Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now! (36101)

Dear Mr. President,

In the past 10 years, migrants from Russia securing asylum in the United States have seen a gradual uptick, and those from Kyrgyzstan–the home of the alleged Boston bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsernaeva–have also seen an increase, going from just 22 in 2003 to 129 in 2012.

Reports indicate the Tsernaeva family, whose roots lie in neighboring Chechnya, arrived in the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan, a mostly Muslim country, in 2002 on a visitor’s visa. That means it was just over a decade after Kyrgyzstan had achieved independence when the USSR dissolved and just three years before nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar Akayev, who had run the country since 1990. They somehow managed to secure asylum over time.

Asylum-seekers, like those seeking refugee status, must demonstrate that they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution in their home countries. It is not clear how the Tsernaeva family secured asylum and what type of persecution was claimed.

However, the persecution could not have been that real if both Mr. and Mrs. Tsernaeva have subsequently moved back to Kyrgyzstan and left their children to live in America. Contrast this to the many refugees, including those in from Haiti, who arrive in this country after fleeing real persecution and fear, but are turned back and deported. Some even die in the process. Among them was the Rev. Joseph Danticat, the 81-year-old uncle of award-winning Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat. Joseph Danticat died in the custody of immigration officials in November 2004, just as the Tsernaeva family were also getting asylum. He had arrived from Haiti seeking political asylum following threats on his life. Denied his medicines and accused of faking an illness, he died just days after his


So how does a good man like Danticat, with so much to give to this country, become treated like a criminal, while people who benefit from this system like the Tsernaevas become apparent killers and haters of America?

We will never know for sure, but one issue that must be addressed urgently is the asylum process to ensure the people who really need asylum and can make a great contribution to this country get in, and those who use it to simply sham their way to a green card are exposed and sent packing.

This entire overhaul must be part of the comprehensive immigration reforms that are needed for our domestic security now more than ever. We cannot continue to have 11-plus million people living in the United States and have no idea who they are. It is why leaving out thousands in the cold who came in after December 2011 is also a very bad idea. Let’s fix this problem once and for all. Weed out the bad apples and ensure the uttermost protection of U.S. citizens and residents.

The FBI and CIA dropped the ball twice with the Tsernaeva brothers. You and congressional lawmakers cannot afford to make the same mistake with 11-plus million people. Immigration reform now!


Felicia Persaud.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.