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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

A Spouse's Plea For Her Soon to be Deported Husband

Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.
Buffalo Field Office Director Michael T. Phillips has just denied a request for prosecutorial discretion, which if granted would have allowed Ben Sangari, a citizen of the United Kingdom, to apply for a Green Card pursuant to his marriage to his United States citizen spouse Arlita McNamee Sangari. Mr. Sangari entered the U.S. on May 30, 2014, under the visa waiver program that allows nationals of certain countries to come to the U.S. without having to apply for a visa through the Department of State. His visitor status expired on August 27, 2014.

Mr. Sangari overstayed his visitor status by a couple of weeks after he asked for his wife's hand in marriage. The couple was in the process of collecting all the necessary documentation needed to apply for his Green Card when Mr. Sangari was encountered during a routine traffic stop in the suburban Buffalo, New York area. He was taken into custody by Customs and Border Protections, and then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement where he has remained since September 22, 2014. Because he faces an imminent threat of removal, the couple were forced to marry from inside the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York.

By coming under the visa waiver program Mr. Sangari is not entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge, and his fate is decided by the local district director who maintains sole discretionary authority to decide if he wants to deport him, or allow him to apply for a green card as a result of his marriage to a United States citizen.

Despite the overstay of his visitor status, Mr. Sangari remains eligible to apply for his Green Card inside the country pursuant to a policy memorandum that specifically provides for this scenario. This memorandum has been ignored by Field Office Director Phillips, who instead based his denial of our request for relief entirely on the fact that he deemed Mr. Sangari a deportation priority due to the recency of his immigration violation, despite the fact that the Obama administration has specifically identified individuals such as him as a low priority for removal.

It should be noted that Mr. Sangari is a respected business man and philanthropist holding a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in physics from the University of London. He sits on the Board of a trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships, formerly chaired by Henry Kissinger, and now by General Colin Powell. The Eisenhower Fellowships’ primary mission is to inspire leaders around the world to challenge themselves, to think beyond their current scope, to engage others, including outside of their current networks, and to leverage their own talents to better the world around them.


Mr. Sangari has also been an invited participant in President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative, which convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. In a letter dated October 22, 2009, President Clinton wrote “Your presence symbolizes an unwavering dedication to empowering our communities and building a stronger future for our world. I was inspired by your ideas, your initiative, and most importantly, your hope.” High praise indeed.


The following letter is a plea written by Mr. Sangari's wife Arlita. The couple have asked me to share it here in the hopes that it will bring attention to their case, as well as serving as a warning that the memorandums of the Obama administration are not being implemented on a local level, and that families are being destroyed in the process.

We can only hope that someone is listening:

As a US Citizen you are taught to believe that you belong to this country, that you are protected, that you are free. When I think about what my experience has brought me in the United States it feels very far from free.

Together with my mother, my father and my brother, this week a family of US citizens was just torn apart. As we cried what felt like a river of tears together, we all had to mourn what could have been and then face the reality that my parents would say goodbye to their daughter and son in law and what would have soon been their role as the grandparent-down-the-street. Ben’s ability to immigrate to the United States from the United Kingdom was denied.

If Ben had a criminal record or any such blemish on his past that made him unsuitable to be welcomed into this country, perhaps we could have understood it. We still are not sure where we will go, but we know we will not leave one another’s side. The fact is that the family that we were to begin will now has to wait until we have stabilized somewhere.

My US citizenship is supposed to make me feel free in this country and I have never felt more betrayed. When we arrived here some months ago, we brought so much hope with us. Not just for reuniting a family after 10 years us working in developing countries, but in finally having the opportunity to build a nest and raise our children in the safety of home. Now this hope has been shattered.

From the moment we decided to pursue residency here we weighed our decisions carefully, we were careful to follow protocol. No one has asked us about the unfortunate circumstances that forced us to delay our wedding until days after the expiration of Ben`s visa, but the story is compelling.

We were not nave as to focus on family without also planning our careers and finances here. Our time here gave birth to an idea of a project for Buffalo that would create jobs, employ both of our skill sets, and bring economic growth to our region. We had already raised $150,000 for this Buffalo-based green technology venture, with plans to raise an additional $1.5 million in the next three years. Ben has 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, and just five years ago established a business in the US, investing more than $5 million in the US. He had ample right to a residency visas then, as an investor or for outstanding work – O Visa, but hadn’t need to pursue it.

