January 31, 2003

La Prensa Persa

LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. Except for YOU and ME!
Prop 187 is back with a vengeance!

By: Ramin Moshiri

I remember my 1st days in the United States when I spent the summer of 1975 with my Baptist host family. The Sunday school, streets, billboards, cable and Ma Bell telephone services were all fascinating. Even the air smelled pleasantly different. Although the country I was coming from was blessed with good oil revenue and lots of developments at that time, United States was simply amazing. People could read any books, say anything and Xerox any information. They could travel freely by car or airplane to and from anywhere within or outside the United States without inquisition and prosecution. Johnny Carson joked about the head of the state and his policies. Unbelievable! People left their homes unlocked in that small town. Unheard off!

I was taught at my host family’s home and in the Boy Scouts about the United States and all that it stands for; the Constitution and its Bill of Rights; that unlike 3rd world countries and the Soviet Union people are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. That no one can be detained unless charged with an alleged crime, and that he/she will have his/her day in court to face his/her accuser.

My America is changed today unlike anything I could have imagined 28 years ago. It is like a “back to the future” sequel into the 13th century or a horrifying nightmare. Prop 187 is coming back with a vengeance like Schwarzenegger who said in the Terminator: I’ll be back! America, the darling of the world after WWII has lost its innocence. There was a school shooting in that small town where people didn’t used to lock their homes. Families are being torn apart and lose their livelihood for looking and sounding different, being born in the wrong country, or simply being foreign born in San Diego before the Super Bowl. They can no longer travel freely without being questioned, and our airports look like a scene from WWII movies. Bill Myers gets pulled off the air for being “Politically Incorrect”. People are presumed guilty until proven otherwise, they can be detained indefinitely without being charged, they may never know of the charges made against them, and they may never face their accuser in the court of law under the secret evidence law.

The saddest part of all this is that those are all true. Our civil rights, as citizens of this great country, are deteriorating without bothering the majority. So many people are eager to give up their civil liberties and rights in exchange for a false sense of security. When was the last time that we won the war on drugs by saying “NO!”? When was the last time that we won the war against crime? The crime is never eliminated, but reduced if its root cause is treated from the socio-economical standpoint. The same is true about violence. You’ve got to see the #1 documentary film by Michael Moore called “Bowling for Columbine”. It is a joint production of United Artists, Alliance Atlantis, and Dog Eat Dog Films. (http:// bowlingforcolumbine.com)

Those are also true about the war on terror. Law abiding citizens and residents are being horrified while potential conspirators roam around with the judicial system jammed with misguided procedures. Foreign-born males from certain countries were rounded up in California during the Special Registrations. Shortly after realizing that those procedures were ill conceived, foreign-born males in San Diego were rounded up in the “Operation Game Day” prior to the Super Bowl. Ironically, some of them are Hispanics from nowhere near the Middle East, last time I checked the maps. Their mistake or crime: working in the transportation or as a security guard around the Qualcomm Stadium. Where does all this end? That is the $6M question.

It is indeed disheartening when we can draw parallels between what we are doing today here in the United States, and what we accuse other 3rd world countries of doing. Especially when the economy has been in such a deep recession or depression for such a long time and no one in a position of power is paying the kind of attention it deserves. Instead of going after Enron type white color criminals who do as much, if not more, damage to our great nation by our enemies from the outside, our law abiding and tax paying residents are being targeted. These are the folks who come out to comply with the Special Registrations or any other rules.

Today’s mutated Prop 187 mentality is a more formidable opponent to defeat. It has developed an impenetrable defensive façade of protecting the public from harm. With the ill-conceived rules that are being written into the law, defeating this new strain of Prop 187 is much harder to detect and to defeat. There will soon be liberty and justice for all, except for you and me! But I like the United States that I fell in love with back in the summer of 1975. I love my United States with liberty and justice for all where “ALL” means everyone, including you and me!

Ramin Moshiri, President of the Association of Iranian American Professionals (AIAP). He can be emailed at: ramin@mti-sys.com

Now, I know why…

By: Kathy Hadizadeh

Have you ever passed by an INS office and wondered why there are so many people standing in line in front of that building?

Now, I can tell you why to the extent that I experienced:

My parents were lucky enough to get US visa. The first thing to remember after the first hours of excitement is nothing but the infamous INS Special Registration as they are Iranian:

“Now that you have been fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed by INS to state your travel plans, if you will remain in the US for 30 days or more you must re-register in person with a designated INS district office between 30 and 40 days following admission to the US.”

