This page is updated each time we have new developments to report.
January 28, 2015 - Permanent Residence granted to Bruce, Dianne & Michael Stewart
After abrief 7.15am interview at the USCIS in Charlotte NC this morning, Bruce, Dianne & Michael have the wonderful news. Our permanent residence in the USA has been granted. This brings to an end a journey that has lasted 13 years and 6 months. The approval is however a bitter-sweet victory. Our daughter Sarah, who came to the USA at age 11 and who is now at grad-school in Cincinnati, aged out along this journey at age 21 and needed to get an F1 international student visa in order to remain in the USA to complete her studies. She graduates with her Master's degree in 2016, at which time her student visa will end. So the battle to keep our family together continues.
We are nevertheless so grateful to everyone who has supported us and our cause over the years. Without that support we may not have had the strength to continue the pursuit of our dreams.
We now begin the process of putting our lives back together. Our self-imposed 4-month exile in Ireland in 2012 is behind us. The countless hours spent studying the immigration laws of this country and the preparation of tens of thousands of pages of legal submissions will leave a whole in our lives. Over the next days and weeks we will most likely wake up each morning wondering what's missing in our lives.
November 2014 - The Stewarts' attorney submits the evidence as requested by the RFE and this filing is acknowledged by the US CIS on November 5th, 2014. We understand that our appliation will now be processed further. We have no idea when we will hear from them about their decision. They have provided no date of when their decision can be expected. Whatever this decision is, our daughter Sarah, 25, who has been in the US legally since the age of 11, will be excluded from this benefit, if it comes. She will have to leave the US - which has been her only home for the last 14 years - when she graduates with a Masters degree from the University of Cincinnati. We continue to pray for a miracle that our family will be allowed to stay in the US and that our daughter will be able to be with us.
September 2014 - The Stewarts receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) regarding their application for Permanent Residence that was filed in August 2013. They have requested a long list of evidence to prove that we have been in the US legally since 2001. We were able to provide all this exetnsive information. Our attorney prepares the filing.
July 2014 -- Dianne Stewart appear on NPR regarding Immigration Click here
June 2014 -- Stewart's partcipate in a film to tell their story Produced by the Evangelical Immigration Table called
Friday 18 April 2013 -- Stewarts reach out to their new Congressman Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)
The Stewarts recently met with staff members of their new Congressman in District 9-NC, Rep. Robert Pittenger, with a view to re-introducing their Private Bill for the entire family, but more urgently and specifically for Sarah who has no hope of getting a Green Card at this stage, through the family petition. She is in the invidious position of not being allowed to work after graduating from college cum laude in December 2012, because the visa cap has been reached and the only option open to her is to attend Graduate School and remain a student.She was offered three places at top US colleges in her field and has decided upon the University of Cincinnati for her MFA. In spite of the fact that she was brought to the US as a child, because she came LEGALLY, she derives no benefit whatsoever from the imminent legislation in the Senate to grant undocumented immigrant children legal status and 11 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Bruce, Dianne & Michael are in the process of applying for Green Cards for the third time, based upon the O-visa they were was granted in August 2012. They await a decision on this. Without permanent residence status, both Stewart children are struggling to get financial loans or any financial assistance to attend college. Doing things legally, has sadly not rewarded this family in any way. The Stewarts legal fees and visa filing bill is now running at over $250K since arriving in the US in 2001. Not to mention their huge investment of personal finances, business opportunites for Americans and community volunteerism.
Friday 14 September, 2012 -- Stewarts return to the USA
The Stewarts are back in the USA, legally, after 16 weeks of exile in Ireland. Dianne was unable to obtain an "H"-visa because the US only allocates 65000 of these skilled-worker visas each year and these ran out a couple of days before we could file Dianne's petition. However Bruce obtained an "O"-visa for persons of extra-ordinary ability and this is valid for 3 years.
While in Ireland, we had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling and some genealogical research since both of our families enjoy Irish ancestry -- hence our Irish citizenship and passports. At the same time, Bruce headed off to Hanoi in Vietnam to open the first-ever advanced reading skills institute in Vietnam.
The highlight of the trip was the four weeks of back-to-back coverage of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2012 London Paralympics and of course the nadir was the endless daily waiting for the bureaucratic US immigration system to actually issue our visas. The petition was approved on August 2 and we finally received the visas on September 13. (More on this later - it's a chapter in the book!!!)
But we are HOME at last, joyously so. And so thankful to those who worked so tirelessly to make this happen. Michael is back at school, albeit three weeks late and Bruce and Di need to get out of vegetative state and back into business mode.
Friday 18 May, 2012 -- Stewarts Self-Deport to Ireland
Just over two weeks ago, a couple of smallish issues cropped up :
Our Private Bill died in the House Judiciary Committee, the US Marine Corps canceled all our training contracts for front-line Intel analysts (because we are "illegal" overstays), and our new immigration attorney advised us that on June 2 we will have been overstays for 180 days and thus subject to deportation and a 3-year bar on re-entering the USA.
So, on April 28, we suspended both Dianne's BSA PR & Marketing business activities in the USA, suspended Bruce's ExecuRead training activities in the USA, put our home on the market and immediately found a wonderful immigrant family from Honduras to rent our home for a year, rented two large PODS for hundreds of boxes of personal and business goods, retained the services of 6-men-and-two-trucks and left Charlotte. And all of this in just over two weeks. Simply not possible without the blood, sweat and occasional tears from some tremendous helpers - Tony Holden, Patricia Williams, Martha Rea Calkins, Dianne Maxwell, Sean Stewart, Mo Daniels, John Luke, Patsy Shelby, Patti Scher and Charlie, Cindy Quinlan, Nuris & Madison Skala, Margaret Mayfield, Margaret Lawrence and many others who popped in for a cuppa and to bitch about the insanity of it all, including Laura, a friend of Patti Scher's who came along to help pack dozens of paintings and mirrors in bubble-wrap, just for the heck of it. And we'd never even met her before she arrived!
We are staying temporarily with Catherine and Wilton Connor in Mooresville, without whose incredible strength and support we would not have had the fortitude to do this alone. We've placed much of our possessions in storage and leave the USA on May 30 for Dublin, Ireland which will be one of our bases over the next 3 months (we are Irish Citizens as well as South Africans!!). Don't know where we will live, so if any of you have contacts in Ireland who may have a couple of rooms to rent for Bruce, Dianne and Michael at refugee-rates, or who may be looking for some house-sitters, we'd be extremely appreciative. (Sarah has an international student visa and as the only "legal" Stewart will be staying here and working on the X Factor and a Summer Internship for Davidson College.)
While in Ireland we will attempt to get a brand new visa through our Irish Citizenship, essentially going back to square one, where we were in 2000. Michael will try his hand at whatever student work he can find and Bruce will be seeking teaching assignments to keep food on the table and will be heading off to Ha Noi in Vietnam to set up a new ExecuRead Institute for a rather official-sounding organization and also talking to some organizations in the United Arab Emirates who also appear quite keen to tap into his knowledge-base. Hopefully this will keep us fed and housed for three months and also feed the voracious appetites of immigration attorneys and the USCIS.