Turning us away for the smallest of mistakes, for which we are so overwhelmingly regretful, means closing this chapter of hope, of excitement, and of fulfilling our life goals here in this community. Now, by expelling Ben, I too have been expelled from my own country, and now I am the immigrant, with no status, at the mercy of England`s gates.

We never tried to take more than what was ours, nor skip anyone else in line to come to America. We do not believe we are entitled to anything beyond fair and reasonable judgment.

Please reunite our family and let this nightmare end. We have been waiting years and years for this moment and the power is yours not to take it away.

Arlita McNamee Sangari

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Updated 10-14-2014 at 05:36 PM by MKolken

Comments

  1. Someone12's Avatar
    We are supposed to believe that this douche bag, who has allegedly invested so much money into our economy (based solely on the opinions of his near brain dead spouse and/or some immigration attorney, whose collective opinions mean zilch), somehow lost track of the amount of time he was authorized to remain in MY country? Really? Is this the sort of businessman we want or need, somebody who cannot track the most simplest of simple details?
    And I don't give a Roger Algase who this clown has shaken hands with...he is still subject to US law....period...the smiles, the BS...who cares? Not me.
  2. Someone12's Avatar
    in spite of all his fancy degrees, and other baloney, this clown cannot keep track of his authorized stay in another country? says a lot about how 'smart' this douche bag cleaner really is....deport his sorry behind...let ole Matt and company weep and whine all they want...ship this piece of refuse back to where he belongs...the US of A will not shed a tear for his absence....
  3. Retired INS's Avatar
    I was an immigration manager for 29 of my39 year career. I made many such decisions as that being protested here. I have mixed feelings on this particular issue. They are:

    1. For Prosecutorial discretion: Nothing the Field Office Director in Buffalo does will prevent this husband from eventually immigrating. The only thing he can do is punish him for violating the overstay provision of his original entry. In the long run, what good does it do to financially ruin families that will be here anyway? How will this affect his future feelings about America? I would exercise discretion in this case.

    2. Against Prosecutorial discretion: This story is missing important information. He was stopped in a routine traffic stop? If this wasn't a Border Patrol check point, there was a reason for further questioning. What did he do wrong that caused the police to check into this person? Also, I always found that Canadians and Western Europeans had attitude problems I never found in Mexicans. They seemed to feel entitled. "I make more money, why should I wait in line with the 'riff-raff?'" There is also the problem that those who entered legally are treated so much better than Mexicans who entered without inspection. The 1996 law is a disgrace, but I enforced it because it was my job. Why should someone from Europe get a break that an illegal alien spouse of a citizen would not get? There are lots of reasons to deny prosecutorial discretion - but are they good reasons?
  4. MKolken's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Retired INS
    2. Against Prosecutorial discretion: This story is missing important information. He was stopped in a routine traffic stop? If this wasn't a Border Patrol check point, there was a reason for further questioning. What did he do wrong that caused the police to check into this person?
    He was speeding. About ten miles over the limit. There was no other reason for the stop, and he has no adverse criminal history, or any other blemish on an otherwise spotless record.
  5. volki's Avatar
    Retired ins. 1996 law is suck how is that. Cbp doesn't know what they doing they deporting good peoples and they keeping criminal inside USA and also you work in INS you not deserved. I have similar issu I hope deportation removal issue going to stop who is married with usa citizens they can have green card here
  6. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by MKolken
    He was speeding. About ten miles over the limit. There was no other reason for the stop, and he has no adverse criminal history, or any other blemish on an otherwise spotless record.

