Peyton Smith - Americanuck Radio
Immigration has become such an emotional and politicized battle in so many countries, including my own country, the United States. In the midst of all the pulling of the heartstrings and the desire by many people - media and politicians included - to maintain the narrative of open borders for any and all, there are many qualified and quality individuals who are waiting patiently to immigrate to our nation who only wish to get in line and go through the proper process - which can take quite some time.
The progressive left and the neocons who claim to be part of the right, were chomping at the bit in decrying the separation of Central American families at our southern border, which has obviously been porous for awhile. As far as an emotional outburst or even "mass hysteria", as Dr. Michael Savage would say, the outcry was off the charts. The media further stoked the fire in patent disregard for the facts - such as human trafficking that occurs across the southern border or the hardened criminal elements that would go to any lengths in getting into the country. If a criminal shows up illegally at the southern border with a child in tow, then all rationality and logic goes out the window. Whether or not it is in fact a real family becomes a moot point.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a Canadian gentleman, Anthony Gaalaas, who was living in the U.S. for 16 years up until 2017, but now not allowed back in and currently resides in the Canadian province of Alberta. His ordeal in becoming a citizen of the United States is one that I felt needed attention. If separation of families is truly a sin, then his being separated for the past year from his wife of 15 years who is American, and his two children, now 10 and 11, should certainly be of concern.
In 2001, Anthony was employed by a company in Canada, whose base of operations is here in Washington. He requested a transfer to the U.S. and was granted a visa to come here and work. Following this move, he met his wife, but prior to meeting her, Anthony had already been pursuing permanent residency in the states, which he applied for after his marriage and was subsequently denied. He was told his denial was based not solely on the fact that he had a criminal record, but rather one detail on his record mentioning the word trafficking. Upon appeal of this decision by his attorney who argued they had misunderstood the charge, he was denied yet again.
The charge in question goes back to 1985 when Anthony was 19 years of age and the police responded to a complaint by the landlord of the apartment complex where Anthony was living. He was arrested and found in possession of a few hundred dollars of drugs and was charged with “possession for the purpose of trafficking”. With no prior drug charges, the prosecution presented him with a plea deal that would give him probation, rather than jail time. Even though he wasn’t caught in the act of trafficking or had any intention of trafficking, Anthony took the deal as any teenager in the same predicament would've most likely done, because he was only given 18 months probation.
In 1992, Anthony obtained a non-resident alien, Canadian border crossing card, which acts as a waiver for those with a criminal record to cross into the United States, at the discretion of U.S. customs. Anthony used this card to travel across the border hundreds of times, without any incident and never running afoul of the law in the U.S. during those travels.
In 1995, Anthony received a full pardon in Canada which means the person has rehabilitated themselves and worthy of forgiveness and their record is now sealed at a federal level. When U.S. Immigration denied his application for permanent residency because of the word “trafficking” Anthony explained he wasn’t trafficking and showed his Canadian pardon, but under U.S. Immigration laws a foreign pardon is not recognized. It’s funny how they’ll recognize a foreign record, but not a foreign pardon. What’s even crazier is that if Anthony’s record was in the U.S. and had received a U.S. pardon, his application would have been approved and he would have received his permanent residency card within two weeks. The Hypocrisy of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) is absolutely jaw dropping, as well as the degrading language used in the letter sent to Anthony.
The denial letter Anthony received from USCIS also said that if he failed to depart the U.S., then proceedings would be instituted to enforce his departure. He inquired about getting his case before a judge, but was told by his attorney that if a court hearing failed, then he would be taken and deported immediately. Anthony was assured by his attorney that while he would continue to appeal the decision yet again, he was still legal to stay in the U.S. As the months and years went by, Anthony diligently contacted his attorney for any news of progress on his case and was told they were working on it and to be patient because new U.S. Immigration laws could be introduced that could overturn his denial.
As the years went by, Anthony started a legal company in the U.S., employed several U.S. citizens, and paid taxes. He has mentored young adults at his church and local prisons and has attained over 100 letters of reference from friends, business owners, police officers, and pastors confirming his fine character and contributions to the U.S.
Now wondering if his attorney was in fact working on his case, Anthony contacted U.S. Immigration authorities directly for any advice or help in moving forward only to be told they couldn't help, and to contact another immigration attorney instead. Upon trying to seek out immigration attorneys, he found all wanted a huge fee - one shyster who wanted 35 grand - with no guarantee of a green card, but a solid guarantee of a sickening cash grab. Anthony has also reached out to governors, senators, and even President Trump, with the hope of gaining ground, as well as traction for the process of his case... but all his efforts on those fronts, as well as those of many people who emailed the President on his behalf, fell on blind eyes, and deaf ears.