All a bit of a culture-shock. From a home and two businesses in Charlotte to unemployment, homeless, refugee-status in Ireland in less than a month. The main positive is that Dianne has loads of hand-bags and will probably make a really "hot" bag-lady!
As to the future, who knows. Hopefully we'll get another visa and will head back here on September 4, definitely a lot wiser. In the meantime, our cell-phones are still operational until May 30 and then it will be sporadic email contact only.
Wednesday 18 April 2012 -- The "Reluctant Activist" Dianne Stewart has, it appears, now become a "reluctant activist" for immigration reform with her new Huffington Post Blog which was published today.
Latest here is the news that the Huffington Post has created a Huffington Post Immigration Forum, largely motivated by Dianne's Blog and by Jose Vargas of Define American which has raised the debate, discussion awareness and need for immigration reform to new levels.
Wednesday 28 March 2012 -- When good men do nothing ......
The verdict is in -- the government does NOT want the Stewarts in the USA. Our Private Bill H.R.3505 has been given the coup de grace.
On Tuesday 27 March we met in the Capitol Building and the House with Congresswoman Sue Myrick, the sponsor of our Private Bill H.R.3505, and with Congressmen Howard Coble and Mel Watt and their legislative aides. (Coble and Watt serve on the House Judiciary Committee with Lamar Smith.) A somewhat fragmented meeting as all were coming and going throughout the meeting as they all had heavy voting commitments. Additionally, the meeting was in a public and rather busy lounge just outside the House chamber.
In a frank and brutally honest dialogue, the message was clear, specific and unambiguous -- Lamar Smith does not like private bills and he does not like immigrants.
We attempted to address his two "concerns" about H.R.3505 -- the lack of precedent for passing a Bill to grant permanent residence where permanent residence has already been denied by the USCIS, and the need for unique and compelling circumstances to justify such a Bill. We argued that the precedent principle of stare decisis requires that a precedent be followed where a precedent exists, but it does not prevent action in the absence of a precedent. We further argued that there are considerable unique and compelling circumstances -- the fact that Bruce's petition for permanent residence was rejected in toto on administrative grounds because it arrived 8 days late back in 2007 and has thus never been considered; that Dianne's petition for permanent residence was denied because the USCIS failed to apply the provisions of the Immigration Act of 1990; that the educational and developmental lives of the Stewart children will be harmed if they are forced to leave the USA; and on national interest grounds by virtue of the training provided to military intelligence agencies.
Again the message was clear -- Lamar Smith is not willing to establish such a precedent under any circumstances because of the "large" number of similar requests for private bills this will most likely trigger. Clearly he is aware that ours is not the only case that has been botched by the USCIS and that admitting to this fact in our case will open the flood-gates from other victims of a legal immigration system that clearly doesn't work. Perhaps it's more expedient to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn't exist.
As to the unique and compelling circumstances? Well, they are neither unique nor compelling enough to warrant action. Unfair and an injustice? Yes. An admission that there are serious flaws in the legal immigration system? Yes. Damaging to the Stewart children's lives? Yes. Sacrificing American military lives on the altar of political expediency? Unfortunately true and not unusual. Compelling enough to justify remedial action through a private bill? NO!
Lamar Smith does not like Private Bills and he does not like immigrants. It is his stated intent to do away with one right now .....
As difficult as it was hearing that our lives have just changed irrevocably and that we will not be allowed to stay in the US permanently and with no possibility of one day becoming Americans, it was far more difficult to look at the many military men and women we saw on our journey home, knowing that they will never know what impact a political decision made earlier that day may have on their lives.
On a positive note, Sue Myrick and her staffer Taylor Stanford were fantastic in helping us swallow this bitter bill. They took us on a private tour of the Capitol, we sat in the House listening to some debates, probably the closest we will ever get to our goal and not exactly what we were looking forward to, and a somewhat tearful and distraught Dianne was introduced to the 'weeper' of the House, Speaker John Boehner.
So now it's back to the drawing-board .....
Monday 12 March 2012
In an effort to 'starve' us out of the country, US Marines are now being denied the benefits of the intelligence analysis training we provide. We can only wonder why House Judiciary Committee chairman, Lamar Smith, has not made the effort to look into our USCIS case and to question the reasoning behind the denial of our permanent residence. After all, should he not be even slightly curious as to why we have been denied permanent residence after having been granted visas and repeated visa renewals for the past 10 years, especially since the visa requirement criteria are identical to the permanent resident requirement criteria?
The following announcement has been issued to our supporters in the Marine Corps, with copies to our family supporters and to the media.
Marines Burn while Government Fiddles
To all my ExecuRead Graduates and Supporters in the US Marine Corps
My Private Immigration Bill, H.R.3505 has just become even more critical, not just to my family, but more importantly to your extended family in the US Military. The Bill and testimonials are at https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr3505
In a shocking move last week, Marine Corps Intelligence Schools Command suspended iterations of my ExecuRead Advanced Reading & Information Management Course for Military Intelligence Analysts because I am now an illegal overstay in the USA. This directly affects 60 military intelligence analysts scheduled for training this month alone, as well as thousands of front-line Marines whose lives depend on accurate and timely intelligence analysis. As you may recall, after more than 10 years living legally in this country and being a property-owning US tax-payer, my visa expired late last year and the US Citizenship & Immigration Service denied me permanent residence on administrative grounds because my American immigration lawyer filed the paperwork 8 days after the 30-day filing deadline.
Congresswoman Sue Myrick [R-NC], a strong supporter of the Military, boldly introduced a Private Immigration Bill into Congress to grant me permanent residence in the USA to continue my work here. But this bill is stalled on the desk of House Judiciary Committee chairman, Lamar Smith [R-TX] who is looking for precedent and for unique & compelling reasons to justify passing this Bill on to Congress for consideration. He contends that there is no precedent for passing a Private Bill in favor of someone who entered this country LEGALLY -- only in favor of those who entered ILLEGALLY or FRAUDULENTLY. And he does not find this training to be unique or compelling enough to warrant granting me permanent residence.
While Lamar Smith idles in his comfortable Washington office, safe from the realities of the war he supports and at no personal risk to himself or his own family, Marines are now denied the benefits of this training which has been described as "essential for the analytic capabilities of the Marine Corps" and which is "saving lives on the battlefield." Right now, ExecuRead iterations scheduled for 60 intelligence analysts at 1st Intel Btn Camp Pendleton, MAW Miramar and MCIS VA Beach have been cancelled because I no longer have legal status in the USA and will not have legal status until Private Bill H.R.3505 is passed into law.
