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Sudan-born Lopez Lomong will return for his second Olympics with Team USA. He is one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan who was living in a refugee camp in Kenya. NBC tells his story of survival:
When Lomong was 6 years old, the second son in a line of six children born to a farmer in the village of Boya, Sudan was taken from his parents at gunpoint by the Janjaweed government militia while attending Catholic Mass. He was to be trained as a soldier, or starve to death. During three weeks of imprisonment, he ate once a day, a mixture of sorghum and sand.
Run for the border Three older boys, all around age 14, had discovered a hole in the fence surrounding the prison camp and decided to attempt and escape and to bring Lomong with them. "They told me, 'You're going home', even though they knew we weren't," Lomong said. "They said that so I would join them. They were trying to save my life." For three days Lomong and his friends ran toward safety in Kenya. When they reached the Kenyan border, the three teens were too old to be accepted into a refugee camp, were arrested and returned to Sudanese officials. Only Lomong was granted refuge. "Anything I do in life, I put those guys in front," says Lomong, who cannot recall their names and has no idea if they survived. "They were more than brothers to me."
Schooling sets him free Lomong spent 10 years living in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, where he learned to write by drawing letters in the sand with his finger. But that rudimentary education was enough to help earn him liberation. "They told us that the U.S.A. wants to give 3,500 'Lost Boys' homes," Lomong said. "They said if you want to come to America, write an essay explaining why." For two nights Lomong and many of his friends worked in silence. "I remember it felt like taking a test," he said. "I just sat down, the whole of my mind emptied onto the paper. I wrote some of it in Swahili, I wasn't even aware of it." One month later, his essay was chosen by the Joint Volunteer Agency, and he was on his way to America.
He was fortunate enough to be adopted by Robert and Barbara Rogers, an American family in upstate New York and became a US citizen in 2007. His adjustment to life in America was profound - he had to learn to flush a toilet, turn on light switches and many other tasks we take for granted. His inspiring story led him to be selected in 2008 to be the flag bearer for Team USA.
Lomong competed in the 1500 meter run in Beijing, but has qualified in the 5000 meter event in London. He qualified for the Olympic team with a very fast time of 13 minutes, 24 seconds.
Lomong hasn't forgotten his roots. According to NBC:
Since establishing himself in the United States, Lomong has not turned his back on his Sudanese heritage or his family back in Africa. In 2009, he began raising money for the reconstruction of the church from which he was kidnapped as a youngster. The Reconciliation Church situated just outside of Kimotong will have a 250-seat space for Roman Catholic services, a multipurpose hall for hosting classes and meetings, and an area for a storage and distribution center for relief food programs. He also began to lay the groundwork to bring his younger brothers, Peter and Alex to the United States. Both arrived in 2010 and attend Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
Good luck Lopez!
Rower Giuseppe Lanzone came from a small town in Peru before his mother moved the family to Virginia when Giuseppe was 15 years old. He began rowing competitively in high school while also playing on his schools' football team. He went on to row for the University of Washington where he graduated with a communications degree in 2005.
Like many on the US team, immigration factored in to his career. NBC reports
After graduating college, Lanzone returned to Peru for a couple of months, as he hadn't spent significant time there since he left at age 15. When he returned to the U.S., he showed up at Princeton to train with the national team. While he was aiming to make the world championship team in 2006, Lanzone had other things to worry about as well, namely the status of his citizenship. He made the world team, but needed a U.S. passport in order to compete. Two days before the crew left for Eton, Great Britain, Lanzone got a call from his high school coach, Jim Mitchell, who told him he had to get to Washington D.C. that afternoon because his citizenship had gone through. "It takes about three-and-a-half hours to get to D.C. from Princeton," Lanzone said. "I got there in two hours and forty-five minutes." Changing in the parking lot, Lanzone had his interview and took the test, passing with a perfect score. "I was sworn in the next morning, they gave me my passport, and I drove back to Princeton for practice that afternoon."
His good looks and athletic skills have combined to give him a career in modeling. Lanzone has modeled the 2008 and 2012 Team USA outfits for Ralph Lauren, the appointed designer.
Lanzone competed in the 8 man rowing event. The team finished fourth, a solid finish for Team USA.
Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat is a veteran Olympian competing in his Olympics in distance running. London will be his third as an American citizen on Team USA. He's competed in both the 1500 and 5000 meter distances. He's got bronze and silver Olympic medals and recently claimed American records in the 5000 meter distance. He's competing in the 5K race in London with a preliminary heat on Wednesday.
NBC describes his path to the Olympics:
Growing up on a family farm in Kapsabet, Kenya, Lagat ran a mile and a half to school each day, then home for lunch, back to school, and home again at dismissal. For all that, he was little more than a mediocre runner by his mid-teens. As his faster peers turned pro, Lagat entered Jomo Kenyatta University near Nairobi in 1996. After a coach there spotted Lagat's talent and contacted several American schools, Washington State took a chance. Within a year, Lagat was winning Pac-10 meets en route to a title-filled NCAA career.
