“Won’t you let me in, immigration man – I won’t toe your line today – I can’t see it anyway – Here I am with my immigration form – It’s big enough to keep me warm when a cold wind’s coming – So go where you will as long as you think you can – You’d better watch out, watch out for the man – Anywhere you’re going”
Graham Nash wrote this song about John Lennon but his words relate to my own immigration escapades. John’s protagonist was Richard Nixon mine was Donald Trump. Different presidents – but it was the same, lame persecution for possession of a plant that is now freely and legally available in twenty six States in the U.S. and a dozen countries worldwide. Prohibition is finally ending and we were on the right side of history.
In the 1970’s John’s high profile, anti-Vietnam War protests and peace campaigning had made him a thorn in the side of the US authorities. President Nixon actually believed he could damage his chances of re-election and tried to boot him out of the country because of his 1968 UK conviction for possession of marijuana. The events surrounding his battle to stay in the States became the subject of the 2006 film The US vs. John Lennon.
The U.S. Board of Immigration issued a critical ruling stating they were ‘not unsympathetic’ to the plight of John and others who, under immigration laws, have committed only one marijuana violation and suggested that Congress change the law. As of 2021 this has still not happened and any foreigner with a marijuana offence is automatically banned from obtaining a green card in the U.S.A. I was one of many thousands who suffered from this policy and had to learn to live with the consequences.
By the time John made his appeal Nixon had resigned, over the Watergate scandal, and his successor Gerald Ford was less interested in deportation proceedings. With help from John’s top class lawyers and huge public support his case was deemed to be ‘selective deportation based upon secret political grounds’ and in 1976 John was finally given his green card. Luckily, for John, being a Beatle made all the difference.
I was not so famous or fortunate. Immigration officials, passport control, borders and immigration laws have had a major impact on my life. I was unfairly deported from St.Lucia and twice accepted voluntary departure from Canada for bending their rules.
As a result of draconian, discriminatory drug laws I lived as an illegal alien for most of my 36 years in Hawaii, and was eventually deported in 2017. Living in fear of immigration officials is no walk in the park but was a part of my daily life for decades. Each time I flew out of the USA I worried about my exit stamp. Every time I flew into the USA by airline I had to check what I was carrying making sure to remove any evidence of living in Hawaii. I had to get my story straight for Mr Immigration Man. I said I was only visiting, staying with friends, with a job and a home back in the UK and most important of all I always had to have a return ticket in my pocket. As every illegal immigrant knows this is not a easy lifestyle, there’s always anxiety, always fear of being rejected and then black listed. Not being permitted to live with your family and friends is a heinous punishment.
My immigration hassles started long before my pot bust. In 1975 on my first trip to the U.S. I was the whistleblower and primary witness in a case involving 78 charges of physical and sexual abuse. Knowing that my tourist visa was about to expire the County Prosecutor appealed to U.S. immigration to extend it so that I could attend the upcoming trial. Their request was refused and I was forced to leave the country.
I hitchhiked south through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama uncertain at every border if they would let me in because I had very little money. To get into Guatemala had to cut my hair short because the official didn’t like hippies. I made it to Panama City and went to the U.S. Embassy where I showed immigration officials another letter from the Prosecutor requesting my return to attend court. Surprisingly, they refused to issue me a visa saying again I didn’t have enough money.
Abandoning that plan I looked for a cheap way out of Panama and was lucky to get a crew job on a schooner about to depart back into the Caribbean. I joyfully discovered that entering Colombia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Croix, Dominica and St.Lucia was no problem as a sailboat crew member.
Soon after arriving in St. Lucia in December 1975 I was granted a work permit and while crewing sailboats between the islands I had a sailors visa and enjoyed a hassle free immigration experience – well almost. In 1978 I went to the Canadian Embassy in Barbados to request an application to migrate to Canada. My friend Martin and his wife managed it very easily and my plan was to join them in their move north. Much to my shock and awe the immigration official I met that day must have not liked my hippy, sailor appearance because he asked my profession and when I replied teacher (I was actually the headteacher of Tapion school at the time) he told me Canada didn’t need teachers and I would be wasting my time applying. Instead of arguing and insisting he refused to give me an application and I just walked away. My pathetic acceptance of that man’s rejection that day was a huge mistake and changed the course of my life. Despite having had many experiences I failed to see how much personal discretion immigration officials have. I know now.
