Manuel Bartsch, a 23 year-old college student at Ohio’s Heidelberg University, came to the United States from Germany as a child in 1997. After a brush with federal immigration authorities when he graduated from high school, he went on to college. He recently came to the attention of immigration agents again, as he was beginning his senior year at Heidelberg. He learned last week that authorities are deferring his case again, which is a reprieve, but hardly cause to rest easy.
Bartsch had no idea that he was not a legal resident of the United States until his senior year of high school. Bartsch had arrived in the United States on a temporary visa in 1997 with his step-grandfather, an American citizen, after his grandmother, who was his legal guardian, passed away in Germany. Although his step-grandfather took Bartsch in and cared for him, he never legally adopted him. Once the temporary visa expired, this child in need from Germany became an “illegal alien.”
Bartsch’s problems began when he applied to college. He needed a social security number, so he filed an application. He received a letter from the local immigration office telling him he had filled out the wrong form and asking him to come in for a meeting. Upon his arrival, he was handcuffed and taken to jail, where he stayed for sixteen days.
He received enormous support from friends and teachers, and even politicians rallied behind him. Ohio politicians across the state presented resolutions urging immigration authorities to allow him to stay in the U.S., and Ohio senator Mike DeWine introduced a special bill in Congress in April 2006 to let him to stay legally. The senator noted specifically that Bartsch’s undocumented status was not his fault, since he had arrived here as a child. Bartsch got his first reprieve from deportation that year when Texas senator John Cornyn, who was chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, formally requested a report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This meant that authorities could not deport him under any circumstances until the report was issued.
Legislators introduced a private bill in 2007, H.R. 738, “For the relief of Manuel Bartsch,” which died in committee. The bill would have granted Bartsch permanent resident status. At the present time, Bartsch is still technically an “illegal alien,” albeit a higher-profile one than most. His best chance for legal immigration status, given the media attention he has received, is still some form of waiver or legislative relief. He appeared at a press conference in 2007 with Illinois senator Dick Durbin in support of the DREAM Act, which would have helped undocumented students who arrived in the U.S. as children.
From the standpoint of the immigration laws, his status is no different from someone who deliberately entered the country without permission, since the law makes few distinctions between children and adults in this regard. His story is nearly identical to those of countless other immigrants who came here as children and did not realize their undocumented status until adulthood. Most of them do not get congressional support in their bids to remain here legally. Hopefully Bartsch’s case can help illustrate the injustice of holding other children in these situations to the same standard as adults.
Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps to guide people through the U.S. immigration system as they seek to immigrate or become citizens. Contact him through his website or at (800) 625-3404 to set up a free and confidential consultation.More Blog Posts
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