By Lupe Lopez
It was 1984 and I was meeting a friend at the Immigration office in San Francisco. My friend was running late and asked that I wait for her in the courtroom. She gave me the number of the room and as I walked into the courtroom I saw a small, thin, older woman crying – throwing herself down on her knees begging the judge to not deport her son. “We have been here since he was 4 months old. We don’t even know anyone in Germany.” She cried and told him that they were alone and didn’t have anyone else but each other. The judge looked empathetic but he said his hands were tied. The young man of 19 had committed a crime that made him deportable. The judge said to her “if only your son had become a citizen. You both had plenty of time.” The young man was taken away and the older woman had to be carried out of the courtroom screaming and crying for her son.
I have never forgotten that courtroom scene. In 1984 I never dreamed that someday I would be working with Immigration lawyers or in an immigration law firm. But, since I started working in the field of immigration, there has not been a month that goes by that I have not heard this same scenario in one form or another. Parents become legal permanent residents and then for any of a multitude of reasons, never become U.S. Citizens; leaving their children to make the decision themselves as to whether or not they want to become citizens. They never imagine that one day their child can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply that their child may never get into trouble with the law.