Am I angry and outraged by this? Damn right I am! Although I am a foreign national from South Africa and not yet permitted to pledge allegiance to the United States, I have come to love this country which has become my home. And I have a particularly strong loyalty to the Marine Corps which honored me with a 0205 Tactical Intelligence Officer "Plank" for my contribution to the enhancement of the intelligence analysis capabilities of the USMC. Lamar Smith may choose to hate me because I am an immigrant, but when he lets his rabidly anti-immigrant emotions stand in the way of his sworn duty to protect and serve this country and in particular the soldiers he has voted to send into theaters of war, I must seriously question the direction of his moral compass and his patriotism. Quite frankly, to willfully deny essential intelligence training support to front-line combat troops verges on treason.
My greatest fear is the knowledge that the next casualty of war who is returned to loved ones in a flag-draped casket or terribly scarred and maimed, will be the casualty of some avoidable failure or delay in front-line intelligence analysis. But at least, mercifully, those loved ones will be without the knowledge that Lamar Smith could have done something to prevent this tragedy but allowed his emotions and bigotry to stand in the way of his duty.
I have written numerous letters to Lamar Smith. He has not deigned to either reply to me or even to acknowledge receipt of my letters, emails and faxes. As an immigrant tax-payer without the power of a vote, I am clearly not worthy of his time or attention. I have however learned that he may be more likely to pay attention to US Voters, especially those in the Military, and to Congresswoman Sue Myrick who introduced the Private Bill and who is championing support for this Bill.
If you are as outraged as I am about Lamar Smith's apparent lack of patriotism and lack of support for the Military, please voice your outrage by phone, fax, email or letter to both Lamar Smith and to Sue Myrick. Their contact details are below for ease of reference.
Congressman Lamar Smith [R-TX]
Chairman House Judiciary Committee
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax 202 225 8628
Email : email@example.com
Email : tx21IMA@mail.house.gov
Congresswoman Sue Myrick [R-NC]
230 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Email : Taylor.Stanford@mail.house.gov (Press Secretary)
Email : Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org (Chief of Staff)
If you want the latest news on my case, please visit Keep The Stewarts in Charlotte at www.keepthestewartsincharlotte.com
Dr Bruce Stewart
Monday 30 January 2012
Our Private Bill H.R.3505 appears to have stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. The Chairman, Lamar Smith, has indicated his reluctance to support this Private Bill, for the following reasons. (We have written to Chairman Lamar Smith and very delicately and respectfully attempted to change his understanding of the facts and to correct his understanding of the law) :
1. Chairman Lamar Smith is not aware of any precedent in the modern private immigration bill era in which a private bill was enacted to grant permanent residence to a legal immigrant who has now been denied permanent residence. We agree - there is no precedent for a Private Bill being enacted to grant permanent residence to someone who came to the USA legally, who has lived here legally for 10 years and who has been denied permanent residence on administrative grounds because the USCIS decided to change its mind. All previous Private Bills granting permanent residence have been enacted to give permanent residence to people who entered the USA illegally and who have lived here illegally for many years. We have suggested that perhaps this is a perfect time to create a precedent to acknowledge someone who made the effort to OBEY the law, to ENTER the USA legally and to REMAIN here legally. Right now, only the illegals have benefited from private bills.
2. Chairman Lamar Smith contends that the House Judiciary Committee only considers private legislation that lack precedent when an alien presents unique and compelling circumstances. We have respectfully drawn his attention to circumstances which we believe to be unique and compelling, specifically :
a.) While every other immigration private bill has, to our knowledge, been to afford permanent residence to a law-breaker who entered the USA illegally or fraudulently, our private bill is to afford permanent residence to a law-abider who entered the USA legally, has remained in the USA legally for more than 10 years and who seeks to remain here legally.
b.) While every other immigration private bill has, to our knowledge, been to afford permanent residence on humanitarian grounds, our private bill is essentially based on humanitarian AND national interest grounds. Specifically in that we provide intelligence training to a number of US Military agencies, training that has been described as "essential training", "training that is saving lives of soldiers on the battlefield" and training which is not available from any other company or American Citizen.
c.) The primary reason that we find ourselves in this predicament is because an American Citizen, posing as an immigration lawyer, with a bogus law degree, defrauded us of thousands of Dollars, issued us with bogus permanent residence papers in 2006 and left us thinking that we had permanent residence years ago, evidence of which is the fact that through our efforts this charlatan is now in prison.
3. Chairman Lamar Smith believes that we have not exhausted the administrative appeals process that is in place in the Department of Homeland Security to hear appeals (in addition to possible judicial review). We have clarified to Chairman Smith that we have appealed our case to the Administrative Appeals Office, filed Motions to Reconsider, Motions to Reopen and Appeals to Reopen / Reconsider denials to Motions and Appeals, amounting to tens of thousands of pages and tens of thousands of Dollars. All of which have been unsuccessful as the USCIS has changed its mind about Dianne being a manager of our business, now feels that Bruce's work is not complex enough to be called managerial, and has changed its mind as to whether we ever had a business in South Africa or even have a business in the USA - something it has been totally satisfied with for the past 10 years when repeatedly renewing our L1 managerial business visas. We have also attempted to draw Chairman Lamar Smith's attention to the fact that the judicial review he is referring to, (Section 336.9 of the Immigration & Naturalization Act) applies to denials of citizenship through naturalization and not denials of permanent residence, for which there is NO judicial review. We have furthermore clarified that we are NOT seeking citizenship at this time - simply to continue living, working and contributing to America on a permanent residence basis. That citizenship is a privilege we have yet to earn.
Unfortunately, since we wrote to Chairman Lamar Smith at the House Judiciary Committee, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515-6218, on 12 January 2012, we have not received a response. But it is only 2 weeks and we appreciate that Washington has other pressing responsibilities.
In the interim, we are adjusting to our new lives as previously-legal-now-illegal-overstays, we quite enjoy driving our 50cc scooters which do not require drivers licenses (which expired when our visas expired last December) and Bruce continues to teach his courses - to the Marine Corps Intelligence schools in VA Beach and to Coca-Cola in Dallas TX last week, and to the Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar in San Diego next week.
Saturday 31 December 2011
Our Private Bill H.R.3505 is still idling in the House Judiciary Committee. Many have asked "what next" so here's the thumb-nail sketch of the road ahead : The Bill goes through 6 phases - 1. Introduced, 2. Referred to Committee, 3. Reported by Committee, 4. House Vote, 5. Senate Vote, 6. Signed by President.
If our Bill gets to phase 3, the immigration sub-committee makes available to Member offices information on what documentation it requires, and the kinds of bills on which it is likely to take favorable action. It usually declines to report a bill if its records show few precedents for favorable House action in similar cases. So this is the crucial stage of our Private Bill.
In phase 4, when reported by the immigration sub-committee, private bills go on a special calendar, the Private Calendar. Consideration of bills on this Calendar is in order on the first and, at the discretion of the Speaker, third Tuesday of each month, though the House often dispenses with the call by unanimous consent. Each bill is called up automatically, in the order in which it was reported and placed on the Calendar. The bills are considered "in the House as in Committee of the Whole," meaning that there is no period of general debate, but debate and amendment may occur under the five-minute rule. Usually, little debate occurs and measures are disposed of by voice vote.
