What this is

A personal blog devoted to the experiences of those who have gotten short shrift in the process of becoming legal residents and citizens of the United States. Perhaps by sharing stories and increasing public awareness of the issues, we can bring an element of humanity into the functioning of our immigration system while still preserving its essential requirement to enforce the immigration laws of the United States.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How I came to be Persona Non Grata at the age of six

I was born in the Free Territory of Trieste, a city East of Venice, Italy. After World War II, the city was contested by both Italy and Yugoslavia. It was occupied by US and UK troops pending a plebiscite (popular vote) that would determine which country the city would join.
My mother was an Italian citizen who met and married an American GI who was in Trieste as part of TRUST (Trieste United States Troops).
In 1953, my parents and I left for the United States. About the same time, Trieste voted to become a part of Italy.
In 1954, my parents filed papers to have my mother and I become permanent US residents. My mother's application was accepted. Mine was not, because the US Immigration authorities determined that I was a "stateless person" because the place I was born in (The Free Territory of Trieste) no longer existed. Despite the desperate appeals of my parents, who were permitted to remain in the USA, at the age of 6 I was declared by the United States to be "Persona Non Grata" and ordered deported (by myself) to Italy, where I would doubtless be placed in an orphanage.
Needless to say, this was unacceptable to my parents. My father finally determined that a position was available for him at a US Army post in Italy, if he submitted to a voluntary reduction in rank from Sergeant First Class to Sergeant, a step backwards in his career. To preserve his family, he did so and the three of us returned to Italy.
My father's military career never recovered from this setback, however his subsequent efforts to enlist the assistance of US Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri did eventually result in the latter's passing a bill in the US Senate by which I was declared a "war orphan" and permitted to return to the US and reside there permanently on that basis. It is an irony of political necessity that I was neither born during the war, nor was I an orphan, but one cannot look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.
The lesson I learned from this encounter was that the US Immigration system and its courts are deeply flawed in the sense that they seem incapable of regarding any issues other than the letter of the law. Humanitarian concerns (such as separating a child from his parents) are irrelevant to them. I find this philosophy to be alien to the spirit of the United States that I came to know in the following years. Now a citizen, I find the hairs on the back of my head standing on end when I read similar stories of ordinary people caught up and mercilessly spit out by the findings of the US Immigration Service and its Courts.
I therefore devote this blog to those who have gotten short shrift in the great American Immigration Game and I welcome their stories and the support of others who may sympathize.
I in no way encourage illegal immigration or violation of US laws or the Constitution. However, I do think that in a society where much is made of "human rights," we could afford to maintain a bit of humility and flexibility when it comes to the actions of our own bureaucrats and public servants.

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