It was while I was working at Tapion school that a friend turned me on to a little trick for crossing borders without a big wad of cash. This was a perpetual problem for poor renegade travellers like myself, before the days of credit cards. I bought £2,000 worth of travellers checks in London and when back in St. Lucia I reported they were lost. I used the replacements and kept the ‘lost’ checks for many years, never ever cashing them but showing them to officials when crossing borders. Never again was I refused entry for lack of proof that I had cash assets – although visa issues continued to plague me throughout many of my foreign travels. This knowledge was not something that I taught to my students. Honest !
When I left St. Lucia and flew into the Dominican Republic I got profiled by customs and they took me into a cubicle and subjected me to my first ever intimate cavities check, cheeky buggers! It was very humiliating but they didn’t find any contraband and I had the last laugh because my ganga stash was in my wash bag and that got through just fine. I later entered the U.S through the Virgin Islands which proved to be trouble free at that time and after cruising through the U.S. for a while I met up with my bro Martin in Toronto.
We traversed Canada together and after arriving in Victoria B.C. I really liked the idea of living there. With Martin and a bunch of hippies I started a workers co-operative. As the expiration of my three month visitor visa approached I came up with a way to stay in Canada legally. I obtained a student visa by enrolling in university doing a Masters degree in Education. After attending my first class I realised it was a waste of my valuable time so I never went back. It was incredible how quickly the authorities responded. Within a couple of weeks I answered a knock on the door and two immigration officials told me my student visa was canceled and I had four weeks to leave Canada.
I scrambled for another solution, not wanting to leave my new found heaven. Luckily an ex-girlfriend offered to marry me so I could apply for a spouse visa. A week later we went through a civil ceremony witnessed by Martin and her new boyfriend and I completed the paperwork for my new visa. This plan might have worked out for me and saved me considerable future grief but my ‘wife’ decided to move 3,000 miles away to live in Quebec Province and that was a problem. Immigration officials requested us both to attend a hearing in B.C. but she was living her new life far, far away. I had to fudge a few facts and underestimated the ability of Canadian immigration to smell a rat. After a year of stalling I had another surprise visit and was confronted by evidence that the officers had talked to my neighbours who reported never ever seeing my wife. I had to admit we lived apart and discovered that was grounds for dismissing my application for a visa. I was given a month to leave voluntarily or they would deport me. I chose the first option after a lawyer friend advised me I would then still be able to return as a visitor.
In 1979 I returned to St.Lucia and sailed down to Bequai island to help my friend Mac get his new pizzeria business started. When my one month visa was about to expire I signed on as a crew member of Tantra Schooner which was doing some repairs in the bay. This new visa was indefinite until the boat left and worked for me until I landed in the U.S. where I managed to obtain a seaman’s visa.
In 1980 I was back in St. Lucia and started a Model Farm Co-operative with my rasta friend Petra. I pitched the idea to Jon Odlum the Minister of Community Development who promised that he’d get me a work permit, but like everything in the laid back West Indies it was subject to the ‘soon come’ lifestyle.
All was okay until a particular police Sergeant took a dislike to a hippy honkie hanging out with the local ganga growing rastas giving them big ideas about development and positive progress. He did some investigating and issued me with an order to go to the police station in the main town with my passport. Guessing he was out to cause me some trouble I stopped by Minister Jon Odlum’s office to explain the situation. He immediately wrote me a Ministry letter confirming that my work permit was being processed, I was working for his department and the police should afford me due respect. When I showed this letter to the officer at the police station he just laughed, screwed it up and threw it in the trash bin and threw me in gaol.
