Beki Grinter

Fortunately I Wasn’t Deported: A Citizenship Story

In immigration on March 3, 2011 at 9:06 am

Last week, I became an American citizen. I’ve been asked why, and it’s because I wanted a voice.

I also wanted to be done with immigration, a process that took me 19.5 years, and cost I would estimate well in excess of $20,000 (paid by me and the companies I worked for). It took one  F1 visa filing, four Employment Authorization filings, three Travel Authorization filings, a Petition to Adjust, an Outstanding Researcher Petition, three H1-B filings and three finger printings. My favourite though was my “we can’t process your application or your interim application in time, so you’ll have to do an emergency interim application” filing to maintain my legal status. One reason it has taken a long time is that I did this based on employment. I am not a daughter, wife, or a lottery winner, but a worker and student earning the right. (Follow this map, use worker…)

But the final delay belongs to the Georgia Driving License facility and the Motor Voter Act. Motor Voter was designed to get more people registered to vote by making registration possible when applying for a driving license. I went to the Georgia DL with my British passport and my permanent resident card. When asked if I wanted to register to vote I said no, because I know that I can not vote. I was registered despite showing this documentation and despite verbally saying no.

During the application for citizenship I learnt that registering to vote as a non-citizen was a crime carrying the sentence of deportation.

What had happened? During my application for a driving license, I never saw or signed a voter registration card. The only thing I signed was my electronic signature and that I was instructed to give because it was required for the license itself. It was then reused without my consent on my voter registration card. When I renewed my license, I was asked again if I wanted to register and I ticked no. Luckily I kept a copy of that form, lucky because my lawyer used that copy to make a case that when I am asked if I want to register to vote I say no.

Fortunately, the INS had issued a memo saying that now it was up to the interviewing officer to assess whether the person had sufficient “good moral character” despite being registered to vote, partially based (so I understand) on the mistakes that could occur via Motor Voter. So I hired a lawyer, another $3000, and had him make my case. Unfortunately, despite passing all the tests in the interview, the officer who interviewed me could not decide she needed her supervisor to make that call (this apparently is true in 95% of all these Motor Voter registration cases). And so I disappeared into a void that immigrants know too well, the one that consists of absolutely no transparency into the process and no knowledge of when or how it would end. I was left to wonder whether I would be considered good enough or taking a one way ticket out.

Months later (I’m lucky, some people wait over a year) I got my answer. They allowed me to become an American.

So, here is the voice that I said I wanted. I do not support illegal immigration, but I also do not support the current process of legal immigration in this country. It lacks transparency, particularly for it’s “customers.” It can be humiliating. I did not tell very many people I was applying for citizenship because of the embarrassment I felt over the potential threat of deportation. It’s stressful. For those months of waiting, I wondered what would happen to my life as I knew it. And I wish it was the first time the INS had put me in that situation. Being a legal immigrant costs a fortune. One I can pay. That emergency interim application because the two others couldn’t be processed, yes, that’s *three* applications for the same thing each of which cost me and my employer money.

We blame those who avoid the system (perhaps we ought to give equally vocal blame to those who hire them avoiding the same system), but I think we ought to take a good look at the system itself and ask whether we think its working. I shall be doing that with my American voice. I’ll be doing it, because this immigration system is doing it in my name, their policies and procedures are mine, done in my name and on my behalf.

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  1. I really liked this post.

    I recently attended a meeting of “Canadians in ATL” where many horror
    stories were exchanged about having to deal with immigration. Since
    most of these folks were trying to do it on the “up and up”, it was
    surprising to me how many hurdles they encountered (much like
    yourself). Many folks had legitimate cases that always seemed “out of
    the ordinary” for immigration officials, and were consequently dealt
    with in what seemed like inhumane ways. It really made me wonder what
    “normal” was.

    It seems funny that, when that these complex systems are designed for
    “impartiality” (presumably), they end up resulting in completely
    opaque, arbitrary-feeling processes.

    On the other hand, it does create a whole new industry: immigration
    lawyers. So, maybe the system is really /actually/ designed to create
    jobs for Americans. Har har. Of course, lawyers are only affordable by
    the wealthy.

    As an immigrant, it seems, you have two fairly bad choices: (1) fly
    under the radar, and stay out of sight of the system, or (2) do it
    legitimately, potentially getting busted any time on weird, seemingly
    arbitrary rules and costing yourself a fortune in the meantime.

    I don’t know much about Canadian immigration, but I imagine that it’s
    also not a well-designed system.

    What would a world look like if there was no official notion of
    citizenship? (Imagine they could figure out taxation appropriately.)

  2. My Fiance is a victim of Motor Voter, she went to our local DMV back in 2003 to get a State ID, she showed her Permanent Resident Card as a form of ID and she was asked if she would like to register to vote, since this person was working in a Goverment facility and he still asked her to register after he seen the Green card she went ahead and registered and voted in 2004 for the President, she did not know she couldn’t vote and thought it was OK since the DMV asked her to. In 2007 she applied for citizenship and sent in her N400 and she told the truth on that form where it asks have you voted, she put yes, we still had no idea the trouble that was ahead. To make a long story short she is now in removal proceedings and has another court date coming up on Dec 13th and we still do not have an attorney because we cannot afford it, we have spoken to several and they said the Immigration court does not care what led her to vote, they just want to remove her for voting, they do not care about the Motor Voter problem and it being the reason for the trouble she is in. She did not go to the DMV to register to vote, she went there for a State ID and followed what was asked of her.