[A] riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" ~ Winston Churchill
The most quotable of British Prime Ministers could well have been talking about the American immigration system rather than describing Russia in 1939. U.S. immigration law is like stratified rock, revealing layer on layer of Congressional accretions laid down over many years, with the superstructure upended in tectonic shifts triggered by the baffling and contradictory interpretations of multiple agencies and courts. Not surprisingly, Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Next Door recommended immigration law as a career, predicting that many foreign citizens, whether affluent or less so, would find America an attractive destination and need a chaperone to guide them through the maze of red tape.
If Congress ever grows enough of a spine to tackle comprehensive immigration reform, it must do more than merely resolve the big items -- border and interior enforcement; legalization of unauthorized migrants already here; and a plan for future flows of sojourners and permanent residents. It must also strive to simplify the law.
Consider what should be a straightforward concept -- following the rules. How does a noncitizen comply with the immigration laws? What does it take to maintain legal immigration status? Sadly, the answer is as clear as fracking fluid runoff.
For example, without any malevolent intent or affirmative act of misconduct, a temporary entrant (a "nonimmigrant") through the action of a third party, say a parent or spouse, a spouse's employer, a university official, or a lawyer, can "fail to maintain nonimmigrant status," be in a condition known as "unlawful presence" and "not [be] in a lawful nonimmigrant status" -- three phrases in law or regulation that often don't mean the same thing. Thus, a hapless individual may be seen by the authorities as having violated legal status but not be unlawfully present. This could occur, as one example among many, where the person is the spouse of a J-1 exchange visitor who is working under a form of employment permission known as curricular practical training, and the J-1 worker is fired. (This outcome would arise because unlawful presence only occurs if one overstays the period of status authorized, and an exchange visitor, like an academic or vocational student, is admitted for "duration of status," a condition that carries no date-certain expiration. Go figure.)
Or, a foreign citizen can depart the U.S. holding a government certificate allowing permission to return (known as "advance parole") and then reenter in order to await the grant of a green card under the adjustment of status process. Such a person would not have maintained nonimmigrant status -- indeed would not have any legal status (because parole is not a status) -- and yet would not have violated the immigration law. In essence, he or she would be in a non-status as an applicant under color of law awaiting the grant of a pending benefit.
Or, consider a foreign person with a U.S. work permit. As I've noted in an earlier post about human levitation, you may have the right to work here but not to be here.
Or, you might have successfully changed or extended your work-visa status for one, two or three years and received from the immigration authorities an official approval notice with a clip-out status permit (the Form I-94) bearing a validity period, leave the country for a trip to see Grandma, and be readmitted with a new I-94 for a significantly shorter period. This occurs because one component of the Homeland Security Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), limits the I-94 to the expiration date of one's passport, while another DHS component, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), ignores the validity period of the passport, and holds that as a condition of maintaining nonimmigrant status you must always make sure your passport is unexpired.
Often, the CBP inspector at the port of entry says nothing about having short-changed the expiration date on the I-94; hence, the entrant may not realize his/her status document has been unduly shortened. The too-frequent result: An unwitting overstay occurs, thereby triggering unlawful presence. And even if the shortening of the status period is noted, the individual could reasonably believe that the longer of the two I-94s (in this case, the clip-out version) prevails over the shorter expiration period. Or s/he may be misled by the DMV who issues a driver's license with a validity period extending to the end date on the clip-out I-94.
Whether or not the person is confused or misled, a USCIS adjudicator, a consular official abroad, a CBP inspector, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer or an immigration judge, when examining the person's immigration compliance history on some future date, may well deny an immigration benefit, refuse a visa, prevent entry or order removal -- all because of confusion over the simple concept of maintaining legal immigration status.
If that's not complicated enough, the legacy agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, repeatedly floated a notion (not a published regulation) known misleadingly as the "last action rule" in order to reconcile discrepancies in ending dates on two or more I-94 status documents. The "rule" sounds simple enough: Whichever status was the last one granted ("the last action") controls the person's nonimmigrant status. Except, however, where the last action granted was based on a change rather than an extension of status, then the last action rule is inapplicable. For the stew that is the last action rule, see these confusing links: Bednarz letter, Cook Memo (and referenced Simmons letter), Hernandez letter, and unapproved AILA/INS October 17, 2001 liaison meeting minutes (Item II).
Still worse, if the immigration laws make it virtually impossible to know who's in legal status, they make it harder than a Rubik's Cube to figure out who's here illegally, as DREAM activist Prerna Lal explains in "It's More Complicated than Legal vs. Illegal," her open letter to Ruben Navarette -- which challenges his defense of the slur, "illegal immigrant."
If my effort to explain the mumbo-jumbo of immigration violations and last actions remains confusing, I ask your pardon. Be heartened, however, that errors of these types can be fixed -- assuming that the immigration agency exercises its heart (which it occasionally does). Still, it's a shame USCIS doesn't heed its stakeholders by expanding the areas of forgivable infractions and Congress does not write intelligible immigration laws for law-abiding individuals to follow, a code unlike the current immigration statutes that "yield up meaning only grudgingly" to reveal "morsels of comprehension [which] must be pried from mollusks of jargon."
Updated 07-16-2013 at 03:22 PM by APaparelli
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