I was taken to a very dingy cell, my girlfriend and her two young daughters were collected from the village then locked up with me and we were all threatened with deportation the next morning. Luckily none of us had any tickets back to Canada or anywhere else so we negotiated a deal where they would fly us out to nearby Dominica. I was able to get a message to Jon, who was also the Deputy Prime Minister’s brother, and he said he would call the chief of police and we would be set free the next day. After a terrible sleepless night at 6am the police told us we were going to the airport. I called Jon and he met us there on the tarmac. Despite all his appeals to the police chief and his cajoling of the police officers they failed to free us. As they put us on the plane he told me his newly elected socialist government was being opposed by the police. Apparently the police establishment had been recruited and trained by the previous government and their allegiance remained with them.
A month later we sailed back to St.Lucia, and slipped back into the island, very quietly, obtaining tourist visas issued by an immigration official who must have been off duty when we got deported. My work permit was issued soon after and I returned to assisting my rasta friends with the farming and fishing projects in the village, much to the disdain of that uptight police Sergeant.
In 1981 I moved to Hawaii but traveled abroad a lot so entered and exited with a tourist visa. The technique I used when I exceeded my length of stay was to create a duplicate exit form with a forged date and it worked. By 1987 l loved Hawaii so much that I decided to commit my body, soul and all my financial resources to the establishment of Bellyacres – my dream for a sustainable community – knowing that at anytime l could either get deported or refused re-entry into the USA. I chose to take the risks of living as an illegal alien but still crossed borders because l refused to accept irrational government regulation over my life, because l love traveling adventures and because l loved my family in England. I often reflected on John Lennon and how his solution had been relatively simple and easy compared with mine. Three times I got advice from immigration lawyers and they all said the same story – my life as an illegal alien was my best bet – there was no hope of me getting approved for a green card even though I married U.S. citizens – three times!
Back in the summer of 1996 I flew over to Seattle to kayak with Henrik and Michiel around the northern tip of Vancouver Island in search of orca whales. Our expedition didn’t quite go according to our plan. After arriving in Victoria B.C. by ferry boat I was detained by Canadian immigration and refused entry because my U.S. visa had expired many months previously. They handed me over to U.S. immigration who intended to deport me back to the U.K. That would have really messed up my life in Hawaii so I called upon my special powers, other forces intervened, and I mischievously managed to avoid their evil plan.
On the vehicle deck of the ferry returning me to Port Angeles in the U.S. was a lorry transporting huge irrigation pipes. Without being seen I crawled into a 30′ tube angled conveniently upwards to avoid easy inspection. Luckily for me the port inspectors were in a hurry and after a brief halt let the driver through carrying me as his unknown illicit cargo. Getting off the lorry was a bit problematic but when he stopped for a pee break I made my escape to become a free man again. After hitchhiking to my friend Charlie’s house in Port Townsend and shaving off my beard I called Henrik. He was ecstatic and relieved to hear I was not on my way to London but free as an immigrant fugitive to pursue my dreams in Hawaii and share more escapades with him. The next day he and I, with Michiel, rescheduled our kayaking trip to the islands in the Puget Sound and during the next week or so we had some amazing wildlife interactions especially with the playful and prolific orca whales.
A year later after an exhausting period of HICCUP circus activity I took another well deserved summer break. I flew again to Seattle and finally joined Henrik on the kayaking trip to Canada we had been forced to abandon the previous year. He drove me to Lime Point State Park on San Juan island and early one morning I paddled across the Strait of Juan Da Fuca dodging oil tankers, barges and logging rafts which were all easy to spot. Harder to see were the deadhead logs saturated from long periods in the water, bobbing just below the surface. The force was with me again that day and, with more than a few anxious glances back at the U.S. coast, five hours later, I landed on the rocky shoreline of Vancouver Island. Meeting me at our chosen rendezvous point was my original juggling mentor Andy. I then got to celebrate with friends from the glorious years I had previously lived in Canada.
Entering Canada clandestinely was an adventure but my real challenge was re-entering fortress U.S.A., as an undocumented alien, so that I could return to my community and friends in Hawaii. Once again I channeled the power of unknown, untold refugees, paddled purposefully and Henrik greeted me on the other side – I was free to renegade once again.
