Immigration

A Minor With Immigrant Intent?

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

I just discovered another cause of my allegedly illegal status: a October 2002 letter requesting USCIS to abandon change of non-immigrant status from F-2 to F-1 and a January 2003 denial of the F-1 petition that we had already withdrawn.

The letter from the college states:

Please be advised that this student is abandoning her original petition to change to F-1 status as she is in the process of adjusting to immigrant status. She is an unmarried, minor and as such will assume her parents’ immigration status. Her mother’s immigrant petition was recently approved. We have attached evidence of her mother’s immigrant petition approval notice.

USCIS should have followed the law and honored the request since an applicant or petitioner has a right to withdraw the petition anytime before action is taken on it. Instead, they rejected the F-1 petition several months later with a note that the copy of the approved immigrant petition sent by the college showed immigrant intent, contrary to the non-immigrant requirements of the F-1. Of course, the college should never have done this but there is plenty of case precedent showing that someone on an F-1 can also have an intent to immigrate to this country as long as s/he follows legal channels.

I was a minor with absolutely no intent of my own to immigrate to the United States. But once again, USCIS chose to ignore the rule of law.

And after all is said and done, I’m the one who is allegedly illegal.

Home-Bound

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Poetry | Leave a comment

This view of Earth's horizon as the sun sets o...

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I am going home today.

Going home to a mother’s American dream
Her daughter’s Kafkaesque nightmare
A father’s woeful abuse and neglect
His daughter’s fatherless upbringing
A timeless tale of young love
Now divided by borders and oceans

There’s the trauma
I’ll have to turn it into traumatic-comedy
There’s the pain
It will become an entertaining dramedy

Bi-coastal and multi-lingual
I’m a San Franciscan living in DC
The South Pacific flows through my veins
My heart is desi, my thoughts American

I’m all about laying roots
In a country planning to give me the boot

It’s queer
America does not want me
Nor do I want America
Our feelings are at least mutual
It was an arranged marriage without our consent or papers
An abusive marriage I’ve to fight to keep while yearning for divorce

I live for the day I can go home and tell Mom:
“You made the right choice by bringing my here. We don’t have to live like this anymore.”

Today is not that day. So I live to tell her that tomorrow.

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My Sheroes

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Tam and Cinthia,

Two very good friends and sisters in the struggle who passed away on this day last year: You’ll always be in my heart.

Love, Prerna

A Time to Change: Unconscionable Contracts and Workers’ Rights to Use Social Media As Concerted Activity

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Immigration | Leave a comment

Image representing Change.org as depicted in C...

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Since I believe in open and honest communication and people are curious as to what transpired between Change.org and me, here is a fleshed-out version. It is not meant to ruffle any feathers but just a statement of facts that transpired over the course of the last few days.

I was told early Friday morning — before my last law school final and arguably what was supposed to be the best day of my life this year — that all blogging contracts were being terminated. Shocked and upset, I rushed off an email to the “Immigrant Rights” team, asking them to clarify what was going on and whether there was something else in the works.

I received a clarification: they would love to keep me on at 1/3 pay and did not discuss a new contract with me because I was doing my exams. I still don’t understand why it is acceptable to send me a notice of contract termination during my exams but not two sentences about a new contract. It is incompetent communication.

I was noticeably livid and posted on Facebook and Twitter about my disappointment over losing my job. Then I went to take my final exams. That evening, instead of celebrating with my law school classmates, I stayed in and received a copy of my NTA from DHS with charges that made no sense. I was in removal proceedings facing provably false charges and just lost my job, which would have been a tremendous help during proceedings. It was an extremely tense and stressful situation for me and my entire family.

I checked my email later, which had apologies from practically everyone from the owner of the site down to the Editor of “Immigrant Rights.” On Saturday, I was on the phone with the “Director of Immigrant Rights,” who tried to apologize once again and work through a new contract. On Sunday, I was given a new offer with an apology. I accepted the apologies, agreed with the offer and asked for a formal contract to be drawn up.

