American dreams and nightmares, and other immigration news – July 12, 2017

Kazi Mannan exemplifies one kind of American dream – hard work leading to prosperity, and then giving back to those in need. Ahmed Omar saw an American nightmare, and went to Canada:

“I am a black man, I am a Muslim, and I am a Somali. So in three ways, it is not possible for me to go to the United States,” Ahmed Omar told CBC News in February.

More restrictive rules for immigrant entrepreneurs, announced Tuesday, and further restrictions on foreign students, still under discussion, further limit American dreams. And then there’s the case of an Iranian cancer researcher, whose J-1 visa for a Harvard-affiliated hospital should have made him a welcome temporary resident. Instead, Dr.Mohsen Dehnavi and his wife and three children were detained at Boston’s Logan Airport and told they could not enter the country.

‘They said I was going to work like a donkey. I was grateful.’ (Washington Post, 7/11/17)

“Immigrants are 15.7 percent more likely to work these “off” hours than American-born workers, according to a new study to be released this week. They are 25.2 percent more likely to cover weekend shifts — compared with native-born workers with similar demographic characteristics such as education level, location, and whether they are married or have children.

When Kazi Mannan arrived in the United States in 1996, he worked graveyard shifts at a gas station, seven nights a week, for $2.50 an hour. Today he is a restaurant owner, who still works long hours, filling in when his employees are sick or quit.

“He said his success has enabled him to start a school for 200 orphans in Pakistan and provide more than 6,000 meals a year to the homeless in Washington. He welcomes any hungry, homeless person to eat free at his restaurant, serving chicken tandoori and lamb karahi half a mile from the White House.

“I am now part of this American society as an immigrant contributing to this country,” Mannan said. “The majority of immigrants have the same goals — to work hard and bring prosperity to their families. Keep immigration if you want to keep America great.”

‘It was the happiest moment’: Asylum seekers who took risky Central America route cross into Canada (CBC, 7/10/17) Two Somali men fled their home country, escaping attacks and recruitment attempts by al-Shabaab. CBC News followed their story as they traveled to Brazil and then walked throughCentral America and Mexico, finally jumping the fence in Tijuana, where they were arrested by U.S. Border Patrol.

“The first person I talked to or engaged with was a border security agent who was well-geared like a commando guy, and he told me: ‘Where are you from?’ I answered, Somalia,” adds Ahmed Omar.

“And he told me: ‘You are a f–king terrorist.'”

After being held for more than a month in a U.S. immigration prison and then released on bond, the pair made their way to St. Cloud in June.

While there, 52 Somali men and women Abdi Omar says he grew up with in Dadaab refugee camp, almost all of whom he says migrated to the U.S. legally, held an emergency meeting to help him plan his next steps.

“But they told me that even though they came [to the United States] legally, they now lived in fear of deportation. They said, go forward, Canada is safe for you.”

In July, the two arrived safely in Canada.

The U.S. Tech Immigration Freeze: First H-1B Visas, Now Entrepreneurs (Barron’s 7/11/17)

“The Trump administration formally gave foreign entrepreneurs the shaft this week, and if they depart they may take educated foreign workers with them.”

In Blow to Tech Industry, Trump Shelves Start-up Immigrant Rule (New York Times, 7/11/17)

“Today’s announcement is extremely disappointing and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the critical role immigrant entrepreneurs play in growing the next generation of American companies,” Bobby Franklin, the president and chief executive of the National Venture Capital Association, a trade association for start-up investors, said in a statement.

He added that even as other countries are going all out to attract entrepreneurs, “the Trump administration is signaling its intent to do the exact opposite.”

Overseas students would face close scrutiny under proposal floated at DHS (Washington Post, 7/10/17)

“Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security are floating a proposal that would require foreign students to reapply for permission to stay in the United States every year, a controversial move that would create new costs and paperwork for thousands of visa holders from China, India and other nations, according to two federal officials with direct knowledge of the discussions….

“Foreign students make up 5 percent of the 20 million students attending colleges and universities across the United States. Universities are increasingly courting such students because they add diversity and boost school coffers by paying full tuition. Foreign students added more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, according to IIE.”

Iranian cancer researcher detained at Boston airport despite valid visa (The Guardian, 7/11/17) He had already been through administrative processing and extensive security checks in order to receive a J-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa issued to highly skilled research scholars, professors and exchange visitors.

“Mohsen Dehnavi was traveling to the US to work as a visiting scholar at Boston children’s hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. But when he arrived on Monday afternoon, he was not allowed to enter the country and may now be sent home along with his family, according to a friend who was due to pick them up from the airport….

[A statement from the hospital] added: “Boston Children’s has limited information at this time about the circumstances of the detention. Boston Children’s hopes that this situation will be quickly resolved and Dr Dehnavi and his family will be released and allowed to enter the US. The hospital is committed to doing its utmost to support Dr Dehnavi and his family.”

Iranian cancer researcher detained at Logan (Boston Globe, 7/11/17)

And in other immigration news

Defense bill amendments would protect, curb enlistment program for immigrants with in-demand skills (The Hill, 7/11/17)

“The amendments come as the Pentagon is reportedly considering haltingthe program, known as the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, and canceling the enlistment contracts for more than 1,000 recruits, putting many of them at risk of deportation.

“Several Democratic amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seek to stop the Pentagon from doing that. Meanwhile, a couple of Republican amendments seek to tighten the program.”

In the 1980s, diversity meant more white immigrants (Washington Post, 7/11/17)

“The Diversity Visa program was designed to solve a problem: People without family ties to the United States had almost no opportunity to legally immigrate. But despite its name, the motivation behind the program came less from a desire to diversify the immigrant population than to whiten it.

“The drive for the Diversity Visa program began in the late 1980s, when tens of thousands of Irish fled economic problems in Ireland and moved to the United States without going through the formal immigration procedures. Unlike previous generations of Irish immigrants, they no longer enjoyed privileged access to visas based on their nationality, and because few people from Ireland had emigrated in the booming postwar years, aspiring emigrants in the 1980s had no close relatives to sponsor them for visas.”


Attorney Bruce Nestor speaks 7/10/2017 after Ariel Vences-Lopez’s immigration court hearing (MIRAC video on YouTube, 7/11/17) In a court appearance on Monday, July 10, the judge said that he will not set bond for Ariel Vences-Lopez, the man who was interrogated and arrested by transit police. The judge continued all hearings to Thursday. Attorney Bruce Nestor said that delays in his case are partly attributable to backlog and delays in all immigration cases. Vences-Lopez has a petition for a U-Visa as a crime victim. Determination on the U-Visa will be made by USCIS, the administrative part of immigration, and not by the court that is hearing his deportation case.


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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