Surviving without legal documentation involved me smuggling myself into the U.S. in the back of a sixteen wheeler truck with an unsuspecting driver, kayaking to-and-fro from Canada – twice- and, in 1999, legally changing my identity in the UK so I could travel back to the U.S. on a new passport. That approach worked for me twice in 2002 when my Dad was passing away. But after that the events of 9-11 resulted in much tighter border controls including biometric identification measures. I managed to return to Hawaii but then faced the option of staying or risk leaving without a chance to return.
Knowing that my good fortune could run out at anytime, l had survived for well over three decades in Hawaii, fully aware that at anytime l could be visited by immigration officials and be removed from my family, friends, Bellyacres and my work with kids that l loved. This forced me to examine my feeling of attachment carefully over many years. I knew that I was risking deportation until immigration laws relating to cannabis changed, to allow me to apply for residency, but like most people in the world I was not anticipating a president like crazy Donald Trump getting elected.
I knew that the immigration authorities were aware of my situation in 2014 but was told by my lawyer that under the Bush and Obama administrations Executive Orders had instructed immigration services regarding their priorities. At that time they did not attempt to enforce immigration laws unless a person was found to have committed a crime in the USA. When Donald Trump came into office everything changed.
Deportation news stories in the U.S. typically focus on Hispanics being detained attempting to cross the southern border. Very rarely does the news cover any of the thousands of arrests which happen in cities and rural communities around the country. Awareness about the long term effects of deportation actions is even rarer but the ongoing fallout is no less traumatic and no less worthy of public outcry. My own situation, is just one example showing the family devastation that can occur and serves to show the complex life changes affecting many thousands of people as a result of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies.
On June 1st 2017 I answered a knock on my door and faced two ICE officers from Homeland Security plus a policeman. As they stepped into my home, they explained they were there to take me into custody and deport me from the U.S.A. Fortunately, my wife Dena was present. Unfortunately, one of our children was sick in bed, home from school, and she witnessed the whole invasion as they walked uninvited through the whole house.
They talked with me, and separately with Dena, explaining that I would be processed in Honolulu on Oahu and could apply for temporary release with a bond payment likely to be less than $5,000. They added that his would enable me to be released immediately pending a court appearance before an immigration judge. I’d heard that typically it took a month or more to schedule an immigration hearing so I could expect lots of time to work out a support strategy with my lawyer and my community. They gave me the option of leaving immediately with them or surrendering my passport, purchasing a plane ticket and flying the following morning to Honolulu. We chose the second option and Dena insisted that she would accompany me.
After they left, Dena comforted our distressed daughter while I informed my lawyer and he agreed to meet me at the ICE office the next day. Dena and I started talking about our future and realised that everything was about to change. We were uncertain exactly how our lives would be impacted but we realised that it would have a huge effect upon our family. Deciding how much information to share with our children was an immediate issue, as was deciding when to inform our many friends and family. We thought it best to wait and see what happened the following day in the ICE office.
The officer in charge threatened me with grave consequences if I did not turn myself in at 9am in Honolulu and insisted that I call him with my flight details within three hours. The complete uncertainty about what would happen to us was more stressful than waiting the arrival of Hurricane Iselle which we had previously experienced. Our children knew something was going on but we could only give them reassurances that everything would be ok. It proved to be an unsuccessful tactic to reduce stress. Our 14 year old child who experienced the ICE raid became very distressed and suffered an anxiety attack so we calmed her and immediately scheduled her an appointment with a counselor hoping that might help.
On arrival the following day in Honolulu I was driven to the Department of Homeland Security office while Dena was not permitted to accompany me. She had to rent a car and then drove to meet my lawyer. I was taken into an interrogation office and two ICE staff who initiated my deportation paperwork. They said they had been really busy since Trump had come into power. It was a very slow laborious process and I noticed my anxiety levels rising. I was told that I was not under arrest and that I had not committed a crime and this was a purely administrative procedure. However, after they locked the door of the room I was in and escorted me when I went to the toilet it was obvious that I was clearly being detained just as if I was a convicted criminal.
Outside I could hear the officers talking a lot about my case and gathering information to complete my paperwork. After a couple of hours I was given some forms to sign and I called my lawyer who discussed it with me and confirmed it was all standard stuff. Another hour went by, the door was unlocked and I was told that everything had changed. Apparently, because my last entry into the USA had been on a visa waiver program, I would not be eligible for a bonded release or a hearing before an immigration judge and would most likely be put onto a plane back to the U.K. that evening.
