Immigration Law

U.S. System Stymies Would-be Citizens

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A Polish-American couple’s battle, over more than a decade, to become U.S. citizens shows the pitfalls presented by what many see as an arbitrary and unfair American immigration system that is damaging to families.

Tony Wasilewski is on the road toward U.S. citizenship. But his 41-year-old wife, Janina, is facing deportation, and is making plans to return to Poland this week along with the couple’s five-year-old son, Brian, who is an American citizen because he was born here, reports the Chicago Tribune.

An activist who fled then-communist Poland 18 years ago and sought political asylum here, Janina Wasilewski was denied permission to stay in the U.S. by an immigration judge in 1995 because her home country was by then a democracy. But no one told her, she says, and the court record reportedly supports her contention that it was conducted in English, which she didn’t adequately understand.

Had a Polish interpreter explained to her – as her current lawyer says is legally required – that her asylum petition had been denied, she would have appealed, Wasilewsk tells the Tribune. But she didn’t realize there was any ruling that she could not stay in the country, she says, and now a deportation order is in place. Her husband is staying here, to continue running their cleaning business, and she is fearful about their future together. “If my husband stays here and I have to go back with Brian … I don’t know about our family.” she says.

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