During the call of the Private Calendar, if two Members object to the consideration of any bill, it is automatically recommitted. Each party appoints official objectors, who are responsible for examining bills on the Private Calendar and objecting to those they deem inappropriate. Sometimes, a member of a subcommittee dealing with immigration or claims has served simultaneously as an official objector. In practice, instead of objecting, objectors will often ask that a bill be passed "over, without prejudice," which
gives sponsors an opportunity to discuss concerns with them informally before the next calendar call. Obviously another crucial step for our Bill.
Phases 5 & 6 follow the general lawmaking process - approval by the senate and signature by the President.
We are beginning to understand what Sue Myrick meant when she told us that if our Bill does not pass the committee-stage by the end of the 112th Congress in December 2012 it becomes void and will have to be re-introduced to the 113th Congress.
In our research into the legislative process, we came across the VoxPop voting system where the public can vote for or against a proposed Bill. Reading through some of the new Bills makes fascinating reading and offers a good feel for the "pulse" of Americans. For example The New Illegal Deduction Elimination (New IDEA) Act, H.R. 3720: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify that wages paid to unauthorized aliens may not be deducted from gross income, enjoys an 84% VoxPop support. If you choose to vote on the Bill, your vote is sent to your political representative(s) in your voting district.
Monday 5 December 2011
No news on H.R.3505 - looks like it might have stalled in the House Judiciary Committee for the Christmas Recess. Of more immediate concern is the fact that all our driver's licenses expire at midnight tonight together with our visas. NC DOT regulations prohibit the DMV from granting drivers licenses to people who do not have valid visas. Another regulation designed to make life intollerable for illegal immigrants - which I suppose, after 10 years of legal stay in the USA, is what we have been turned into. Rather a bitter pill to have paid for all our vehicles and now not allowed to drive them. Oh well. C'est la vie! Now we'll see what life is like living in the shadows .... see my Blog
Friday November 18, 2011 On 18 November 2011, Rep Sue Myrick (R-NC) introduced H.R. 3505 to the House of Representatives - a Private Bill to grant Permanent Residence in the USA to the Stewart Family. A great step forward, but the Bill still has to be passed by Congress. We are getting information about how this all happens and will post the "nitty-gritty" in due course. But sincere and grateful thanks to Rep Myrick and her staff for stepping into the breach.
Wednesday November 16, 2011
Stewarts meet with Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC) in DC!
The Stewarts were welcomed to the office of Rep. Sue Myrick yesterday in Washington DC and she was awesome! She offered to file a Private Bill for us immediately and offered other suggestions as to what we can do to fix our situation. We have a lot of work still to do and are still not out of the woods, but with her and her brilliant staffers' help, we feel we have a better than even chance to get this fixed. We are relieved and hopeful that we are now truly on the right path. Without all our supporters, known and unknown, we would never have come this far.
Monday November 14, 2011
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!
Just received a delightfully 'vanilla' letter from Senator Richard Burr, dated October 20 and received November 14 and addressed to me personally. The letter contains various platitudes such as "we have welcomed generations of legal immigrants .... immigrants who respect the law and contribute to our country. Immigrants should demonstrate their intentions of becoming productive, law-abiding members of our society as a condition for receiving citizenship ..."
Now I ask you, Senator Burr, with tears in my eyes, WHAT THE HECK HAVE I BEEN DOING FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS??
Then Senator Burr continues to opine ... "I believe that our immigration system is in need of reform for those trying to gain citizenship legally." REALLY??? "I do not believe it is fair to reward those who have broken our laws, particularly at the expense of those who have followed the rules and applied for citizenship through the legal process". This is priceless people like myself are not applying for citizenship simply permanent residence FOR WHICH WE MORE THAN QUALIFY AND FOR WHICH WE HAVE QUALIFIED FOR YEARS. Citizenship we will have to earn, unlike those in the lucky-sperm-club who were born here.
Senator Burr continues with "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to enact common sense legislation that ensures the integrity of our borders while also ensuring that we have a legal immigration process that is understandable, consistent, and followed."
Okay, Senator. This drivel might sound great in a TV sound-bite, but what EXACTLY are you going to do to bring about immigration reform and WHEN EXACTLY do you intend for this to happen. Or is simply breathing and writing letters like this the sum total of your contribution to our society?
"I understand the importance of this issue to many North Carolinians and I will continue to work toward a solution." OH YEAH? And then the best part ... "If I can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to let me know."
Thank you for the offer, Senator Burr. I'd like to take you up on this. Now what are you going to do to help someone who came here legally 10 years ago, who has remained here legally, who has never been out of status, who is an English-speaking, educated, law-abiding, tax-paying, property-owning, community-active and business-owning entrepreneur that is providing an essential service to the US Military that is saving lives on the battlefield? But who is going to become an 'overstay' on 5 December 2011 because YOUR legal immigration system is NOT understandable, NOT consistent and NOT followed by your own immigration authorities?
Monday November 14, 2011
The Stewarts go to Washington DC to meet with Congresswoman Sue Myrick
Representative Sue Myrick has granted the Stewarts a meeting at her office in Washington DC onTuesday November 15, 2011 at 10:30 am to discuss the possibilities of resolving their immigration nightmare for them. We are deeply grateful to Congresswoman Myrick for letting us tell her our story, in person.
Thursday November 3, 2011 Fox News Channel comes to Charlotte to tell our story to the world - LIVE - today on the Fox New Channel. It took great expense and effort on behalf of Fox News Channel to tell our story to the world - we are incredibly grateful. Flying anchor Heather Childers and Producer Ron Ralston and crew to Charlotte; Tom our cameraman drove up with all the gear from Atlanta; the FNC outside broadcast unit - all for our benefit. Extraordinary and we so appreciate it all.
WednesdayNovember 2, 2011
Stewart's Story to be on Fox News Channel - Nationally and Internationally
Fox News Channel filmed and interviewed the Stewarts at their home in Charlotte, NC yesterday. The story will run all day in the 24 hours news cycle on Thursday November 3, 2011. They are trying to get comments and on camera interviews with all the parties involved - from lawmakers to the US CIS.
Wednesday 26 October, 2011
Stewarts launch a petition to motivate lawmakers to reconsider supporting a Private Bill
With Just 40 days left to live in the US, the Stewarts launched a petition to support a Private Bill which will be presented to lawmakers to motivate them to propose this Bill to keep them in the US. Amazingly enough within only 3 days of launching it it has attracted almost 1000 signatures form concerned US citizens who want the situation addressed.
Monday 17 October, 2011
Just 49 Days left to Live Legally in the USA
When President Kennedy asked not what I wanted from the USA, but what I could do for the USA, I was a high school student in South Africa. Could I ever have imagined that almost 5 decades later I would have the opportunity of stepping up to the plate to play some small part in keeping safe, those in harm's way? My only regret is that for so many Americans, this is someone else's war, being fought by someone else's children, being paid for with someone else's blood.