Obviously, I went into shock at this news and called my lawyer who gained permission to come into the centre with Dena and we talked over the implications of this new situation at length. My lawyer said he would take every step he could to delay my departure and advised my wife to go public with the story immediately. Fortunately I am married to an extremely capable and articulate female warrior who charged directly into battle to save her husband. Her impassioned post on social media produced 105 excellent letters of support within 24 hours.
Sitting alone in a locked room for hours my head went into a spin imagining some horrific outcomes. Fairly soon I was presented with a Notice of Intent to Issue A Final Administrative Removal Order to review and sign. Basically it outlined the facts justifying the Dept. of Homeland Security decision to deport me immediately and stated I had no right to appeal. Scouring the pages closely I noticed that one section allowed me to tick a box stating “I admit the allegations and charges in this notice of intent. However, I wish to request Asylum, Witholding or Deferral of Removal as noted below.” After thinking it over I ticked the box thinking I was applying for a ‘Deferral of Removal’ because it obligated the D.H.S. to refer me to an immigration judge and therefore would delay their plans to deport me that night. Unbeknownst to me this is called the ‘Asylum clause’ and I was later asked if I was serious as they had never previously known a U.K. citizen requesting asylum.
I was then handcuffed and moved to another building and placed in a metal cage 12’ x 12’ where the cuffs were removed. I was locked up with a 450 pound Micronesian man slouched on a wooden bench who just peeked at me and grunted as he kept falling in and out of sleep, snoring profusely. Lucky for me he was very friendly once he woke up enough to talk with me. After a couple of hours we were both handcuffed and transported to the Federal Detention Center, nearby in Honololu.
The admissions process included three separate body scans, body searches and an anal inspection. My personal clothes and effects were taken from me and I was issued the standard inmates clothing. I was given a TB test injection and a DNA swab and asked to sign lots of paperwork. A Lieutenant interviewed me and seemed sympathetic to my case blaming Trump for the rapid increase in deportees filling up his prison. He then allocated me to a wing. After sitting around a long while I was escorted into the main detention block navigating through several more metal detectors and a cold steel elevator where I was told I had to face away from the door while in motion.
I walked into my wing where I was confronted with about a hundred and twenty men staring at me, the new arrival. The officer on duty assigned me to my second storey cell which had a bunk bed, a sink, a toilet and two small closet shelves. I met my Tongan cellmate and he immediately started to teach me the cellblock routines and practices which included bed making and toilet training. He taught me privacy codes whereby inmates sit facing the wall to pee and only use the toilet for heavy use when their cellmate is outside and use a towel hanging on the cell door handle as the occupied sign.
There was a 50/50 mixture of State and Federal prisoners on my wing. The State inmates were all convicted of crimes or awaiting trial. The Federal inmates were mostly all awaiting deportation removals or federal court appearances and a few had been there for years. The racial mix of those awaiting deportation was significant including Hispanics, Micronesians and other Pacific Islanders but I was the only Caucasian. There was a tremendous camaraderie amongst inmates and I witnessed many examples of support and encouragement which was also shared with me. I was honored as the oldest guy on the wing and presented with a real toothbrush and extra tea bags by the 65 year old previous title holder.
On Saturday I was taken off the wing and escorted back to the DHS office to sign more forms. I was transported there in a car after changing into a white jump suit, going through numerous metal detectors and being shackled with handcuffs and chain around my waist plus another chain with cuffs around my ankles. It was a slow and uncomfortable walk from the car into the DHS office and I felt like a dead man walking. While being treated as a convicted felon I kept remembering the officers telling me I was being detained for administrative purposes and not for any crime. What a joke that was!
