Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pattrick's Story: Vietnam Vet's Son Faces Deportation

“While we enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest democracy in the world, we must be ever conscious of the fact that none of the achievements or freedoms enjoyed in America would be possible without the price that has been paid for by our servicemen and women.”

I used to think that these words held true here in the United States. Then, I am told about this story of a man, born in the jungles of Panama, left on the doorstep of the Red Cross, adopted by an American serviceman, raised in middle America and had five daughters and embraced  a son as his own who is now being deported because of incorrect paperwork.  Think this only happens in Hollywood? Well, guess again. Tinseltown would pay top dollar for the screenplay on this story.

It’s only been a few days since I heard the story of Pattrick Henderson and I am still blown away by the circumstances. His father, Edgar Henderson, was a Green Beret during the Vietnam campaign and served in the Army from 1952 to 1974. While he was stationed in Panama, he and his wife were presented an opportunity to adopt a baby boy through the Red Cross. As an adopted child of an Army serviceman, I understand the paperwork that has to be filed for the “powers that be” to be satisfied. Oh, how I know, through dealing with the Ohio DMV, but that is another story for another time. Unfortunately for the Hendersons, the adoption paperwork that was filed did not grant citizenship. 
According to Shawn Riley, a friend of Patrick in high school, "The filing of wrong paperwork was a clerical error by Red Cross showing two birthdays. To fix it and gain citizenship they would have to travel to Panama to fix it. This was the initial start of his immigration mess and a huge obstacle because of money."
  Now, 40 years later, Pattrick sits in a federal holding cell in Geauga County, Ohio, with a deportation date on hold while a motion to reopen his case keeps him in the United States. As it was told to me, the family acknowledges that certain paperwork was not filed, but if you are a former serviceman or if you know someone who served, you have to feel some outrage over this story. And even if you have never been in the military, you should be outraged.

If I wasn’t adopted in Germany by the parents I have now, I would never have been offered the opportunity that they gave me, not just by the adoption but by the sacrifice my father gave on the grounds of some rice paddy field in Vietnam. To be honest, my parents had the same situation happen to them while stationed in Germany. I was adopted through the German legal system, which gives the parents a year timeline to stay in country (for those in the military) before the adoption is finalized. The humdinger for my folks was that halfway through their year, my father was reassigned back to the States. Somehow they pulled it off, and I am thankful they did.  

What does this have to do with Patrick? It is possible, since the Army is known for their mountains of paperwork, that items were misplaced, overlooked, etc. Who cares? There are illegals coming over the border on the daily, and yet we keep them around (unless you live in Arizona) and the subject of citizenship is overlooked.                                 

One thing I should mention is that Pattrick does not have a spot-free record. He caught  a minor marijuana possession charge in 2003 and paid his fine. Really? Is THIS one of the best charges that the United States can come up with to deport Pattrick?

 Pattrick didn’t know he was adopted until age 13. When he tried to join the Army at age 17, he found out he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
"They did not start the citizenship paperwork until him going to recruiter, which is when he found out about his citizenship status," states Riley.
 In 2001, he tried to gain U.S. citizenship as an adult, while registered as a green card holder, since the time allotted for his parents help ended in 1990, when he turned 18. During the interview process, it was found out that Pattrick voted in 1990 while on a school field trip. Revealing this to the INS made the paperwork to stay in this country grow. 

He was picked up for deportation because of a missed immigration hearing due to a car breakdown. Who  hasn’t missed something due to a car breakdown? Also, has anyone EVER tried to make a call to INS at any time? Can you imagine, before you judgmental people chime in and say, “Why didn’t he call the courts and let them know?” Have you ever tried to call someone in the government on a weekday? Would you have faith on leaving a message in the mass voicemail box of INS? I know I wouldn’t.

It is heart-wrenching that, with no remorse, the federal government is removing Pattrick from the lives of his five daughters, one of which has Down syndrome, and a son he has raised as his own. His children are ages 6 to 19.

One of the more troubling facts about Pattrick’s situation is the fact that he will be dropped off into foreign land, homeless, penniless and not knowing a soul.

 “He said they treat him terrible,” said Becky Rich, his girlfriend of five years, about his time in holding. “He has to wear a purple-colored band that separates him from the other inmates. It’s heartbreaking to talk to him on the phone.”

A motion to reopen was filed with the Honorable Thomas Janas, Immigration Court Judge, Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 29, 2013. Pattrick has 10 to 14 days for a ruling to be passed down from Janas. Sept. 12, 2013, is the deadline for a yea or nay, so time is of the essence.

If you have read this and feel moved by this story, please contact your church leaders, congressmen, news agencies, radio stations and any social media you can think of that can get Pattrick’s story out there. God bless you all for reading this far, and with your help, we can set free a good man.

To sign a petition to the judge showing Pattrick isn't an ordinary noncitizen, visit: http://www.change.org/petitions/immigration-and-naturailzation-free-pattrick-henderson
To get updates on the effort to help Pattrick, join on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/stop.patts.deportation/

 If you have any questions about how you can help, please email: nm.muse75@gmail.com