Now, after 10 years living and working in the USA and providing "essential intelligence management training" to the US Military, and denied permanent residence on administrative grounds, I am reminded of Edmund Burke's declaration that "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Small consolation to the next American who exchanges a loved one for a folded American flag and the "gratitude of a grateful nation". Dr Bruce Stewart.
Battlefront Musings from a Distant War From a Friend & US Marine in Harm's Way
"Since the transfer of authority to II Marine Expeditionary Force in Regional Command Southwest in March, more than 50 U.S. Marines have given their lives. Many others have given their lives during my time here and it is proper to stop and think about them and the ones they left behind on this day. In addition to our fallen heroes, I also ask you to remember those maimed and mutilated during these wars, the many single, double and triple amputees who we are shipping back to our shores on a weekly basis. The enemy here is determined, and their pride is founded in the list of notable empires they have repelled throughout the ages. I often wonder if our national will is as strong, if our people feel the pain of this war as much as the local tribes who populate this province of Afghanistan. I wonder if those at home had to pay the price of what this is costing, both physically and fiscally, instead of deferring the cost to our grandchildren, would we still be here. These are not questions I often concern myself with, because, regardless, I have a mission to meet and these musings are not necessarily productive for me or the Marines I lead.
Still, I think the most patriotic act we could perform is to think critically about what is happening here, to question ourselves and the ones who lead us. It is not unpatriotic to question whether building a generation of amputees is worth this war on terror; neither is it unpatriotic to question whether the changes now raging across the Middle East are because of, or in spite of our current foreign policies. The truth is that the fighting has stayed away from our US shores and that violent extremism is held at bay, for whatever reason we want to attribute to it. For me, I hope that I have done my part to build a better world for my family, and appreciate the costs paid by others to do the same.
However, I do not think that sacrifice starts or stops with those in uniform. It will be the business leaders, the clergy, the teachers and the factory workers that truly ensure the continuation of our way of life. It will be leaders who are not only paid for a position of authority, but actually use that authority responsibly. It will be leaders who recognize that they ARE role models and mentors and act accordingly, whether they be actors, scientists or politicians. It will be more than the less than 1 percent of this country who wears the uniform of the United States Armed Forces, that decides whether we continue as a nation or not."
Friday October 7, 2011 : Fox Charlotte "News @ 10" goes viral.
Just 59 Days left to Live Legally in the USA
We are blown away by the news item on our case that was prepared by Morgan Fogarty and aired on Fox Charlotte "News @ 10" last night (Thursday 10/06). A phenomenal item - THANK YOU MORGAN - that had all four of us totally choked-up and humbled by this show of support. The news item seems to have gone viral with supporters forwarding it to friends and business contacts and countless postings on FaceBook. The video is on our website home-page but here is the link if you need it - www.foxcharlotte.com/news/nc-news/S-Charlotte-Family-Faces-Deportation--131305324.html
October 6, 2011 : Media Interest in Stewart's immigration Case
Just 60 Days left to live legally in the USA
The Media have shown an interest in our immigration and permanent residence case.
Morgan Fogarty from Fox Charlotte has scheduled an interview with Bruce & Dianne. This interview will be on Fox Charlotte "News @ 10" tonight (Thursday 10/06) - Channel 11 on Cable / Channel 125 on Digital.
Grateful thanks and appreciation to Captain Barry Brush and Tony Holden for initiating this.
Bruce & Dianne will be guests of Mike Collins on his TV show "Charlotte Now with Mike Collins" airing Sunday nights at 10.35pm on CW46 WJZY Charlotte - Channel 8 on Cable / Channel 146 on Digital Cable. The 30-minute program is expected to air this Sunday 10/09 from 10.35pm to 11.05pm, immediately after the 10 o'clock news.
And on Wednesday October 12, we will be guests of Mike Collins on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" from 9am to 10am and repeated again that day from 9pm to 10pm. Please feel free to call in to the studio on 704 926 9323 if you wish to be heard.
October 4, 2011 : NC Senator Hagan declines Stewart's appeal for Private Bill Just 62 Days left to live legally in the USA
In response to the incredible letter of support from Capt David Bain of the USMC, here is our reply to him :
I am humbled by these words, proud to be called your friend and honored to be of service to the Marine Corps. Unlike you, however, I am spared the agony of knowing who has made the ultimate sacrifice from failures in intelligence analysis. But in the realization that there is still more to be done in this arena, my personal predicament pales into insignificance. Faced with Hobson's Choice between curtailing this work for the USMC by leaving the USA, or remaining here after December and contravening the immigration laws of this country, I believe the choice is clear. I am working with a couple of US Senators who have expressed interest in resolving my case and I have advised them that I intend to continue working in the USA for as long as humanly possible, and that any personal sacrifice in this regard is inconsequential by comparison.
My warmest regards and gratitude to you.
Captain Bain's sentiment was confirmed in a letter from the US Marine Corps to the US Citizenship & Immigration Service which confirmed that "Since 2010, the ExecuRead course has been integrated into the MAGTF Intelligence Specialist Career Course as an essential course module" and that "any delay or interruption in the supply of this training would be to the detriment of the analytic capabilities of the US Marine Corps."
SENATOR HAGAN DECLINES | Then last week Bruce had the opportunity of personally meeting with Senator Hagan and left the meeting very positive about her support and with a promised contact with her immigration chief of staff, only to be devastated 2 days later with a message from her office that as she has never done a Private Bill before, she did not feel she was in a position to introduce such a Bill on our behalf.
PRIVATE BILLS | Interestingly, there are presently some 60 Private Bills to confer Permanent Residence on humanitarian grounds pending before Congress. Even more surprising is that every one that we could find is dealing with people who came here ILLEGALLY and who now want permanent residence. WE COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE PRIVATE BILL THAT IS ATTEMPTING TO SECURE PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR SOMEONE WHO CAME HERE LEGALLY, WHO IS STILL HERE LEGALLY AND WHO IS NOW SEEKING PERMANENT RESIDENCE ON HUMANITARIAN AND NATIONAL INTEREST GROUNDS. And we could not find a single Private Bill that has a W.A.S.P. as the beneficiary.
GREEN CARD LOTTERY | Adding insult to injury is the fact that in spite of the massive unemployment prevailing in this country, the US continues to give away 50,000 Green Cards each year in the Green Card Lottery. Through our social networking and immigrant community website, South Africans in Charlotte, which Dianne manages, we are approached regularly by immigrant families who, having won a Green Card in the Lottery, are in need of food support and housing and employment assistance. And some of these people cannot even speak more than very rudimentary English.
MORE MILITARY TRAINING | However, on the brighter side, we have been commissioned to present our information and intelligence management training course to the Navy & Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Dam Neck VA in October, as part of the MAGTF Intelligence Specialist Career Course, and also to the 1st Radio Battalion of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force of the US Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in November. So we are honored to be able to continue our contribution to saving the lives of American Military personnel in the theaters of war, albeit until this privilege is terminated.
