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To the editor:

I came across your website after searching for information about the current immigration laws and how any changes in those laws might help me. I lived legally for 38 consecutive years in the U.S. until I was deported to Colombia in 1997. I believe I should not have been deported simply because I served more than five years in a Federal prison.

Iím encouraged to learn that some changes in the mandatory INS deportation laws are now under consideration in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. None of these proposals, however, goes far enough.

Why must anyone who has served five years or more automatically be deported? Generally, the lengthier the sentence, the greater the hardship. Certainly someone who lived in the U.S. for almost a lifetime as I did, and served just over five years, has earned a greater right to argue for relief from deportation than someone who, for example, under H.R. 1485 (the Family Reunification Act of 1999), lived in the U.S. for only seven years and served a sentence of just under five years.

The immigration laws should be left as they were prior to the 1996 INS Act. Previously, competent INS judges scrutinized the evidence based on the merits to deport or not to deport someone from the U.S. on a case by case basis. An open immigration trial would allow judges to analyze the reasons, both pro and con, why someone should be deported. It could also prevent inhumane situations like mineóand avoid double jeopardy punishments that are currently destroying American families and leaving children fatherless or motherless.

My case was filed on May 16, 1996 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Although my appeal was denied, I received an encouraging response from Circuit Judge Sarokin, who suggested that the Supreme Court revisit the Ex Post Facto Clause regarding deportation. In August 1996, I filed my case in the Supreme Court but failed to meet the filing deadline because my lawyer misinterpreted the 90-day filing period (i.e., 90 calendar days vs. 90 business days).

This is my cry for help. This is my three American-born sonís cry for help. I constantly feel the pain of being unable to embrace themóor to give them guidance or economic support.

It is also my naturalized American parentsí and my American-born siblingsí cry for help. I could not even help my elderly mother last year when my father anguished in a Miami hospital for over a month before he died.

Iíve been forced to exchange my obligations as a parent for a daily struggle just to make ends meet in a foreign country that suffers from more than 20% unemployment and the worst depression in 50 years. Even worse, a pernicious guerrilla war limits my mobility within Colombia because native Colombians consider me a Gringoóand Gringos are prime targets in the ongoing violence.

I find the "Immigration Daily" a great resource. Itís an ideal forum to expose flaws in the current immigration laws and to suggest possible improvements. Iím grateful for the effort youíre making with this newsletter and for the services your member lawyers provide.

If there are any avenues to re-open my deportation case or re-enter an appeal to the Supreme Court and if there is anyone in your organization who can help me, please contact me as soon as possible. Should you need further information about my case, Iíll be glad to provide it.

Thank you.

James Scheidemann


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