Tuesday, June 06, 2006

'SN' Stands For Situation Normal, This Sitch Was Never Normal

Tonight, I caught a story on ABC World News Tonight that is headlined online, "Princeton Salutatorian Caught in Immigration Snafu".

When I heard the teaser, I was prepared to feel bad for, and angry on the behalf of, Princeton graduate Danel Padilla Peralta.

Danel came to the US from the Dominican Republic when he was 4 on a short term visa while his mother sought medical care. They stayed. Hardly an unfamiliar story, I'm guessing. This kid is impressive as hell: he fell in love with the classics and his studies of ancient Greece and Rome led to scholarships to prep schools and eventually to Princeton.

He did all this despite his undocumented status.

At this point in the story, I am imagining some horrific deportation scenario.

But Danel's problem? He's been offered a fellowship at Oxford in England and if he steps foot outside the US, he'll have to stay gone for 10 years.

Catch-22? Sure.

But what the on-air story did not mention, and depsite implying more information could be found on-line, the linked article above is the broadcast story verbatim, is how this kid, now the subject of a national news broadcast is NOT the subject of current deportation proceedings.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he should be deported, but as much as I empathize with anyone stuck in ICE hell, if this kid's biggest problem is that he's managed to stay in the US for over 20 years, benefit from generous scholarships, obtain a fantastic education, and no one is trying to kick him out, but he can't leave with recognizing his illegal status . . . well, my empathy takes a nose-dive.

Is Danel facing a "fair" decision? Depends on your point of view.

His attorney is petitioning for a waiver to allow him to return - but I can't help wondering why he's not asking for some kind of special bill to make him American so he can travel freely and without worry? I don't understand the processes available to him nor the ones working against him, I'll admit. But this story is 100% anecdotal "woe is him," and 0% productive discussion on the real laws, regulations, and enforcement proceedings at work.

Somewhat selfishly, the story angers me because this kid is here and bemoaning the potential loss of an opportunity that would benefit him tremendously, but if he misses out, at least he's still with his loved ones in the US. He broke the law - regardless of how you feel about the underlying policy. Rob, however, arguably broke no laws and certainly benefited from no one's scholarship money or education opportunity. He doesn't want to scam a job off a hard working American. He doesn't want welfare. He wants to be able to tour the country and dump his highly valuable pounds sterling into our local economy. But he can't. So Danel can cry me a river.

That's harsh. The kid should be able to come back to where his family is because the system is so wholly broken and misapplied we should let it be the reason his brain drains to another country permanently.

But two demerits for ABC News for leaving out massive parts of the story and playing solely on pathos. I'm sure Danel could've written it better.


J. Nathan Matias said...

Note. He did not choose to be in the United States, and as a kid, could hardly be expected to leave his family and go to a country he didn't know, just in order to be right by American law. Our society doesn't even think young people are responsible enough to drink a Bud Light until 21, and you're expecting a kid to do things right by the immigration law?

I also don't think this is fully a story of his own making. Reporters have a tendency to dramatize, and this is quite a quite good story.

Not so much a reason to be outraged. It looks like he's following proper procedure, and I expect him to be able to obtain a student visa. The $10k was probably not needed.

Anonymous said...

Note: I am not blaming the kid for coming to the United States and overstaying when he was four.

Nor am I blaming him for the incomplete news story in which he was featured - I clearly and repeatedly blamed ABC News for that.

But he's not seeking a student visa. He doesn't need a visa from our country to visit another and the understanding I got from the piece was that he had applied for a waiver which would allow him to return to the USA once he'd completed (or during the course of) his studies overseas.

Again, I heard no mention in the piece of deportation action being taken against him. He's wasn't denied his degree. He's not being denied this new opportunity - but I'm not going to get quite as riled up about his situation as I would if someone were trying to remove him from the US now - which, as I said, would be wrong.

But he's been not-four for many years now, he's smart, capable, and, now coming from Princeton, likely well-connected. A problem with citizenship was bound to arise and he should've started dealing with it before now. Perhaps he did. We'll never know because of ABC News's sub-par reporting on the matter.

But don't be overly apologetic for Danel - doing so misstates the situation, which was my exact complaint with the story - and the impetus for this post - from the start.

Also, J. Nathan Matias, I think you're knew here, perhaps new to the 'sphere generally - so catch up on the back story of Phoblog And The Great Immigration Fight of '06 and you'll get a much better understanding of my perspective in this post.