RADIO INTERVIEW | Also on a positive note, we will be appearing on Charlotte Talks on WFAE 90.7 with Mike Collins on Wednesday 12 October at 9am and again at 9pm to talk about our immigration case, interestingly enough almost 10 years to the date since Bruce was last a guest of Mike Collins (his first interview was scheduled for September 11, 2001 but had to be rescheduled - a prophetic event in view of our present role in working to improve the intelligence management capabilities of the US Military to prevent another 911 attack on our country.)
September 29, 2011 : A very humbling letter of support from a US Marine Just 67 Days left to live legally in the USA
In our striving to secure permanent residence in the USA, we are humbled by the tireless and unstinting efforts of so many supporters. Some bring tears to our eyes .....
I just sent this email to Congressman Rob Wittman from VA District 1
My name is Captain David Bain, USMC. I am writing on behalf of a friend and teacher Dr Bruce Stewart and his family concerning their expiring visas this December 2011 and denial of permanent residence after living legally in the USA for more than 10 years.
As the training officer for 2nd Intelligence Battalion in Camp Lejeune during late 2010, my Commanding Officer tasked me with developing a rigorous training regimen in support of the Battalion's deployment to Afghanistan in early 2011. One of the individuals I reached out to was Dr Bruce Stewart and his company, Speed Reading International, d/b/a ExecuRead, which focuses on speed reading fundamentals. As an intelligence officer, I know how important it is for my analysts to quickly process the myriad information reports flowing in, from and around theater, to produce accurate and timely intelligence analysis. I can say without a doubt that Bruce and his company provided a crucial training aid and skill to the Marines of 2nd Intel Bn, which led to Marines lives being saved on the battlefield.
Sir, I do not throw these words around lightly. In my estimation, as a Marine officer, Bruce Stewart and his family deserve to be in this country and moreover, are exactly the type of citizens we need. He and his family hail from South Africa and will have to return there in December unless someone of your stature and influence steps in. Please take a few moments to look at his website and decide for yourself whether this is the individual who should be the target of our laws.
I should note that I am currently stationed in Quantico VA and that I do not speak for my command, nor do I represent the opinion of the Marine Corps or my previous command. I'm just a concerned citizen and a Marine.
Thank you for your time and Semper Fi,
Capt David Bain, USMC
I hope this conveys my sincere gratitude for what you contributed to combat operations in Afghanistan. Please disseminate as you see fit. You are the type of man I go to bat for.
Capt David Bain, USMC
September 28, 2011 : The News Gets Even Worse!
Just 68 Days Left to Live Legally in the USA
Well, it has finally come to the crunch, where the metal meets the road. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Service this month denied the last of our appeals to acquire Permanent Residence, and has essentially told us that we are no longer wanted in this country.
Over the past years you may have been aware of our rather traumatic and disastrous immigration saga. After more than 10 years living legally in Charlotte NC, our visas finally expire on 5 December 2011. We have no further visa options available to us. We are faced with Hobson's Choice - we either close our business, abandon our friends, home and possessions and drag our children Sarah and Michael out of university and high school just two years before graduation and leave the United States permanently, or we stay here and break the law by becoming "illegal" overstays.
The only possible solution to this untenable position is a legislative solution on humanitarian and national interest grounds. To this effect, we have added this NEWS UPDATE item to our website and we have sent out a MEDIA RELEASE to local and national media, which will no doubt refocus the spotlight on a broken and inhumane immigration system.
The big question is whether a lawmaker will be willing to do everything in his/her power to gain permanent residence for us and introduce legislation for a Private Bill of Congress to right this wrong, before it's too late. We are continually overwhelmed and humbled by the tenacity of the many friends around us who are working tirelessly to get someone to listen and to act.
September 26, 2011 : The Worst News possible!
On July 6, 2011, the USCIS denied Bruce's petition for permanent residence on the grounds of a late filing back in January 2009. And on September 20, 2011, the USCIS denied Dianne's petition for permanent residence on the grounds that they had repeatedly erred in granting her an L1 visa and renewals over the pst 10 years. There are now NO further doors open to us and we either leave the USA by 5 December 2011 or we remain as illegal overstays. The only positive aspect to all of this is that the thousands of hours we have invested in trying to become permanent residents of the USA and the more than $120,000 we have spent in legal and filing fees, has come to an end.
Very briefly, in Dec 2008, the USCIS AAO denied Bruce's petition on the gounds of insufficient evidence. We therefor prepared over 900 pages of evidence, legal argument and regulatory and case-law. Our attorney Chris Greene erroneously sent this submission back to the USCIS AAO in Washington DC (which had issued the denial) rather than to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center. Instead of simply forwarding the submission to their office in Nebraska, they sent it back to Chris Greene and told him to send it to Nebraska. However, by the time the submission reached Nebraska, it was 8 days late - we had 33 days to prepare and file the documents and they were only received on the 41st day. Thus, because of this 8-day late filing, Bruce's case was deemed to have been abandoned and the 900 page submission has never been considered. It took the USCIS until Feb 2010 (12 months) to tell us that our case had been rejected because of the late filing. We immediately appealed this decision in March 2010 and had to wait until July 2011 (16 months) for them to reject our appeal.
Dianne's case is much simpler, but equally difficult to comprehend. At various times since 2000 she has had an L1-B "specialized knowledge" visa. There was no problem in getting this visa or its renewals. And even when Dianne's executive / managerial duties expanded and warranted a change of status from L1-B "specialized knowledge" to L1-A multinational manager, the USCIS granted her an L1-A visa in May 2010. However, just 5 months later, in an I-140 petition to change her status from non-immigrant to immigrant status, (the prelude to the I-485 petition for permanent residence), the USCIS determined that she was NOT a multinational manager, even though the definition of manager is identical for both the L1-A and the I-140. Indeed, the USCIS even went so far as to opine that it had erred in granting her the L1-A visa in the first place.
So the rules of law gets tossed out. The priciple of estoppel says that if you give me a statement of facts and I act upon that information, you cannot then tell me that you gave me incorrect information and expect me to suffer the consequences of acting to my own detriment based on the facts you gave me. Secondly, according to the principles of stare decisis, the precedent rule, subsequent decisions should recognise and be bound by previous decisions unless there is overwhelming evidence justifying a deviation from a previous ruling - which there is NOT - Dianne has been granted numerous L1 visas and renewals over the past 10 years.
So here's our dilemma - most of our training is to the US Military - the Pentagon, NASA, the SEALs, the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and the intelligence battalions of the USMC and "any delay or interruption in the supply of this training would be to the detriment of the analytic capabilities of the United States Marine Corps." The words "to the detriment of the analytic capabilities" quite simply means that people will die. Of lesser importance, but no less relevant, is the future of our children who have spent the past 10 years in the American educational system. Sarah is now a junior at university and Michael is a junior at high school. They are both 4-plus gpa students. At what cost do we drag them to another country and expect them to pick up the pieces of their educational future? The alternative - we continue to work towards saving military lives and the future of our children, and in the process we all become overstays and start breaking the immigration laws of this country. It's Hobson's Choice.