After many dead end roads and unsure of his true legal status, Anthony went back to Canada in June of 2017 to reestablish Canadian residency and go back and forth as a visitor until he could get U.S. permanent residence. A few days later, Anthony was allowed back into the U.S. on a visitor visa, with no difficulty or problems. A month later he returned to Canada with his wife and children for a family visit and in August of 2017, he was allowed back into the U.S. on a visitor visa again. A few months after that, Anthony went on vacation to Mexico, but upon his return into the U.S., again on a visitor visa, he was detained in Houston by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for seventeen hours while officials casted doubt on his leaving because he had a wife and children in Austin, TX and what they said was an overstay on his original visa. Anthony rightly referred the officials to his attorney - the same attorney who assured him he was legal during the overstay and the fact that he had moved back to Canada and came back as a visitor a couple times with no problems. He was then asked to provide paperwork from his original visa right up to present for his legal stay while appealing his denial for permanent residency. Anthony had to call his wife in Austin and she went through the mountain of paperwork accumulated at that point, taking pictures of assorted documents and texting them to him for officials to review only for him to be told he was refused entry because of the overstay. So, even though Anthony’s attorney assured him he was legal and ok to stay and even though he had voluntarily returned to Canada and was now coming and going as a visitor, the officials in Houston still refused him entry and put him on a plane back to Canada. That's the treatment Anthony received for simply trying to do the right thing and stay within the law as he was counseled. He was even told by an off duty immigration officer of a friend of his that all this was wrong and he should have been a U.S. citizen by now. This is just beyond despicable.
After being sent back to Canada, Anthony went back to the Edmonton airport the next day, to try and come back to the states as a visitor once again, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials saw that he was detained in Houston, and asked him what was going on. He replied that he was only trying to come back into the states as a visitor to see his wife and children. So the officer was very helpful and gave him a list of documentation needed to satisfy the CBP that he was in fact living back in Canada and going back as a visitor. Anthony went and compiled the documentation requested, which included bank statements, utility bills, etc. and a week later, brought back all that was requested. He met with the same officer he talked to a week previously, who then flipped through the documentation briefly and said he was good to travel. Within the span of a week, Anthony went from being detained for nearly an entire day in Houston, to being told he was now legal to travel back and forth to the U.S. He was told to bring all the paperwork that the CBP told him to compile, when traveling back and forth between Canada and the U.S., should any future problems arise.
Anthony then went back to the states for a month, then returned to Canada for a month and a half. In January of 2018, he went to fly again to the U.S. through the Vancouver airport and sure enough, he was questioned, but he had all the paperwork he compiled in Edmonton, which satisfied the officials in Vancouver and he was good to travel. Anthony went back to his family in the states for three weeks, but came back in two weeks, in order to show his good faith, and that he could be trusted. On February 17th, he returned to the Vancouver airport to fly back to visit his family, and yet again was questioned by CBP officials and after showing them all his paperwork he had showed twice before, this time he was refused entry, and was told he should have a ten year ban for overstaying his original visa back in 2005. He was told that he was merely lucky and that the officers up to this point were wrong to let him enter at all and was told he would have to apply for a waiver for the ten year ban. He never saw this coming, as he was never told by his attorney or any of the many CBP officers up to this point. Any overstay should've rightly been moot, considering the number of times Anthony had already been permitted to travel back and forth. This kind of governmental and legal ineptitude is staggering at best, and plain denigrating at worst. Speaking personally, I wouldn't know which way was up, after receiving all the conflicting information from customs officers, immigration officers, and attorneys, that he received. There is no excuse for the treatment he has been given - not to mention the trauma his wife and children have experienced without a husband and father - and in my mind, had actual competency been paramount, he would've been a citizen by now.
The next turn of events in this horrible rollercoaster ride took Anthony to an attorney in Toronto, who works with Canadians that own companies in the U.S., but who are experiencing difficulties with establishing legal residency in the U.S. Anthony consulted with the attorney, and was advised to apply for a five year investors visa, followed by applying for a waiver for the ten year ban which was imposed on him - logic being that if he went for the visa first, that would help in the application process for the ten year ban waiver. He is currently waiting for an answer regarding his visa application, which is where the situation now stands. Hopefully, there will be approval on both applications, and he can at last return to a normal life in the states with his family for at least 5 years while he can find someone who can help overturn his denial for permanent residency and finally put all this senseless difficulty he has been subjected to since 2003, behind him.
May this plea for justice, for a man who was done such injustice, find the right recipient. I call on anyone who might be able to right this wrong, and unite Anthony with his family. I call on reason, and sanity, to overcome the insanity that he and his family have had to go through. If trying to stay within, and obey the law has any merit anymore, in regards to the pathway to citizenship here in the U.S., then Anthony will find a successful resolution, hopefully sooner rather than later. If that's not the case, and this kind of mixed up draconian nonsense is allowed to prevail, then may God help anyone who finds themselves in his shoes, because the system sure won't.