I don’t need to get into how I virtually built that site and lent credibility to several causes over the last two years. I wasn’t just a blogger — I went above and beyond the call of duty to teach people how to write, organize and even recruit new members for the team. I was a constant model for how to organize using social media. And that is an understatement. But I digress.

Late on Monday night, I was told that the company had issues with my use of social media. They felt disparaged and pointed to a contract provision that stated that I could never speak ill of an employee or the company under the old contract and going forward in the future. I was told an exception would be made for my past use but not going forward.

In typical law student fashion, I pointed out that the contractual provision from the old contract and the new one on the table was
1) unconscionable (standard boilerplate contract)
2) a violation of public policy (per NLRB v. American Medical Response of Connecticut, prohibiting a worker’s concerted use of social media is illegal)

The next thing I hear, there is no contract for me: clearly, a violation  of an agreement-to-agree in good faith.

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DHS Sends New Letter of Removal Proceedings With False Charges

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 2 Comments

In response to all your supportive emails and requests (or in utter ignorance of it all), DHS has sent me another notice to appear and laid out the charges against me. Check them out:

It says I was admitted but I am removable because:

1. You are not a citizen or national of the United States

2. You are a native of FIJI and a citizen of FIJI

3. You were admitted to the United States at Los Angeles, California on or around November 13, 1999 as a non-immigrant B-2 visitor for pleasure with authorization to remain in the United States for a temporary period not to exceed November 10, 1999.

4. You remained in the United States beyond November 10, 1999 without authorization.

I neither admit nor deny 1  and 2. I absolutely deny 3 and 4 and challenge everyone to prove how it is even possible.

I am in removal proceedings for not leaving the country three days before I arrived; I was unauthorized three days before my authorized stay began. It definitely makes a whole lot less sense to me than aging-out at 21.

It concludes by saying “”You’re ordered to appear before an immigration judge to show why you shouldn’t be removed for the charges stated above.”

Right. I am throwing a giggle fit. Is that the best the Department of Homeland Security can do?

Also, my date of birth is wrong. Are these people literate? Now we know part of the reason immigration courts are backlogged so severely.

These letters don’t really bother me. But my family keeps getting terrorized through these notices of removal proceedings since they are sent to my California residence. They can’t really read or understand the finer details so every time they get a letter, they get really scared. It’s horrifying and unacceptable. And they aren’t the ones without legal status.

Thank you America, for terrorizing immigrant families who are here legally.

I suppose if the President has to show his papers, so does everyone else.

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Officially a 2L

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Law school | Leave a comment

I should be out partying with other law school friends right now. Instead, I’m holed up in my studio wondering about how to pay for law school next year.

(Unlike U.S. citizens and legal residents, I cannot get loans for school. Grants and scholarships only go some way to covering $65,000 per year).

On my last day of law school exams, I received notice of contract termination from Change.org in fantastic fashion. It wasn’t a wrongful termination so I won’t put up a protest. Actually I have a lot to say about the way in which I was fired the morning of my last 1L final and a few choice words for a lot of people, but this isn’t the right place or time for it. I need to move forward in life and put the work permit to good use and get it renewed before November. The bad thing about a freelance contract is that I don’t get to sue for wrongful termination or collect unemployment. Comparably, if you have a full-time job contract and they terminated it to give you a “better position,” you can actually sue. My favorite subject in law school has been Contracts thus far and I’m glad I learned it well to deal with unscrupulous employers in the near future.

I’ve had pretty terrible experiences with employers in the past. My first blogging quasi-contract was with Brave New Films. They had someone acting with authority promise to pay a stipend of $250 per month that never really came through. I blogged for about 5 months and they never had even the courtesy to admit that they could not compensate my work. Instead, they were unjustly enriched and I probably have monetary restitution claims against them. It’s too bad suing them for that minuscule amount would cost me more money. But I hold all their claims of being pro-immigrant or pro-labor or even progressive as completely baseless and insincere. It’s simply inexcusable. And it’s almost like the same cycle that keeps repeating itself.

