American citizenship not to be taken for granted
There always seems to be that one guy in your neighborhood who everybody likes. He is typically there with a ‘good-morning,’ and his property is free of clutter. He may have cleaned the snow from your sidewalk or mowed your lawn when you couldn’t. Offered sound advice on what was wrong with your vehicle, or even fixed it. Would you feel the same high esteem for him if he were an immigrant?
Most people didn’t know my husband carried a green card. Andreas, aka, Andy, was born in Canada in 1957.
Canada was a waypoint for his newlywed parents, Heinz and Erika. They moved from Germany to Canada in 1954 with the dream of building a new life in America. Back then, immigrants had to have an American sponsor to live in the USA. 1964, Heinz obtained a job as a chef in a restaurant at the Union Station in downtown Chicago. He attained a sponsor and moved his family to the States. Andy has lived in either Illinois or Wisconsin ever since.
Andy had his very first problem with his alien status in 2012. We were at the bank signing papers for a home improvement loan when Vicky, the loan officer/assistant vice-president of the bank, directed us to something on our loan papers with her pen. “You missed this box on the application,” she said. She was pointing at the ‘Are You a US Citizen’ box. “Lots of people miss that,” she said handing her pen over to Andy.
“I’m not a citizen,” Andy said clearing his throat. “I’m a Canadian.”
“I would have never guessed that!” Vicky said with a smile.
Andy gave her a brief history of how he came to the states.
“That’s a neat story!” Vicky said. “Well, I’ll need your green card then.”
“I don’t have it,” Andy admitted. “I carried it in my wallet for the last forty some years, I took it out for something else, and now I can’t find it.”
That was a problem. Vicky suggested we reapply for the loan in my name only. We added an extra $640.00 to cover the cost of a replacement green card.
We found the US Immigration website online and signed up for the application package that would include personalized support. I mailed the cashier’s check, and within a week, we had the I-90 paperwork in our hands, filing instructions, and resource materials that would guide us through the process.
There were questions on the form that we didn’t know how to answer. Date of Entry? Port of Entry? There was also the fact that Andy’s green card that he had carried for all those years was the original he received at the age of seven. He remembered his family going to the post office and filling out a 4X8 registration card once a year. But that stopped when he was a young teen for reasons he never knew, or didn’t have to care about to that point. Maybe his families’ alien status had been grandfathered into a permanent one, with no further obligations? Or on the flip side, it was a possibility that Andy’s green card had expired a long time ago. Andy called his mom. She gave him the best answers as to what she remembered, which wasn’t much.
I called the support hotline for guidance, the operator took my information, and told me a specialist would be calling me back. Except no one did. It wasn’t until I left ten-plus messages that I began to feel that there was something wrong. I accessed the direct link I saved on my computer. The immigration site, based in Colorado Springs, appeared to be official.
I googled ‘United States Immigration.’ I clicked on the USCIS.gov site. I started comparing the forms I could get from the USCIS for free vs. the ones we paid for. The fees were the same, except the $640, payable by check or money order, was supposed to be attached to the completed paperwork.
That’s when I learned we were victims of a scam.
The site that I entrusted had done a great job impersonating the official government website. It sickened me to think of the millions of dollars this company was making, preying on folks in situations like ours. They could, and they did, by taking every freedom the constitution allowed and skewing it for their own personal gain.
You just don’t realize what a frightening process the road to citizenship is like until you go through it yourself. I feel sickened for those people who fled their countries hoping to find freedom in our promised land and fell into the same trap that we did. I just googled the site again, five years later, and found the Colorado Springs Immigration site was reported as a fraud. The USCIS office in Denver has also added tips on their site on how to avoid Immigration Services Scams.
There are just as many disgraceful US citizens as there are immigrants with cruel intentions. Thankfully, the good people will always outweigh the bad. And be proud that you are an American citizen. You just don’t know how lucky you are to live here, until you feel the risk of losing it all.