Friday, June 15, 2007

Losing Janina

It's a favorite American fantasy that when you follow the rules, pursue the American Dream, do everything right according to the law, you're duly rewarded. If you want to come to this country, you do the same: Follow the law, take all the necessary steps, and it all works out. You get to be a citizen and everything is good, right?

Well, not always. Take the case of Janina and Tony, whose remarkable story is told in the video above. If their saga does not break your heart, then check your pulse. You may not have one.

We all know, often from wholly differing perspectives, that America's immigration system is profoundly broken and in desperate need of fixing. But for most of us, it's something of an abstraction. Most Americans have only a tangential relationship with the problems -- we tend to think of immigration as a Latino thing. And, sadly, that means most white Americans just don't really relate to what's wrong. Latinos, for too many of us, are the Other.

So to make that easy, we like to talk in statistical and abstract terms about immigration. We especially like to have our bright lines that make it simple to understand: Legal immigration we're cool with. Illegal immigration, nuh-uh.

One of the reasons that nativists often tout for opposing what they call "amnesty" for "illegal aliens" is that, as they claim, it's unfair to the people who play by the rules and immigrate legally. The system, they say, is supposed to reward the latter, and "amnesty" undermines the legitimacy of their hard efforts.

But as you'll learn from watching this video, Janina did play by the rules. She emigrated from Poland with all the proper paperwork, set up life in America with her husband, had a child who is an American citizen.

And despite all that, she has been deported back to Poland, forced to take her young son with her, and leave her citizen husband behind. The family is torn apart -- and as you'll see, it was all because of a broken system that simply fails to live up to what we Americans like to think is our dream, our way of life. And as the system breaks families and lives apart, that dream breaks apart too.

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