Facing Imminent Deportation
Local movement started to allow Madisonian
Lauren Bell to stay in U.S.
When Lauren Bell’s family moved to the United States from Great Britain in 2003, they had no idea that, nine years later, their family would be in danger of being ripped apart because of the nightmare that can accompany the process of legally obtaining a visa to live in America.
But that is precisely what has happened.
At the end of January, Lauren Bell, a resident of Madison, will turn 21 years old and will cease to be a dependent of her parents in the eyes of the American government. Since the visa that has allowed her and her family to live in the United States for the last nine years only covers children if they are legally considered dependents, she will no longer be living here with a valid visa, and will likely be deported back to England while her mother, father and younger sister will still be here, over 4,000 miles away.
The Bell family moved to America in 2003 when her father accepted a job from SGD North America on an H-4 visa. The H-4 visa is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and it allows family members of H visa holders under the age of 21 to legally live in the United States. However, the family members covered by the H-4 visa are not able to obtain Social Security numbers or to be gainfully employed.
Although the Bell family was completely covered by this visa at the time they moved here, SGD North America began the application process for green cards for the family in 2004.
Their green card applications underwent five years of processing before being ultimately rejected by the USCIS in 2009 because, according to Lauren, “there was a mistake in the working on the advertisement for the position my dad accepted with SGD North America.”
When the initial petition for the family’s permanent residency in the United States was denied, Lauren’s father’s employers filed an appeal on the Bells’ behalf in December 2010, but, so far, the appeal has, “moved nowhere.”
“This is wrong,” Lauren said about the possibility that she’ll be deported in just a few months. “After living here legally for nine years as Georgia residents, buying a house here and paying taxes…the whole process of splitting a family up just because I reach the age of 21 soon is totally immoral!”
Lauren, who is currently a marketing major at Georgia College & State University, just found out about the “whole horrible situation” a little over two weeks ago when SGD North America informed her father about the immediacy of the problem.
SGD recommended that Lauren apply for an F-1 visa, which is a type of visa for international students in the United States, but that there would be no guarantee that she would get the visa.
Even if Lauren were able to get the F-1 visa by the end of next January, she would have to pay out-of-state tuition and fees, which, “would amount to over $26,000 per year for 12 hours of classes per week.”
“My dad just can’t afford to pay this,” laments Lauren.
Her grandfather in the U.K., Keith Hancock, is very clear about how the whole family feels about the potential deportation: “We don’t want this to happen.”
Hancock says that he is “rather appalled” by the way the United States deals with people in Lauren’s situation. “The regulations seem very strict.”
However, he isn’t critical of the United States government in general.
“The U.S. government seems to know where everyone is. I wish at times we would do that in this country,” Hancock said.
The ironic twist in Lauren’s story is that, as a legal resident of the United States, she is not covered by a recently passed piece of legislation known as the “Dream Act,” which was designed to protect children under the age of 21 against being deported – as long as they originally entered the country illegally.
Had she initially come into this country illegally, she wouldn’t be facing the same problem that she is now.
“My family and I are totally devastated and cannot understand how there could have been such an oversight in the legislation,” said Lauren.
In an attempt to exact the change that would keep herself and others in her situation from being deported, Lauren has created an online petition demanding a change in the Dream Act.
“I can only hope that the law is changed for other people in the same situation as well as for my younger sister Emily before she nears the age of 21,” Lauren said.
Since the creation of the petition, which can be found by going to the website www.change.org and searching for “Lauren Bell,” has already been signed by 248 supporters. Senator Saxby Chambliss has also sent Lauren a letter pledging his support.
“Mr. Chambliss said in his letter to us that he was contacting the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services,” Lauren said. “Having a high profile person such as Mr. Chambliss can only have a positive impact and help to get this noticed.”
In the event that Lauren does get deported after her 21st birthday, she will have a support system of family members in England including her grandparents and two aunts, but, for now, Lauren is, “trying to remain positive.”
Lauren asks that everyone visit her website, www.Letlaurenstay.com, which has links to her petition on change.org and also to her Facebook group. Her website also has ways to contact Senator Chambliss and the USCIS, so that people can voice their opinions to them directly.
“Hopefully, this would encourage people in a position of power to make a change in the existing law.”
Printed in the September 13 edition.