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Yesterday, I had my first Master Calendar hearing for my deportation proceedings.
Removal or deportation proceedings are not something that will end anytime soon but they don’t really get in the way of my life. Sure, it is a royal pain to fly to San Francisco for it every now and then, and a complete waste of time for my lawyers, but I fully knew what I was doing when I got myself into this quagmire. I am more concerned about the story I am weaving right now. When we do get down to writing it, it will read that “I was in deportation proceedings throughout law school, but we beat the U.S. government and I won the right to stay here.” But it also needs to read “I couldn’t stand the thought of others like me fighting to stay with their families without good legal representation so I became an immigration lawyer.” I’m working on the latter.
I am blessed and privileged to have the absolute best legal representation. I also know enough about Immigration Law to know precisely what is going on and what to expect. I can’t say the same for many others who are caught in the very real nightmare of being separated from their loved ones. Immigration court is an inherently hostile place, where many people leave with broken hearts, internalizing the pain, anger and hurt that comes with never seeing their families and homes again. It is not a playground and it always makes me ill to walk through the metal detectors and wait for trial, as if we have done something criminal. And the person who made the decision of bringing me to this country is nowhere to be seen. He’s working for the State of California.
But yesterday, when I walked into the courtroom, I was greeted with the sight of Attorney Chelsea HaleyNelson, who made it all better. HaleyNelson is an immigration attorney who serves as the Co-Chair of the Immigration Committee of the She was there lending free legal services to people who did not have legal representation. My heart warmed as I saw her ensure that everyone had a legal counsel for that day and she allayed my fear and trauma of watching people less privileged than me struggle through the proceedings with bad or no representation.
It was quick and painless from thereon. We stifled a lot of smiles and some giggles when we heard that the Honorable Judge Carol King, whose a brilliant and gorgeous woman, did not have room to schedule an individual hearing before 2014. That means there was no way anyone in that court-room would be ordered deported before 2014. I have another Master Calendar in June so I may not get an individual hearing till 2015, meaning I probably won’t be ordered deported till that time! The sword is still hanging from the ceiling above my head but time is on our side.
Halfway down the docket, it was my turn to appear in front of the judge. I was dressed in my best suit and a new shirt — it is a performance after all and appearances count in this sort of theater. There were two charges on my Notice to Appear document that did not make any sense. It didn’t ultimately matter but we wanted the facts straightened out. Judge King smiled, stating that the facts were obviously wrong. The DHS prosecutor scratched his head and simply said “I don’t know what the facts are.” Typical and business as usual. I smirked. I should have been angry instead about the audacity of DHS to send people notices to appear in court without bothering to get their facts straight. But I’m simply amused by their incompetency so I kept calm and centered. I reminded myself constantly that “it’s a marathon, not a race and I’m way ahead of the competition.” It is now a chant, complete with a chorus.
Judge King asked us to come back on June 7, 2012 for another Master Calendar because we’ll know the status of the Child Status Protection Act litigation in the Ninth Circuit by that time, which may affect my immigration status. We had an adverse decision in the Ninth, and a favorable one in the Fifth, so a court or the Attorney General needs to reconcile the circuit split. It would be pointless to schedule an individual hearing for non-LPR cancellation of removal (the relief we filed) so far into the future when there is a chance for adjustment of status (renewed) through another avenue looming right in front of us. And that was the end of the first Master Calendar.
There’s a more silent and sinister damage that came with immigration court: retail therapy or rampant materialism. After court, I had this pressing need to do something that other Americans do during the holiday season, to have some sense of what normalcy might be like for other people around me. Five new flannels, another leather jacket, three new pairs of shoes, a blazer, half a dozen new jeans, and an iPhone 4s later, I still felt poor. I still felt empty. And the sweet feeling of accomplishment was replaced by the bitter taste of disgust and discontent.
I am sinking into the meaningless quicksand that comes with being American. A paperless American, but an American nonetheless, who is privileged enough to have family on both sides of the continent, with a sea of loving well-wishers spanning the globe. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to call my own, nowhere to hide from the madness of neo-liberalism, and still privileged to have a better life than most of my friends and family members, to have many homes, and an able-body to indulge in a long list of vices.
Golden sandy shores, blue lagoons, lush green vegetation and bright red sunsets are just a faint, dying memory. Maybe, it never existed. Maybe, I made it up.