The ONLY solution is for a politician to consider the big picture and to answer the only question to be answered - "Is there an overwhelming reason on humanitarian and national interest grounds to keep the Stewarts in the United States of America?" And if the answer is positive, to immediately introduce a Private Bill of Congress to grant Permanent Residence to the Stewart Family.
We wrote to President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama and they ignored us.
We wrote to Vice-President Joe and Dr Jill Biden and they ignored us.
We wrote to the Speaker of the House and the Secretary of State and they ignored us.
We wrote to the Cabinet Members and every US Senator and every member of Congress. Most ignored us yet some were kind enough to extend their condolences at our situation and refer us to our NC Senators, Richard Burr and Kay Hagan.
Richard Burr says he cannot help us - that there is nothing he can do. Doublespeak for he doesn't know what do do or we are not important enough for him to invest time and effort on our behalf.
Senator Kay Hagan has been the one shining light in this world of darkness. She has shown interest in our case and has helped to expedite decisions from the USCIS, albeit unfavorable decisions. Now the moment of stepping up to the plate - Will Senator Kay Hagan be willing to introduce the Private Bill to Congress to gain permanent residence for us?
On Monday 26 September, we formally requested a face-to-face meeting with Senator Kay Hagan and now await her response.
May 24, 2011 : Desperate Measures
Bruce's last appeal is still awaiting adjudication after 14 months. Dianne's appeal is still awaiting adjudication after 6 months. Our visas expire on 5 December 2011, at which time, to avoid breaking the law by becoming "illegal" overstays in the USA, we close down everything and leave the USA forever.
Our last-ditch effort is to motivate a NC Senator to table a Private Bill of Congress to Grant Permanent Residence to the Stewart Family - an extraordinary measure never done before in NC but done in California by Senator Dianne Feinstein on a number of occasions to prevent or remedy major injustices on humanitarian grounds. Understandably, a Private Bill is risky business - the Senator who tables the Bill is linking his or her reputation to the people who will benefit from the Bill, and in this case, if the Stewarts turn out to be seriously big-time 'baddies', the Senator who championed our case suffers as well.
Accordingly, a Private Bill for the Stewarts is all about character and reputation and whether the Senator is convinced and comfortable with TWO essential requirementes :
1. Are there extraordinary circumstances justifying a Private Bill for the Stewarts?
2. Are the Stewarts of sound enough character to warrant the Senator linking his or her reputation and political future to the cause of the Stewarts?
A prominent and very well-known North Carolinian personally met with Senator Richard Burr on Monday 23 May and raised our case with him. While the details of this meeting are outside our knowledge, we are humbled to have this level of support.
Oct 27, 2010 : Disaster : Dianne's I-140 Petition is denied!
Just 5 months after the USCIS approved Dianne's petition for a change of status from an L-1B Specialized Knowledge visa to an L-1A Multinational Executive / Managerial visa, the USCIS denied her I-140 petition on a single ground - she is not deemed to be a multinational executive / manager! Yet the definition of a manager for purposes of L-1A classification is IDENTICAL to the definition of manager for purposes of I-140 classification. To justify this inconsistency in its decision, the USCIS says it is not bound by any previous decision to the contrary. Of course the USCIS invited us to appeal this decision! We filed an appeal on Nov 16 2010 which the USCIS then transferred to the Administrative Appeals Office on Feb 10 2011. That an appeal takes upwards of 16 months to adjudicate while we have less than 10 months of legal residence in the USA seems to have escaped the USCIS ... or do they have a hidden agenda here???
May 5, 2010 : Success : Dianne's I-129 Change of Status petition is approved!
In the second bit of good news in many years, Dianne's status is changed from L1-B to L1-A and her legal stay in the USA is confirmed until 12/05/2011. (The first was getting Dianne's L1-B approved in time to get back to South Africa for Jennifer Stewart's 80th birthday.) Meanwhile, Dianne's I-140 was received by USCIS on April 22 and the normal processing time is 4 months. So D-day is around 22 August. We're holding thumbs and as they used to say at NORAD when young Matthew Broderick was about to get WOMPR to unleash a nuclear deluge on the planet, "Confidence Level is High!"
March 25, 2010 Nebraska refers Bruce's I-290B Motion to reopen / Reconsider to the AAO for review. Follow the logic - in response to a denial by the AAO we file a submission back to the AAO which rejects the submission and tells us to file with Nebraska. So we re-file with Nebraska which promptly sends it to the AAO for a decision. So now we await a decision from the AAO as to whether Bruce's application for an I-140 will be approved on not. All this to open the door to Bruce applying for permanent residence. That he includes the likes of the Pentagon, NASA, US Marine Corps, Special Operations Command and Defense Logistics Agency as clients does still not seem to qualify him as good enough for permanent residence in this country. (Maybe he needs to get a tan and grow a big black moustache in order to get that elusive green card??)
March 12, 2010 : Dianne's I-129 RFE Notwithstanding our voluminous I-129 change of status submission filed on March 1, the USCIS comes back to us on March 12 with a request for further evidence. They don't understand how Dianne can have been in the USA for almost 9 years when neither the L1-B or L1-A visas allow for this. We submit this evidence and argument on April 12. At the same time, we hold thumbs and anticipate a favorable decision on Dianne's I-129 by jumping the gun and taking the next step by filing her I-140 petition to change her status from non-immigrant to immigrant status, a submission comprising some 600 pages of evidence and legal argument. Although we filed this on April 12, the filing form Bruce downloaded from the USCIS website was an out-of-date form, so this was returned to Chris Greene so that he could submit the latest form. Ten days lost but finally Dianne's I-140 is in the hands of the USCIS on April 22, 2010
March 1, 2010 : I-129 Change of Status is Filed We file an I-129 to have Dianne's status changed from L1-B to L1-A to pave the way for the filing of her I-140 to change her from non-immigrant to immigrant status. Just to make certain that we have covered every evidentiary and legal aspect of her case, we add to the tectonic-plate shift with a voluminous submission. The issue here is that Dianne has an L1-B visa which has a maximum validity of 5 years. The L1-A has a maximum validity of 7 years. The USCIS has already granted her 7 years of valid stay and we are attempting to bring her visa documentation in line with her de facto awards by the USCIS.
March 1, 2010 : I-290B Motion to Reopen / Reconsider is filed We file an I-290B Motion to Reopen / Motion to Reconsider the Feb 3 denial decision. The issues are whether our January 2009 submission should have been treated as a motion to reopen / motion to reconsider and whether the untimely filing should be excused by the USCIS. And since the USCIS failed to consider the 900-page brief originally submitted in January 2009, we have to resubmit all 900 pages of legal argument and evidence. On a lighter note, the volume of paper-work submitted to the USCIS appears to be overburdening the tectonic plates as evidence by the Icelandic volcano!
