

In 2010, Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton high­lighted San­gari’s work on­stage at the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive’s an­nual meet­ing. There, the foun­da­tion praised his plan to bring his cur­ricu­lum to six un­der­served Amer­i­can schools. Huff­in­g­ton called San­gari on­stage. Then Bill Clin­ton shook his hand, and the au­di­ence ap­plauded.

San­gari sold his com­pany in 2012 and then trav­elled through Africa and Europe for about two years with his long-term part­ner, Ar­lita McNamee. In early 2014, he came to the U.S. with her. She’s a U.S. cit­i­zen, and he en­tered legally through the visa waiver pro­gram, which al­lows for­eign na­tion­als from par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries - in­clud­ing the U.K. - to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days. Mil­lions of for­eign na­tion­als use the pro­gram to visit the U.S. ev­ery year; De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity sta­tis­tics show that in 2014, for in­stance, about 22 mil­lion peo­ple used it to come to the U.S. San­gari was one of them. His pa­pers ex­pired in Au­gust 2014, but he said he de­cided to over­stay be­cause he and McNamee, who were then en­gaged, were gath­er­ing the pa­per­work nec­es­sary to ap­ply for a fi­ancé visa and even­tu­ally get per­ma­nent res­i­dence. That Septem­ber, he was pulled over for driv­ing 50 miles per hour in a 40-mph zone. He gave the of­fi­cer his pa­per­work, the of­fi­cer re­alised he had over­stayed his visa, and that was that.

“The side of the road was my last mem­ory of Buf­falo,” he said.

Au­thor­i­ties took him to an im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­tre in up­state New York, where he spent the next five weeks try­ing to stay in the U.S. He and his fi­ancée even got mar­ried while he was de­tained, hop­ing im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment of­fi­cials would be le­nient. They weren’t.

In late Oc­to­ber, of­fi­cers woke him up at 3 a.m. and told him to grab his things. They flew to Newark Air­port and then put him on a flight to Lon­don. San­gari stayed in the U.K. for about a week and then moved to Canada. He now lives in Ni­a­gara on the Lake with his wife, who com­mutes across the bor­der to Buf­falo ev­ery day for work.

That’s how the sys­tem works. It’s a drag­net. You can be a model would-be cit­i­zen, phil­an­thropic and en­tre­pre­neur­ial. But if you stay in the U.S. a few days more than you’re sup­posed to and then you drive a few miles over the speed limit, you’re done.

Trump’s em­pha­sis on de­port­ing peo­ple like San­gari is new, es­pe­cially given that he’s spent the last two weeks vac­il­lat­ing on de­por­ta­tions. But it’s been his of­fi­cial po­si­tion ever since he re­leased his im­mi­gra­tion plat­form last Au­gust.

The can­di­date’s plat­form calls for “crim­i­nal penal­ties” for any­one who stays longer than a visa per­mits. This would be a mas­sive shift in im­mi­gra­tion law; now, as the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union has de­tailed, sim­ply be­ing in the U.S. with­out the proper au­tho­ri­sa­tion doesn’t ne­c­es­sar­ily make you a crim­i­nal. Trump would change that.

Many im­mi­gra­tion ex­perts find Trump’s hard-edged rhetoric on de­por­ta­tion of visa over­stay­ers to be bizarre.

“It un­der­scores his com­plete lack of un­der­stand­ing, or his staff’s lack of un­der­stand­ing - I’ll put it on him - of how the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem works,” said David Leopold, an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney who for­merly headed the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion. “He just doesn’t un­der­stand it.”

“He’s talk­ing about crim­i­nal­is­ing civil im­mi­gra­tion law,” Leopold added. “It makes no sense.”

In the United States, it mat­ters not how many con­tri­bu­tions you have made, how wealthy you may be or how many pow­er­ful peo­ple you have met, the U.S. will still kick you out if you over­stay.

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