Com­mon sense con­sid­er­a­tions

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

Jus­tice isn’t al­ways blind when it comes to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment. U.S. au­thor­i­ties ex­er­cise ap­par­ently wide lat­i­tude to im­pose the let­ter of the law or in­ject com­pas­sion, es­pe­cially in cases of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency. Too of­ten, sim­ple com­mon sense doesn’t seem to fac­tor into the equa­tion. Three re­cent cases il­lus­trate the point.

Oliv­era Sny­der and her sis­ter, Je­lena Boldt, were born in the for­mer Yu­goslavia and brought here as chil­dren by their par­ents in 1985. They know lit­tle of their Ser­bian home­land. Both mar­ried Amer­i­cans, and Oliv­era has three Amer­i­can chil­dren. Through one of the stranger twists in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, the Dal­las-area sis­ters are brac­ing for de­por­ta­tion, de­spite hav­ing filed all the re­quired pa­per­work and com­pleted ev­ery step of the process.

Their im­mi­grant mother won per­mis­sion to stay. They have no crim­i­nal his­tory. Some­one in the bow­els of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment de­cided it was time to close their cases and move on. Their lawyer says he can’t get an ex­pla­na­tion and de­scribes the case as “one of the most dis­turb­ing de­par­tures from ra­tio­nal think­ing I have ever wit­nessed.”

Eric Balderas is a Har­vard stu­dent who grew up in the United States and has vir­tu­ally no me­mory of his early child­hood be­fore his par­ents brought him to Texas from Mex­ico. He lost his pass­port and wound up in the sights of an ICE of­fi­cial as he boarded a flight from San An­to­nio to Bos­ton. Now he faces de­por­ta­tion. Har­vard dig­ni­taries are try­ing to help, but the 19-year-old’s fu­ture hangs in limbo un­til a July 6 de­por­ta­tion hear­ing.

Herve Fonkou Tak­oulo is a Cameroo­nian fac­ing de­por­ta­tion af­ter los­ing an asy­lum bid. He and his Amer­i­can wife, Caro­line Jamieson, are pro­fes­sion­als in Man­hat­tan. Jamieson wrote to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in a des­per­ate at­tempt to stave off the de­por­ta­tion, and in ap­par­ent re­tal­i­a­tion, two im­mi­gra­tion agents went to the cou­ple’s house, men­tioned the Obama let­ter and then took Tak­oulo away in hand­cuffs. An in­quiry by The New York Times led to Tak­oulo’s quick re­lease.

Thou­sands of such cases never make it into the me­dia spot­light, so there’s no telling how many horror sto­ries are out there. It shouldn’t take a re­porter’s in­quiry or an em­bar­rass­ing news ar­ti­cle to make im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties rec­og­nize that these are hu­man be­ings whose lives face ir­rev­o­ca­ble de­struc­tion.

Yes, we want a pre­dictable and con­sis­tent sys­tem of im­mi­gra­tion laws that ap­ply equally to all. But com­mon sense also must come into play. These three cases un­der­score the real hu­man hard­ship cre­ated by Amer­ica’s bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and over­bur­dened im­mi­gra­tion courts. Com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, with tough but fair mea­sures to help peo­ple at­tain le­gal sta­tus in this coun­try, is the best way to break this chain of tragedy.

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