    I already agree with you, but for different reasons. You sound too much like an immigration attorney who is paid to say these things - oh, you are. The association with prominent people may work on members of Congress, but it has the opposite affect on the general public, and on immigration officers. American citizens with speeding tickets may be seen as good people (I've had a few in the past 40 years), but not illegal aliens. You should have left out the part about being stopped unfairly. The only legitimate argument is the fact that even if he returns home, he will still qualify for an immigrant visa. Therefore, what is the point? You picked a very unsympathetic case to complain about.
  7. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by volki
    Retired ins. 1996 law is suck how is that. Cbp doesn't know what they doing they deporting good peoples and they keeping criminal inside USA and also you work in INS you not deserved. I have similar issu I hope deportation removal issue going to stop who is married with usa citizens they can have green card here
    I'm not sure what your point is. Do you know what the 1996 law does? It unfairly punishes most Hispanic illegal aliens more than illegal aliens from Europe, Asia, and Africa. I could go on about other features in that law, but I doubt you would know what I am talking about. CBP officers know exactly what they are doing, but it may differ from your personal preferences. Are politics involved? Sometimes, but the officers follow the law. Do a few make mistakes? Of course, just like everyone else, but what you consider a mistake is probably them doing what they are supposed to do.
  8. MKolken's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Retired INS
    You should have left out the part about being stopped unfairly.
    I didn't say anything about him being stopped unfairly. I said it was a routine traffic stop, and he was speeding.
    Updated 02-12-2015 at 10:48 AM by MKolken
  9. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by MKolken
    I didn't say anything about him being stopped unfairly. I said it was a routine traffic stop, and he was speeding. Reading comprehension my friend.
    You don't explain why the police did more than give him a ticket. Unfortunately, I have had a few tickets. I show my license and registration and am soon on my way. Why was your client detained and referred to immigration? That seems more than routine. Speeding 10 miles over the limit should not have caused much concern as long as the car being driven had his name on the registration. I apologize, you did not say "unfair", but the story gave the impression you think he is being treated badly.
  10. MKolken's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Retired INS
    You don't explain why the police did more than give him a ticket. Unfortunately, I have had a few tickets. I show my license and registration and am soon on my way. Why was your client detained and referred to immigration? That seems more than routine. Speeding 10 miles over the limit should not have caused much concern as long as the car being driven had his name on the registration. I apologize, you did not say "unfair", but the story gave the impression you think he is being treated badly.
    They held him because he was not a United States citizen, and was out of status by about 21 days. It really was as simple as that. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people that have been encountered and turned over to ICE as a result of routine and constitutionally valid traffic stops over the last 6 years. I'm not questioning the legality of the stop. My client was speeding, he got pulled over. Period.

    What is unfair, as you have pointed out, is that there is a clear legal mechanism available, as well as multiple memorandums authorizing a favorable exercise, and yet the District Director has elected to impose an overtly punitive penalty despite the overwhelming weight of favorable equities. If his hands were tied that is one thing. But they aren't. The government's obligation is NOT to win at all cost, but to ensure that justice is done. It appears they have lost sight of this fact.
    Updated 10-15-2014 at 08:50 AM by MKolken
  11. Stardelamor's Avatar
    To bad those of you calling names and assuming awful things about someone you dont even know-cant put that hate and ugly energy towards something useful and helpful
  12. Retired INS's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by MKolken
    They held him because he was not a United States citizen, and was out of status by about 21 days. It really was as simple as that. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people that have been encountered and turned over to ICE as a result of routine and constitutionally valid traffic stops over the last 6 years. I'm not questioning the legality of the stop. My client was speeding, he got pulled over. Period.

    What is unfair, as you have pointed out, is that there is a clear legal mechanism available, as well as multiple memorandums authorizing a favorable exercise, and yet the District Director has elected to impose an overtly punitive penalty despite the overwhelming weight of favorable equities. If his hands were tied that is one thing. But they aren't. The government's obligation is NOT to win at all cost, but to ensure that justice is done. It appears they have lost sight of this fact.

    I'm still not sure why they didn't just give him and ticket and send him on his way. Something must have given the police a reason to check his immigration status. I know many illegal aliens who have gotten tickets and have not been arrested. I have been an immigration Field Office Director (Fresno) and have often used prosecutorial discretion. I see no reason to waste our time fighting cases where the person will eventually immigrate anyway. I preferred to go after those we can keep out once they are deported.
  13. dammon's Avatar
    Well, I guess it's the fact that he did not file for adjustment before the traffic stop. In Detroit, people who entered the country on a visa waiver and overstayed by 10 years get their green cards easily through marriage. So, I don't see the urgency for removal. I guess that to be fair and consistent, he should be allowed to apply for adjustment.
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