    • Hi Cristian,
      Sorry for the delay, it’s been awhile since I went back to this Blog, my fiance Maria had another court date on Dec 13th, this was a status hearing, the judge went over what the case was about, asked her how it happened that she voted, asked her if she knew she could not vote, etc, etc. She was givin another court date for her final hearing on Dec 19th, 2012. What is messed up is all of these questions have already been awnsered in her N400 interview when she found out she could not vote, before she was put in removal we sent in form N336 to request a hearing to explain what happened and we wrote out a statement of how this all started at the DMV with the Motor Voter Law, we printed from online articles about other cases and the problem at the DMV and how this is happening all over the US, and this did not help, they still put her in removal for voting one time over 7 years ago. Immigration is treating her like a Criminal, this is how I look at it, if she gets deported I can picture the scene, she will get on a plane with other deported people and maybe one of them will ask her, “what did you do”, she replies, “I voted, she then asks, “what did you do”, I murdered someone, sold drugs, cheated the US out of money, Robbed a few banks, and this person TELLS her, MAN YOU VOTED THAT IS BAD, AND YOU DID IT WITHOUT KNOWING IT WAS WRONG BECAUSE YOU WERE ASKED BY A DMV EMPLOYEE AFTER THEY SEEN YOUR GREEN CARD, YOUR LUCKY THEY DIDN’T LOCK YOU UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY. In her final hearing she has to show proof on why she should get to stay in the US, she has to show hardship to the family, she has to supply evidence that she has been here for the last 7 years, SHE HAS BEEN HERE SINCE 1991, WHERE DO THEY THINK SHE HAS BEEN “ON THE MOON”, she has to get together Tax returns, Pay stubs, mail, work records, House papers, etc, etc. AND WE STILL DO NOT HAVE AN ATTORNEY, AND SHE HAS TO GO THRU ALL OF THIS FOR VOTING ONE TIME. Cristian get back to me with your thoughts I have a lot to say on this case, to much to type in this reply, I will give more info in return replies.

      • Hi Steve, Cristian,

        I’m sorry to read about your cases, perhaps you should swap details and follow up in a more private forum? Just a suggestion since I suppose any and all of this could be construed as public and available evidence?

  3. Beki70,
    To your reply, what is happening to people because of the Motor Voter Law, needs to be heard, this does not need to be kept private, everything that I said is the truth and no one is doing anything about it. Permanent residents are going to the DMV to get a license or State ID and after they show there Green card, they get asked to register to vote, the DMV employee knows they are not a citizen but it is required by Law that everyone be asked Citizen or not, OH WELL, the employee cannot tell a non citizen that you cannot vote, I call this entrapment, the employee cannot say anything, they just watch someone sign there way into deportation. Permanent residents get confused, some know they cannot vote at all, then some know they cannot vote but after they prove they are not a citizen at the DMV by showing there Green card, then they get asked by this government employee they get confused, they think it must be ok since it is being offered to me by this employee. Here is a link to read from an Immigration attorney, even posts like this on attorney web sites proves there is a problem, but no one cares. the link is “non citizens lured into voting the motor voter deportation crossfire.

  4. Cristian,
    I would not apply for Citizenship, I would first speak with an attorney, if it can be afforded and tell them that your friend registered to vote or maybe voted and work from there. My fiance told the truth on the N400 citizenship application that she voted, she was proud, wanted to contribute to the country, we did not know she did anything wrong, she sent it in, was called in for her interview about 6 weeks later, she studdied hard for the test, she got there took the test and passed it. During the interview she was asked by the Immigration officer, I see you say you voted, she said yes!!, this is when we found out the wrong she did, after this everything went down hill and she was put in removal, even after telling them how this happened, and she is not the only one it has happened to, they didn’t care, they are treating her like she did something really bad, she made a mistake, being deported for voting one time 7 years ago is an extreme, having her citizenship denied should have been punishment enough.

  5. Cristian- I have read so many articles aout being put in removal for voting, read so many stories about the Motor Voter problem, but I have never seen a story on line about actually being removed from the US for voting, not one attorney has told us that any one has ever been removed for this, every attorney we spoke with has worked on cases like this and won them. I think this is a way for people to keep jobs, they do not want to fix the problem at the DMV because it is keeping the Immigration courts and the Immigration attorneys busy. The problem is so bad that you can go to attorney web sites and they have articles posted in there on this problem, and they tell you what to do if it happens to you. Lets not fix it, just post online what to do if you become a victim of the Motor Voter law, so that you can go and waste 20,000 for a mistake that you made at the DMV.

  6. I had a similar problem. In 2002 I went to renew my license with my green card,months later I received a paper to vote. I told my husband that I had to vote and he said that i could not vote. I said I think i can because they sent me a paper. My husband and i thought it was ok because they sent me a paper and the address to vote(congressional election). We went to vote ,and nobody never asked anything other than my license,also no one never questioning the fact that I did not speak English. I didn’t know enough English to understand what citizen mean. The things I understood were things that are similar to my language. Anyway,before I applied to become a citizen I spoke to a lawyer and he told me that I can’t be come a citizen. If I new that I was not allowed to vote I would never vote.

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