Video from the #SAALT Summit

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, Immigration | Leave a comment

This is a video of me from the South Asian Americans Leading Together Summit talking lightly about the history of the DREAM Act movement. No, it isn’t as boring as it sounds because I really do take this situation lightly on most days. It’s the best way to deal with it.

If you live in Maryland or Washington D.C., you should definitely consider volunteering with SAALT.

Seriously, consider it a favor for me.

On Meeting the Young Daughter of the Man Trying to Deport Me

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

I was invited, along with my friend Gaby Pacheco, to speak to 5th graders at the Georgetown Day School about the DREAM Act. I almost did not go but I can’t really say no to talking to young kids. Of course, I’m terrified of it as well — it isn’t anything I’ve ever done. Then again, I’ve never taken on the U.S. government either so I figure it cannot be that hard.

I had a great time. Gaby did most of the talking. She’s a natural teacher. I’m more of a lecturer and stood around looking good in a suit. The kids were fantastically engaging, with some of their parents in Congress or state legislatures.

A young woman asked us why we chose to act. I think both of us teared up a bit. Gaby did a great job answering that when someone beside you is getting hurt, you have to stand up and fight. And when that someone is you, I don’t think you really have a choice. I have already stated before that being a Dreamer is like being drafted into a war that you never wanted to fight but you have to do so to survive and protect your family from violence.

We met with one gorgeous young woman, whose father happens to be our very own Alejandro Mayorkas at USCIS, the guy whose the head of the office that sent me a letter to appear for removal proceedings. Mayorkas is one of the good guys. Last year, A. Mayorkas suggested in a draft memo that the President could grant deferred action to everyone who qualified for the DREAM Act. A right-winger got hold of the memo, sent it to more rabid anti-immigrant Senators who leaked it to the gullible media, who then helped to characterize the memo as a backdoor amnesty program. The rest is history.

Next month, we’ll meet with Mayorkas and the kids will ask him to once again push the President to grant deferred action to all DREAM Act-eligible students. I keep wondering how Mayorkas would feel if his kid was the one getting deported and despite having papers, there is nothing he could do for his child. It’s a terrifying thought but it is precisely what my mother is going through right now.

One clever young man appeared confused. He asked us why the President could not simply stop deporting all immigrants. It was a rather simple question and the answer is even more simple. But our President does not seem to fathom the simple concept that maybe we should not deport people who have done nothing wrong. I don’t know why children always seem so much smarter than adults. Maybe we regress with age instead of progressing.

It’s time to start hitting the rich private schools in the area and getting the kids informed about immigrant rights while they are young. They are certain to take it back to the dinner table and ask their parents: why are we deporting such talented, bright and productive young people from the country?

Theory of change. Get it.

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GW Law Student Prepares For The Trial of Her Life

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 5 Comments

Feel free to cross-post this on your own blogs. Please contact Adam Luna from America’s Voice at aluna@americasvoiceonline.org for press interviews and CC Jackie Mahendra, jackie@change.org

My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.

I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.

My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.

So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.

However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.

I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”

Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-prerna-home-stop-the-deportation-of-dreamactivistorg-founder-prerna-lal

My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.

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Irony

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Law school | Leave a comment

I received a random call from Legal Language telling me that I was receiving second place in some kind of contest. I could not recall what it was and then I remembered this really bad immigration law blog post I had submitted on a website some time ago.

From their website:

  • Second place: Prerna Lal, a student at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC. Her article, “USCIS Reinterpretation of CSPA: A Deference to Screwed Priorities,” discusses the flaws in US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act and how it prolongs the separation of US immigrant families.

I can already hear my mother laughing about this over the phone.

Thank you Legal Language for considering the piece worthy for publication!

I’m getting a $100 for this.

Now I just need to remember what I wrote.

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