I was permitted to make a brief call to Dena, we had no idea how long I would be detained and started planning for all outcomes. I later received a letter from her saying, “ I hope that you will get a chance to write to me and the kids. The kids all send their love and hope to hear your voice soon. Isla (my 13 year old daughter) was very scared and saddened by all of this …………. we are all looking forward to your return hoping it will be sooner rather than later. I haven’t spoken to your mum yet …………. we think it might be best that way for now as she will get anxious and worry a lot ……….. I’m taking time off from work this week to concentrate on getting you out ………. I’m doing my best to take care of all your projects. Please let me know if there’s anything you need. I’m not sure what they allow in there or how to get it to you. Keeping the faith and holding down the fort, your soul mate.”
Daily life in the Federal Detention Center was monotonous. Correction officers were harsh but not brutal. Lock up times were approximately 7.30pm until 6am, 10am until 11am and 2pm until 4pm. Protocol requires inmates to keep their own cells clean and tidy and three times daily everyone is required to stand by their bunk to be counted. Between lockups inmates engaged in activities like watching TV, working, reading, socializing, using computers, spiritual meetings, showering, playing sports or exercising. I walked laps around the top deck balcony and found a quiet place in the chapel room which became my yoga room during the few times when I was alone.
The impact of detention on inmates awaiting deportation is not physical but mental. Separation from family and the home community is such a severe punishment that it may exceed the suffering caused by regular criminal inmates. An inmate with a conviction knows the length of his sentence and mentally adjusts to his separation while the deportation inmate has now idea how long he/she will be separated from their family. My cellmate had been held for eighteen months and transferred to three different prisons. He’d become a hardened inmate practicing push ups and creating a training circuit in the cell as well as running his own legal services business for other inmates.
Facing this situation I had to be prepared for everything from immediate deportation to the U.K. leaving Dena and our kids in Hawaii, to a long protracted confinement while appealing the Administrative Removal Order. I was lucky because my lawyer somehow managed to get me an urgent hearing. When the judge reaffirmed quickly that I would be deported I was devastated. My life crumbled before my eyes but as I spoke tearfully on the phone to Dena she received a text from my lawyer to say that high level calls he had made had resulted in me being granted a 45 day stay of deportation providing we came up with a $10,000 bond. Other inmates I met had been waiting more than 18 months for a decision to be made in their case, while their families waited impatiently outside the prison. I felt very fortunate and very privileged to walk away from six days in federal detention with my wife at my side.
Forty five days is not a reasonable length of time to wrap up thirty six years of life and to make plans for a new life in a new country but I was grateful to have it. First there was the legal paperwork required which included transferring vehicle titles and insurance policies, bank account access, responsibility for house maintenance and upkeep, change of names on numerous other accounts and documents. I then had to deal with all my physical possessions, some practical like, clothes, tools and equipment others sentimental like correspondence, books, music and gifts I had been given. I was told I’d have to stay away at least ten years and I couldn’t afford shipping costs to the U.K. so was confronted with the task of consolidating my most valued possessions gathered over three decades into a couple of suitcases.
How could I say goodbye to a multitude of friendships gained over three decades knowing that U.S. immigration may never permit me back to see them again? Harder still, as the day of departure ticked closer, was the pressure on my family which grew and grew. How could our seven year old twins understand me having to suddenly leave them? How could our two 13 year old girls be expected cope with their anger and confusion over the Trump administration actions? What would it take for our 14 year old to learn to deal with the shock of the ICE raid on our home and the permanent changes to our family life?
The day of departure was one of the saddest of my life although it was softened by Dena travelling with me to the UK. During her three weeks stay we focused on the tasks required to start the new chapter in our lives. She met my U.K. family for the first time, started to familiarise herself with life in a foreign country and witnessed me establishing myself again as a U.K. resident after 42 years living abroad. She then returned to Hawaii.
Some people, are totally shocked about my situation. During my time in Hawaii I had three marriages to U.S. citizens, my daughter is a U.S. citizen and am stepfather to Dena’s six U.S. children. All five of our school aged children were living permanently with us when these events occurred. During my time in Hawaii I worked with young people, was a well known community building activist and received accolades from the Hawaii State Governor, Congressional Senators and Representatives, our County Mayor and our County Council. I owned two homes and ran two non profit organisations. I had a totally clean criminal record in the USA. and only the one expunged offence in the U.K.
