Do I have your attention? Do you have a few minutes to spare? Have you ever gotten a letter from the Department of Homeland Security? No? Neither have I. My 84 year old mother did. She must have done something terrible, you say? You would be wrong. On the contrary, she tried to do what was right.
A brief history, if you will be so kind as to bear with me. My mother came to this country from Germany in 1960. Over 52 years ago in June, she arrived in New York. I know this because I have her passport in my hands. She had saved it all these years even though it expired in 1969. There;s a good chance that she has been in the country longer than the age of the person reading this. Anyway, I look at her photograph and see the dreams of a young mother hoping to give her young son a better life. That young son is me. I was on the boat with her. So was my dad. He passed away years ago so the Department of Homeland Security is not after him. Not yet. I would like to add that we all came to this country legally. It was important then. Not so much now. I think that Homeland Security should be more concerned with the illegal people in this country but that’s me.
So, what happened? My mother’s Green Card expired. Not the one for medical cannabis, she doesn’t have one of those. The one that authorizes her to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis had expired. My brother, my wife and myself gathered all the necessary information to make things right. I made an appointment at their Holtsville office and took her in October of this year. After searching us, taking off our belts and shoes and reviewing our papers, we were allowed in. We were told everything’s in order and given a number to wait in line. When our number was called, we met with a woman who reviewed the papers, took a $430.00 check from me (you read that right – it’s $430.00 to renew), took my mom’s photo and fingerprints and told we would get the new card in the mail. She told me many times on the way home that she was so relieved to get that out of the way. I think it goes back to her days in Germany when you needed your “papers” to be on your person at all times.
So, the next time she got a letter in the mail from Homeland Security, she thought it was her new card. Wrong! They want a copy of her birth certificate. Her mother and father’s certificates were also required. Mind you, we have absolutely nothing from my grandparents and they never came to this country.
Here lies the problem. In 1944, the city she lived in was heavily bombed by British bombers causing the city to burn for days. In 1945, the Russians captured and destroyed the city to rubble.
There are no birth certificates. In fact, there is no Konigsberg, Germany. It is now called Kaliningrad and is a city in Russia.
Author Michael Wieck, a native of Königsberg, wrote in A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin that “the people of Königsberg shall never expunge these nights of terror from their memory.” This is so true as I have heard (and still hear) these stories from my mom.
The Department of Homeland Security has given her 87 days (where they get this number from is anyone’s guess) to get something that doesn’t exist. Like I said, she came to this country legally in 1960. She has a passport (albeit expired), driver’s license (also expired), and even a social security card. She has lived in the same town for 44 years and the same home for 41.
Remember, this is for renewing something the government already issued. What a country! Of course, there is no person signing the letter, no phone number to call, no person to speak with, no one to hold accountable.