The Trap Snaps Shut

Internet dating does work! Sometimes. I’ve been trying it since late 2000, and over the subsequent three years I’ve had a number of girlfriends, almost all of whose first names start with a J: Jane, Julia, Jody,…. I wonder what the reason for that is. At any rate, in early 2004 I finally find a lady who is self-confident, emotionally stable, financially self-reliant, smart, curious, educated, tolerant, physically very fit, you name it. It takes a few months before we are sure that we are, if not a perfect, but at least a very good match.

And on September 11, 2004, we actually get married – with all the whistles and bells and the entire family partaking!

As is common in such cases, we file an application of “adjustment of status” with the U.S. immigration services to have my status as an asylum seeker changed into that of a permanent legal resident based on the marriage to a U.S. citizen. A few month later the U.S. Immigration Services make their final decision on my asylum application: rejected. Shortly thereafter they moreover state that I do not even have a right to file a motion for permanent residence due to my marriage. This denial is based on a 1999 government regulation, which is in obvious violation of a 1960 statutory law expressly allowing such motions. We therefore file an appeal to the pertinent Federal Court against both decisions.

In spite of all this, our application for adjustment of status due to our marriage seems to continue trickling through the system, and thus, as is prescribed by the law, roughly a year after having filed that application we are summoned to the local office of the U.S. Immigration Services, where they want to determine in a hearing whether our marriage is “bona fide,” which is to say: whether it is genuine, indeed. So we figure they don’t have their guns drawn quite yet.

In preparation of this hearing I compile a huge collection of documents as evidence for our courting time (including some embarrassingly intimate emails…), our wedding and our life together since we moves together in the spring of 2004. When we finally go to that scheduled meeting on October 19, 2005, we bring along our invincible secret weapon in a baby stroller: our seven months old daughter. Hence the interview is a breeze. We take this obstacle of getting our liaison officially recognized with charm.

At around 11 am, after our marriage interview has been over for a while and we are waiting for the result to be announced, the door opens, the lady who has conducted the marriage interview comes out, and she gives us our certificate and congratulates us.

Then all of a sudden two other guys come up from behind her, push her to the side and tell me that I am under arrest (no handcuffs at that point yet). I have no clue what their names are. Maybe they tell me who they are, but I go into tunnel vision mode that very second (flight or fight). Only one of them “processes” me, that is, he interrogates me in the presence of my lawyer. I am asked whether I have ever received a request to attend an interview at the INS office in May of this year (2005). I say I could not remember any such request at all, and my lawyer insists that we most certainly have never received any such request. The guy states that my not having shown up for this interview appointment is the reason for my arrest. He next asks me to hand over my wallet and all my valuables to my lawyer, and then he confiscates my (expired) German passport.

My lawyer manages to talk him into checking with his superiors whether this arrest is really correct. But before checking, that guy leads me to some other room to take a passport photo of me and my finger prints. When I ask him what the alleged interview appointment back in May was all about, he answers that it was about making a passport photo and getting my fingerprints. I respond that this would hardly justify my arrest and deportation, since I gave my fingerprints already at the very beginning of my asylum proceedings in 2001 and because I have to send in an updated passport photo every year, the last one just about the time of that alleged interview. He then claims that this was for a different office and that they need a set here in Chicago as well. Then the guy leads me back to my lawyer, and together we go back into the waiting room. The official then withdraws and leaves us alone. For an hour he talks (or tries to) with somebody in Washington. During that hour I could just walk out of the building and leave for good, but that would be the end of my being able to ever get back into the States, I fear, so I decide, with my seven months old daughter on my arm, to stay and confront whatever was coming my way (if she weren’t in my life, I would flee right now).

After that hour the guy comes back and basically says that he has received orders from Washington to arrest me and hold me in custody. So I am led into one of their holding cells (6 by 6 ft perhaps, with a window). I am then given one of their jumpsuits and asked to wear that instead of my private clothes, which I have to hand in. Shortly thereafter I can talk briefly with my lawyer on the other side of that window – over a phone – re. the next steps (for instance, getting a general power of attorney for my wife). It is now about noon or 1 pm or so. I remain in that cell until around 3 or 4 pm or so, when I am led to some other part of the building where they have assembled a bunch of people, illegal immigrants, I figure, mostly Hispanics. I am handcuffed and leg-shackled onto a chain with the other guys and led to a van which drives us to Kenosha County jail across the border in Wisconsin. (We actually have a stopover at some other holding facility in Western Chicago to pick up some more guys.)

On arrival in Kenosha we get out – chained together as we are – and have to line up at a wall inside the building, were some guards check our identities. Some of the prisoners must be regular customers there, as the prison guards know them well and are joking with them about this renewed encounter. Although I am not exactly in the mood to laugh, I still have to smile. Shortly thereafter we are unchained and locked into a holding cell awaiting our “reception.” The registration process takes hours. Around 8 pm it is finally my turn. I have to get out of the INS jumpsuit, don their prison clothes instead, and put on a wristband with a tiny photo of mine, my registration ID and the reason for my being there. The reason given on my wristband simply stated “non-criminal,” and it turns out that I am the only inmate in the entire facility that is incarcerated for no apparent reason, which raises the eyebrows of both prisoners and guards. Then I am finally dispatched into one of their large prison halls (44 beds), together with mostly 50% Blacks, the rest divided half and half between Whites and Hispanics. I stay there – the only non-criminal inmate – until Nov. 14. (Actually, the last week I get transferred to a different, less overcrowded part of the prison.)

During those four weeks my lawyer tries frantically to stay my deportation. The motion he files is base on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees due process for all persons present on U.S. territory – and not just U.S. citizens. But both the Federal Court in charge of the case and later also the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the motions without any reasons given. My premature deportation therefore renders my entire asylum proceedings moot, as the courts let the government create irreversible facts and cause irreparable damage, which could not even have been redressed by the most favorable court decision imaginable. Due process is simply aborted in my case.

Hence, early in the morning of Nov. 14, 2005, it all goes in reverse: They drive me to some INS processing center, hand me my private clothes back, and keep me waiting in a holding cell for several hours. Finally two officers in civilian clothes get me out of that cell and shove a piece of paper under my nose which I am to sign and with which I am notified that I will be banned from returning to the U.S for ten years for having overstayed my tourist parole time (90 days). [This is later corrected to five years, as the notifying officer had simply ticked the wrong box by mistake.] Then they handcuff me and drive me in a police car to the rear entry of Chicago’s O’Hare international airport. The two officers lead me up the stairs of the gangway, and before entering the plane have the mercy to take off the handcuffs. Then we enter the plane, while one officer leads the way, the other covers my back. They make the journey to Germany with me and make sure that I get handed over to two police officers waiting for me at the end of the gangway at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

Once in the hands of my German persecutors, I was incarcerated not only in order to serve the 14 months of the old verdict, but also to face new charges in a new trial for the publishing activities I had unfolded while abroad, even though these activites were perfectly legal in those countries (UK & USA). I have reported about that trial in detail in my book Resistance is Obligatory, a summary of which is posted on this website under the title “Resistance is Obligatory.”

In the last chapter of this summary I have also said a few words about my experiences in jail. I could write a book about those experiences in prison, both in the U.S. and in Germany. But to be honest, I don’t feel like recalling all these mostly unpleasant memories in order to put them on paper. So the inclined reader may forgive me for not writing more about this chapter of my life at this point in time. On the other hand, I recently found a few letters posted online which I had written to supporters while in various prisons during the years 2005-2009. So you might want to read those instead.