52 Year Old Who Came to US as a Toddler to be Deported
Mike Burrows came to America when he was two years old, and has lived here for 50 years. Due to a technicality in harsh anti-immigration laws, he will likely be deported to his birthplace of Canada within weeks, a country that he has no current connection to and no memory of.
I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My dad worked for a division of Capitol Records. He received a transfer to Los Angeles, got permanent resident visas for the whole family and when I was two years eleven months old, we moved to the States. I grew up in Glendale, California, where I said the pledge of allegiance, played baseball, and lived like any American. Except for a first grade teacher who told me I could never be President, I thought I was just like everybody else. In high school, I played guitar in a band, played first base for the jv then varsity baseball team. All in all, I was living an American life.
Mike Burrows is the poster child demonstrating the hysteria surrounding the immigration debate in the United States. He has built his life in America, he has children, parents, girlfriend, and all of his friends here. Mike has worked and paid taxes for most of his adult life. He worked his way up in the car business from sales to General Manager, has been a professional musician (guitar and lead singer), and has sold advertising for a range of publications. He has also worked as a certified mechanic and he ran an auto body repair shop. He is American as apple pie.
The Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was passed in 1996, stating that those in the country without proper documentation would be deported for a period of time (3 years, 10 years, or permanently). The same law stripped judges of discretion and made it legal to severely limit due process for immigrants. Previously, immediate deportation was triggered by criminal offenses that potentially would have meant 5+ years in jail, after IIRIRA, minor infractions such as shoplifting could trigger this.
Mike was convicted of receipt of a stolen 8-track tape deck worth $50, a misdemeanor in 1978, when he was 18 years old. This conviction was expunged from his record in 1983. Although Mike is officially considered a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), the 1996 law was applied retroactively, and in 2001 Mike was found “removable.”
For the past 9 years, Mike Burrows has been fighting a legal battle against an intractable bureaucracy, that includes the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 310 attorneys and 100 support staff of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL), and various local agencies and courts. He spent a month in the Lancaster County, California federal immigration detention center before having his $10,000 bail processed, money that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would soon strong-arm the bonding company out of.
In the past nine years I’ve written thousands of pages of motions and petitions; I’ve held off 4 Attorneys General and countless government lawyers. It’s not life or death to them as it is to me.
The DOJ’s immigration tribunal allows a panel of one to decide administrative immigration appeals with little or no review, so having exhausted all legal channels to appeal his decision, Mike now waits at his home for ICE agents to break into his house for a second time and send him to a land he has never known.
Once deported, Mike would likely never be able to see his parents again as they are too elderly and too infirm to travel, especially his mother who has Alzheimer’s, or his daughter again until she is eighteen. There is a lifetime ban on re-entry for “criminal” aliens, with a penalty of up to twenty years in Federal prison should he cross over the border after removal, even though his grandfather was a South Dakota state senator who owned a cattle ranch.
Mike continues to blog about his ordeal. A governor’s pardon is likely the only hope of relief from removal in this case. Mike Burrows, father, taxpayer, and lover of America for 50 years, a victim of an overzealous immigration policy and ruthless bureaucracy.
This is how I live my every day, wondering when ICE is going to kick the door in and drop me off at the nearest detention center.