Thirty days later I told my cubicle and the boss and the laptop that I will be late on Monday. How late? I had no idea.

The night before we prepared for this registration: Gas and phone bills to prove residency, visa documents to show we are legal, etc. INS forms want you to be creative and bring any proof that shows you are doing what you said at the port of entry that you would be doing. We got extremely creative. My parents took their shopping receipts, the pictures that we had taken and even the video camera film of our family gatherings!

We got up at 6 AM and were in front of the federal building at 7:30. Room 2024 was waiting for us. A form was given for each passport. The form contained the same information that is in the passport and visa: Name, birth date, passport issue and expiration date and the local and original addresses, nothing special or new. Returning the completed forms, they gave me a number for each passport: 15 and 16.

There were 10 people in the room at 8 AM. I did a quick math for the three windows that appeared to be open. Process 3 persons at a time, each taking half an hour at most, we should be done by around 10 at most. So, I kind of felt relieved, then sighed and sat.

But it seems like things take much longer at the INS and I can’t figure out why. Processing the 1st individuals took about 3 hours. The clock was showing 11 AM and those people were still in front of the windows. My father’s face was sad and frustrated, with a back pain due to sitting there for so long, and feeling guilty for my empty cubicle. My mom’s mouth was moving in her pale face with some murmurs of prayers. I had a two o’clock staff meeting and had no idea this could take this long.

At 11 AM, the hall was pretty much full but the counters were all empty for the lunch break. By a miracle, they finally called my mom. The immigration officer was extremely nice and caring especially after seeing my mom’s pale face.

1st part of the INS Special Registration for Iranian visitors was entering the hand written form into the computer. He would search for each single letter to type, would make mistakes and then going back to correct it, he would spend another 5 minutes to find backspace button on keyboard. I tried to spell all I could to keep things going but there were cases that I could do nothing:

“What airline did they come with?”

Virgin Atlantic.

“Aha Birgin”

Not B, But V like Vital

“Aha... like Victory?”

Yes… Victory, Vital, Visa..

“Aha... We do not have it ..”

5 minutes later…

“OK... I put British Airlines”

That is fine as long as you are OK with it

“And you probably do not know flight number?”

NO, I do not!

Do you ever keep flight numbers? If somebody wants me to keep this information, they should tell me beforehand, don’t you think so? The officer liked my spelling or what and wanted me to spell the whole form. They had asked for my Grandparents name and birth date. Well he was kind of upset that I do not remember the birth date of my Grandpa who passed away some years ago (esp. in Christian format!)

“So you do not remember his birth date?”

No, the year is all I can tell you. (And I was guesstimating!)

Another interesting part of all this was that after every several strokes, when he had to go to next page, he would call a lady that had the badge of “Information Officer” and ask: what should I do now? The lady would look and say: Click next, then would do it herself and stand for sometime just for next page to appear and go on. The information entry was finally finished after 45 minutes. It took them 45 minutes to enter the contents of a one-page form containing information already available in passport and in their visa system into their own system with my spelling help.

Then came the 2nd part. My mom took an oath that all the information written in her passport and the visa issued by United States are correct!

Fingerprinting the right hand’s cross finger is another story, taking about 15 tries: “This one is too weak, this one is too dark... now you are sweating”. They had an electronic fingerprint interface attached to their database but it was too sensitive or may be had special conditions that would not easily take a good picture of her finger. I am glad that one finger was enough.

The photo taking part was painless and easy, but the last part was the climax of this show. A colleague was asked:” What should I do next? “Together they figured out that they should write this happy date in my mom’s passport to show that she has complied with the law. They needed to get a number from the INS system: Please tell your mom to have a seat because it normally takes up to half an hour to get a number.” I was really stunned! What kind of a database system takes this long for a query?

My father’s case was sweet and fast after waiting till 1 PM for the lunch break to end. Within 25 minutes, two immigration officers worked together to enter a number in the system and see that all his information is readily available, and wrote in my dad’s passport that he showed up to register!

Nobody asked us for any documents or creative proof. All they cared was entering the same information into their system again.

Now … I know.... I know why so many people stand in lines in front of this building every single day …and look so hopeless.

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