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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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OK, I put that line in for my kids who love the film Napoleon Dynamite. This is the story of Pedro Zapeta, a Guatemalan dishwasher in Stuart, Florida for the last 13 years who worked hard and saved virtually all of his money by doing things like riding his bike to work and not having much of a life. His dream was to buy a piece of land back in Guatemala for himself and his mother. Unbelievably, he managed to save $59,000, money he kept in cash at his home. Tired of his life in Florida, he was ready to go home.

Unfortunately, Pedro didn't know about US customs laws. He took a duffel bag with his savings, went to the airport and was ready to board the flight when, you guessed it, Customs officials seized the money. US laws bar one from taking more than $10,000 outside the US without declaring it ahead of time. The US doesn't want to return the money even though Pedro is offering to pay any taxes that may be owing (incidentally, he probably doesn't owe taxes because his income was too low, so before people get all in a huff about him being a tax cheat, chew on that one).

Here's a guy who is not a criminal and just wants to go home. If we had any decency as a country, we would give this man back his hard-earned savings and wish him well.


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  1. legal-forever-waiting-forever's Avatar
    this is a very interesting situation. he wants to go back- is that not the goal of those that oppose any legalization? the US wants him to go too- but without his money!!! why in the world would anyone deprive him of his hard earned minimal wage earnings and that too after any tax he owes is deducted. let him go in peace and build a life for himself. to the enforcement crowd i say- you should support this- if he is deported without his money- no one will ever leave....
  2. Jay's Avatar
    Its so sad. I dont think those immigration or customs officials are human at all. I dont know what they feel about their accomplishment and how they sleep at night.
    I read this article on CNN and the conclusion I could make was that US is a country of laws but not applicable to all people equally. The big fishes get away easily while the small ones get caught.

    One similar incident that comes to my mind is that of son of the current Congress President of India, while he was travelling in the United States was caught in a similar situation with a little more cash with him than Pedro.This happened a few years ago. This person had enough clout and connections and did not have to go through what Pedro is going through now.

    Only thing going against Pedro is his so called illegal status and non payment of taxes and inability to speak English.

    I hope the story has a happy end in Pedro's favour else this issue has the potential be a major PR disaster for the USCIS.
  4. USC's Avatar
    "If we had any decency as a country, we would give this many back his hard-earned savings and wish him well."

    Decency is a quality that seems to be all too lacking amongst our public "servants." When someone enters the US he is handed a customs form advising him to declare cash/currency over $10,000. However, there are no such instructions/notices at the airport (the USA does not have Passport Control for Departures) for departing passengers. Not only do you have to be aware of the requirement you have to go looking for a Customs official. Here we have a situation where this individual was obviously unaware of the law and made no attempt to conceal/smuggle out the cash. Under the circumstances, if the TSA official felt this matter was any business of his to begin with, he should have apprised Pedro of the law and sent him to Customs to file a report. The spirit of the law was to clamp down on money laundering, which is not what is going on here.

    So, let's give this man his money back.

    Supplied below is a link to the form:

    While we are on the subject of decency we should grant citizenship to our servicemen serving in the Armed Forces. Here is what France does:

    "A legionnaire of foreign nationality can ask for French nationality after three years service.......... Furthermore, a soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can apply for French citizenship under a provision known as "Fran?ais par le sang vers?" ("French by spilled blood")."

    We have a "similar" provision the only hitch is that you have to die first. Talk about silly & meaningless!!

  5. grouchy's Avatar
    Base from that article, in the eyes of God, Pedro is not/never a criminal.He is a man with an extraordinary heart that his pure intention only is to help his poor family.
    Everyone is aware of the law of the land that has to be obeyed or followed but the thing is our system has been handicapped since the presence of millions of illegals here.

    According to some reports, DHS needs like a budget of nearly $100 billion to catch and deport these illegals. That is a huge money to extract from the taxpayer's money and this is really tedious work that would even take many years.

    If these officials of the government are taking seriously in their deportation measures, why not support this very simple wish of Pedro to go back to his own country with that kind of amount that he hardly earned for 11 yrs with him?
    Instead, he should even be rewaded for his own will to go back home. Furthermore, this initiation from Pedro to go back to his country would even save a lot of money,time and effort for the US government.
    If they continue to do this kind of effort nobody from the illegals will voluntarily leave this country and surrender their hardly earned possessions to the government.
    I hope and pray that his earned money from his sweat and blood will be returned back to him.
    Less, they should be considerate for once in a while with this kind of individual for heaven's sake.
  6. Middle Ground's Avatar
    This is why I only brought $9999 when I needed to move money across international borders.

    The law is rubbish. It is designed to stop drug dealers, not steal money away from hard working people.

    That said, the law is common knowledge. I would never bring such a large percent (close to 100% most likely in this guy's case) of my net worth on an international flight. It shouldn't be a crime, but it was bone-headed and risky.

    Even if there wasn't customs to worry about, that kind of cash on hand will get you killed in some countries.
  7. Another Voice's Avatar
    what ever happened to taxation without representation???? Isn't that principle what this country was founded on? Unreal let this man go with his money and have a chance at a decent life back home after 13 years of hard work.
  8. Gustavo's Avatar
    Perhaps they were envious a foreigner can actually save money instead of living the grand American life based on credit cards, paycheck to paycheck...

  9. legal-forever-waiting-forever's Avatar
    You should see the abuse spewed on this guy in the "ALIPAC" -"for legal immigration" forum. Loud proclamations on upholding the law and applying it equally. And which law says a man's minimum wage labor should be stolen from him?

    It's also worth reading their views on "legal immigration", there is a lot of lip service when they complain about illegals like Pedro, but boy o boy, post a news piece about legal immigration and watch them go...even their "titans" and "leaders" bash legal workers and make derogatory racial comments. They had a nurses thread where they accepted with very great reluctance that there is a big shortage and then proceeded to absolutely reject any idea of accepting legal immigrants to fill it.

    My question is: If you want all immigration stopped...which most of them clearly do, then why this whole charade "americans for legal immigration"??? Be man enough to stand up and say it.
    Does their reluctance to own up to their real stand tell us something?

    Why do these folks blame every one of their ills- lack of money, jobs, crime, housing, health- on immigrants? Through time every immigrant group has taken this stream of hatred in their stride and done better, and produced more for the country than the "natives". Will this continue forever? Or will the highly educated or simply talented or hard working just turn their backs eventually? These guys don't even seriously debate this stuff. Just their fixation on illegals and crime. That's it!
  10. mary's Avatar
    give perdo his money back he earned every bit of it while we lazy americans were sleeping in our beds . I understand perdo .he is a hard working person who worked without getting into trouble.and he is trying to take care of his poor family who have nothing compare to us spoiled , lazy americans the us government should be ashame of itself.
  11. Jazmine 's Avatar
    Hey give Pedro the money I cannot even save 500 yet I arn more than Pedro .
  12. Domenico's Avatar
    cosa sto facendo
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