In the U.K. I was fortunate to have a brother-in-law who offered me temporary accommodation which gave me the essential address needed to obtain a driving license, a bank account, a cell phone account, a library card, bus pass, etc and to register with social services, the national health service, car insurance and road tax. Establishing myself back in the U.K. took lots of time and then I had to look for a job – as a 67 year old who hadn’t been in regular employment for over forty years.
With this new paradigm in our lives Dena and our children were able to visit the U.K. as tourists but couldn’t come to live here until I successfully obtained immigrant status for them. U.K. laws required me to be employed for at least six months with a certain level of income and savings before we could submit an application for my family to be permitted to live here.
Once Dena returned to Hawaii to be with our children I earnestly engaged in the search for employment. Challenges I faced included the fact I was 67 years old, had been self employed for almost all of my time in Hawaii and my skills and experience as the director of a circus school and manager of a sustainable community were not easily transferable to the U.K. job market. I was told that the ten weeks it took me to find work was a relatively short time but it caused a drain on my finances and needed all my focus and energy. I was committed to remaining in the job at least until our immigration application had been accepted but I had a serious complication.
Two years prior I had been diagnosed with CLL leukaemia and was about to start treatment in Hawaii when I was deported. Once in England it took me two months to get a doctors appointment and then a referral to a haematologist with another six week wait for an appointment. The haematologist repeated the advice of my Hawaii doctor saying that I needed to immediately start treatment. But, at that point, I could not engage in chemotherapy because the side effects would most probably have prevented me from working for a period and that would delay my immigration application for Dena.
I doubt there are many people in the U.K. apart from applicants who understand how difficult it is to obtain a family or spouse visa for anyone outside of the European Union. Dena and I both worked daily and diligently for most of six months to obtain the full package of 154 pages that were required for the application. And then, there were fees that amounted to over $2,800, just for Dena, plus a £450 speedy processing payment. Due to the amount of income required from me to have available to support visa applications I was only able to apply for Dena. Our plan was for her to work to help raise the funds to apply for our children to be able to live with us in the U.K.
There’s a lot of parts to submitting a successful application which is why most people hire the services of an immigration lawyer. Dena and I didn’t have funds for that and decided to do it all ourselves which takes time, tenacity and the tendency to take risks. After submission it can take three months or more before decisions are made. It’s a hair raising time, like waiting indefinitely for exam results. We had a little problem because we needed to buy tickets in advance despite knowing that Dena could not fly into the U.K. until her resident visa application was approved. This meant that our kids could have potentially had to fly as unaccompanied minors on tourist visas to the U.K. without Dena. Fortunately with only days to spare Dena got her visa and was able to fly with the kids.
The logistics involved meant that our family was basically separated for a full year after my departure from Hawaii. A further complication existed because Dena’s ex husband initially refused to allow his four children to obtain the passports needed to travel to the U.K. either as visitors or immigrants even though Dena has joint custody. It took us many months to partly resolve this situation. The kids now have passports but he has only allowed them to leave the U.S. for school holidays. Even though we have established our home in the U.K. and Dena is living here our children are ostensibly held hostage by their father who, under U.S.A. federal law has the power to veto international travel and prevent our family being reunited. We had to hire a lawyer and go back into court in Hawaii to get a judgement allowing them to come to the U.K. This took a considerable amount of stress plus more time and money but the ones who suffered the most were the children.
Deportation is generally seen as the removal of an individual from one country to another but as you can see from my situation it is far more complex and involved. The consequences affect the families in the most extreme ways. Children lose their parent, sometimes both, and suffer the stress of separation that no amount of phone and video calls can remedy. Spouses have to deal with the emotional loss of their partner and/or their children. The financial stress is also significant with income and support for the home and children being wiped out. Perhaps the greatest strain for everyone is the uncertain future that was triggered by the horrors of the ICE raid which continue for months and possibly years thereafter as PTSD. Being an undocumented alien is technically not a crime in the U.S.A. yet this is undoubtedly cruel and unusual punishment, considered unethical and illegal for actual criminals.
It’s inhumane that respectable contributing members of society and genuine asylum seekers are treated like renegade citizens by President Trump’s Republican Party immigration enforcement policy.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
Imagine by John Lennon
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