First, my lawyer filed what’s called a FOIA – Freedom of Information Act request – to demand my entire file. This is because my new lawyer, and I only had what I photocopied, and apparently my previous attorney didn’t have the whole file. The letter of denial was missing, and that was crucial. My current lawyers needed that in order to see WHY I was denied. The specific reason the government denied me. This was important so that they could challenge the decision.
They did numerous “info passes” to the Santa Ana immigration office to retrieve my full file. Think of an info pass like a movie ticket. You BUY a ticket to see a movie, and that lets you in to see that particular movie. An info pass is also BOUGHT by the lawyer to allow them to see one of their client’s complete files. The lawyer “buys” it, but I pay for it…and the time it takes the lawyer to drive to Santa Ana, go through a large array of workers there to find the person to take the request, go look for it, etc. Meanwhile, the FOIA was just a precautionary measure in case the info passes didn’t work (FOIA’s take over a year to fulfill because so many FOIA’s are made).
I’m sure one day this part will seem funny, but I’m still just pissed about it. They did info passes starting in January of 2008 and didn’t stop until June of 2009. They stopped because the FOIA worked after eighteen months, and they got what they needed – sort of. For whatever reason, finding the file wasn’t that easy. We got various explanations of why: “the file is on it’s its way from the Texas Holding Centre,” “the file has been sent to the wrong office and is now coming back to the Texas Centre to come to our office,” and MY FAVOURITE, :”it was sent to the National Archives in D.C. (even though that office says only records over 25 twenty-five years old are sent there).” By the way, the file in question, my file, never left Texas. It’s been there all these years. It was misfiled. MISFILED! Really?!?!
And now we are in the final phase of this story. June 2009. Through the FOIA, the lawyers received my full file, but in it there is no denial. There never was one. This is why I wasn’t notified. This is why I was denied a green card…for a bloody document that did NOT exist. The lawyers needed more money and another strategy. I had at this point paid out over 30 THOUSAND DOLLARS in 500-1000 dollar increments between two law firms and four years worth of bills. So the new strategy was this: Filing a Mandamus with the Supreme Court of California. For those of you with any Spanish linguistic abilities, a Mandamus means exactly what you think it means: a command. In this case, we sued through the Supreme Court of California to command the DHS and USCIS to reopen the case because they did not ever give me a letter of denial. I have the document on my computer here, and it is 24 twenty-four pages long.
We filed the Mandamus (I borrowed $5,000 from a friend to do it, but we did it – and I still owe that money). The USCIS answered. They reopened my case AND are considering backdating the application and status to the date I originally applied for the green card. That’s important because that means I won’t have to wait in line once I’m approved. I should have gotten the card years ago – – so I move to the front of the line. So the update is this: On Monday, March 15th I received a letter stating in bold “Welcome to the United States of America” and the rest of the letter explaining to me that I’ve been approved and my physical permanent residency card [AKA: Green Card] will be delivered within the next three weeks. On Friday, March 19th, 2010 I received my card in the mail. Done. It’s over. I won my case. I am free to visit my Canadian friends and family, or, for that matter, travel anywhere I’d like. I can do things I couldn’t do before like enter vocal competitions (you need to show proof of residency), record and sell a CD, have a life…things like that.
So, if things are going better, what sent me into writing this gigantic dissertation? I left the lawyer’s office on Friday, December 18th, 2009 being told that the $5000 I paid was just for that and that I need to start sending monthly payments to pay for the gigantic bill. I then got home and checked my mail. There was a letter from the billing department of the law office for all the new charges since the Mandamus…a litte more than $15,000. I stopped in my tracks and started feeling short and quick pains in my chest. I’m exhausted. I’m never going to get out of this…my hair and skin on the top of my scalp still feels like it’s going to lift right off of my head…and then I had an idea of a project (next page)…