Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Valedictorian Faces Deportation

When Arthur Mkoyan was two years old, his family fled Armenia to escape the climate of Soviet Union rule. They've been working since 1992 to claim asylum in the United States while their son has excelled in the classroom. This week, the Fresno-area high school senior with a 4.0 GPA should be focusing on final exams and his Valedictorian speech to his fellow graduates; instead, he and his mother are facing deportation while the father sits in a migrant worker concentration camp in Arizona.

He and his mother, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job and income she needs, were given an extension to June 20 so Arthur could join his class at the ceremony, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Our goal is to enforce these court orders for deportations," Kice said. But "if they come to us and they fully intend to respect the court order, we will work with them."

Mark Silverman, director of immigration policy at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said Arthur Mkoyan's case illustrates why Congress should have passed the Dream Act. The act would have allowed students who excelled in school and stayed out of trouble to become permanent residents and attend college or enlist in the military

"There's something very wrong with the immigration laws when our government is deporting our best students," Silverman said.

Fresno Bee

The Mkoyans are just one more example of the complexity of the situation many migrant worker families face in this era of stagnation when it comes to an overhaul of the immigration system in the U.S. They have a 12 year old son who was born here, therefore a citizen of this country, and a 17 year old eldest son who is top of his class and has already been accepted to UC-Davis in the fall to study Chemistry.

They are collateral damage to a government system that has dragged its feet over the years to unclog application processing, figure out what to do with mixed-status families, and diversify their procedures for treatment of migrant workers who don't have criminal backgrounds. The default position of the U.S. government at this time is to either lock them up in a concentration camp where some are being killed through mistreatment, or deport them immediately regardless of family unity issues. This is inhumane and unacceptable.

Fortunately, local communities are banding together to exercise all legal options to keep these human rights violations at a minimum. In the case of Arthur Mkoyan, the media attention his case has received has initiated a wave of support.

Mkoyan, whose story was featured in Monday's Bee, drew immediate support from a local Armenian advocacy group and fellow Bullard High students -- and a promise from Rep. George Radanovich to take a second look at his request for help.

On Monday, Arthur said, he was showered with questions and offers of help from students and teachers at school, who hadn't known of his plight. His home phone has been ringing off the hook as friends and supporters called. Television news reporters were trying to get an interview most of the day, Arthur said.

The shy 17-year-old with a 4.0 grade-point average said he is overwhelmed by the sudden attention.

"It makes me feel good people care," he said.

Fresno Bee

The family has also reached out to Senator Diane Feinstein to see if she will support a private bill that, if passed, would give Arthur a green card and the ability to stay in the U.S. and finish his education. Even if it does not pass through Congress, though, the deportation order would be halted immediately upon submission of the bill. Please call her office, as well as the other listed public officials and ask them to support this worthy effort:

Senator Diane Feinstein
Fresno Office: (559) 485-7430
DC Office: (202) 224-3841>

Senator Barbara Boxer
Fresno Office: (559) 497-5109
DC Office: (202) 224-3553

And in this episode of Why Elections Matter, it should be noted that the Congressional Representative, George Radanovich-R (CA-19), has basically told them, "Tough Shit."

Radanovich's office acknowledged Monday that the family first sent a letter to the congressman on April 18. A few days later, a staff member told the family that its only option was a private bill to grant legal status to individuals, but that Radanovich doesn't introduce private bills.

"He doesn't feel he should be able to pick winners or losers and who should on an individual basis stay or leave," said Spencer Pederson, Radanovich's press secretary.

It should also be noted that Arthur Mkoyan's deportation would be a non-issue if the Governator hadn't vetoed California's version of the D.R.E.A.M. Act (twice). The federal version of it is still languishing on Capitol Hill because lawmakers are too afraid to do anything substantive in an election year that might be construed (the horror!) as helpful to migrant workers and their families. I recommend bookmarking the group blog A Dream Deferred for updates on the bill's status.

Crossposted at Booman Tribune, The Sanctuary, and Human Beams

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