February 3, 2010 : USCIS denies our Appeal / Motion to Reconsider ... on procedural grounds In a notice dated Feb 1 2010, the USCIS Nebraska office rejected our appeal on procedural grounds. Our initial appeal was rejected on Dec 2, 2008 and our immigration attorney, Chris Greene had 30 days in which to file an appeal, with an allowance of an extra 3 days for the submission to reach the USCIS. So we prepared a 900-page submission, covering EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of the evidentiary and legal components of our case. And after a full year, that's 365 days, the USCIS has not looked at a single page of our submission! Why? Because they only received the submission on Jan 12, 2009 instead of January 2, 2009! TEN days late! Other than the 12 or so days during December that were weekends and public holidays (when lawyers don't work!) we're interested to know why Chris Greene failed to mention that his filing was late and inexcusably so. Apparently, Chris Greene filed the submission with the AAO instead of Nebraska. The AAO returned the submission to Chris Greene with a note to file with Nebraska and by the time Nebraska received the filing, it was deemed late. Interestingly enough, we also and simultaneously filed a duplicate of the 900-page submission with Nebraska which was received but has never been ruled upon and never mention in rulings since then. Nebraska has simply ruled on the submission which was erroneously filed with the AAO and then re-routed to Nebraska.
And to add to the confusion, the AAO treated our submission as an appeal rather than as a Motion to Reopen / Motion to Reconsider and then ruled that we cannot appeal against a denial of a previous appeal. Apparently this confusion was caused by a clerical error on the filing cover-page which marked the submission as an appeal rather than a motion. The USCIS thus treated the submission as an improper appeal rather than a motion, notwithstanding case law which rules that the substance of a filing (ie a motion to reopen / reconsider) supercedes the marking of the cover-page as an appeal.
If you're a bit confused by all of this, remember that Chris Greene and Bruce Stewart are both attorneys and if this is taxing our joint gray-matter, just imagine how the rest of the grunts feel!
December 22, 2009 : From Cristina Jacome, Constituent Services Representative
for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan : "I spoke with USCIS Headquarters. They informed me that the Administrative Appeals Office is in the process of moving to a different building in a different area. So for these couple of weeks all the cases are basically packed up until everything is organized in the new building. About your case: In the system, the last action they can see is that the case had been assigned to an officer and that it is under review. They asked me to contact them at the beginning of February to get another update."
So, eleven months after submitting our documents, and eight and a half years after arriving in this country, we are still awaiting a decision as to whether we deserve permanent residence or not. And in 10 months time, the break-up of our family begins - Sarah turns 21 and will have to start her own fight to live in the USA or get condemned to return to a country that she barely knows.
November 19, 2009 : It's now almost 10 months since we filed our 900-page appeal against the decision to deny us permanent residence. And no decision from the USCIS. SURELY THEY CANNOT BE READING THAT SLOWLY! In the interim we've been teaching our speed reading courses at the Pentagon, Special Operations Command, US Navy Special Warfare Development Group, US Marine Corps and World Bank. And to crown it all, Bruce was awarded a 0205-Tactical Intelligence Officer "Plank" by the Warrant Officers of 1st Intelligence Battalion of the US Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, California for his contribution to the enhancement of the intelligence analysis capabilities of the USMC. Only two hundred 0205-Tactical Intelligence Officer "Planks" have been awarded and this is the first to a civilian. AND STILL THE USCIS SEEMS TO FEEL THAT WE DON'T DESERVE THE RIGHT TO CALL AMERICA OUR "HOME"!
September 14, 2009 : We receive the following response from Senator Hagan's office : "It appears the person (ie Bruce Stewart) in whose behalf you are making this inquiry is the beneficiary of this I-140 petition. Immigration and Naturalization Regulations as well as the Privacy Act prohibit providing information to or acting at the request of anyone other than the "affected party." In the case of I-140 petitions, this is defined as the petitioner (ie Speed Reading International) or the petitioner's designated attorney/representative. We are unable to provide more detailed information on the status of the I-140 without the written consent of the petitioner or the petitioner's G-28 attorney. Any further questions Mr Stewart may have regarding the status of the I-140 petition should be directed to the petitioner. (From) Immigration Services Officer - NSC Congressional Unit"
Comment : In response to this advisory, the beneficiary (Bruce Stewart) discussed the matter with the petitioner, (Bruce Stewart - president of Speed Reading International) who was at a loss for words at this hair-splitting and foot-dragging by the US-CIS. The petitioner advised the beneficiary that in the absence of any other qualified officer within the petitioner company, that Bruce Stewart, the beneficiary (and equally the president of the petitioner), request Attorney Chris Greene to, in turn, request Senator Hagan's office to investigate the status of the case. One can only hope that the US-CIS does not invalidate attorney Chris Greene's request, on the grounds that it is not clear whether his instruction emanated from the petitioner (Bruce Stewart, president of the petitioning company) or the beneficiary (Bruce Stewart).
August 5, 2009 : Senator Kay Hagan offers to assist us with an investigation into the status of our appeal, since seven months have now passed since we filed our 900-page Notice of Motion to Re-open / Reconsider our case for Permanent Residence. Bruce submits a Privacy Release Form to Senator Hagan's office. Although he is the beneficiary of the application, by Speed Reading International, for Permanent Residence, he is also the president of the company and thus the only officer authorized by the company / petitioner to make such an enquiry.
May 3, 2009 : In a brilliant example of obfuscation, the following notice is received from the US-CIS : Application Type: I290B , NOTICE OF APPEAL TO THE COMMISSIONER. Current Status: This case is now pending at the office to which it was transferred.The I290B NOTICE OF APPEAL TO THE COMMISSIONER was transferred and is now pending standard processing at a USCIS office. You will be notified by mail when a decision is made, or if the office needs something from you. We called USCIS Customer Service who are unable to explain exactly what this means. Neither can Chris Greene our immigration attorney. Alice Torres from Sue Myrick's office has offered to look into this to see whether she can obtain clarity.
April 19, 2009 : The matriarch of Clan Stewart turns 80 at a family reunion in the family home, Hoy House, Hermanus, South Africa, accompanied by her 4 children, grand-children, great-grand-children, nieces and friends who travelled from the USA, UK and Australia to be with her. This is the first time that Jennifer, Bruce, Ian, Fiona & Craig have been together since 1988.
April 14, 2009 : The US Consulate in Cape Town grants Dianne, Bruce and Michael L1-B and L2 visas, valid until 5 December 2011. WHAT A RELIEF!!! We're in Cape Town, but unfortunately without Sarah who had to remain in the USA to complete her 12th Gr exams. Her L2 visa is the problem - it expires in October 2010 when she turns 21 and is not renewable. We can only hope and pray that our family's Permanent Residence appeal is granted before that date.
March 28, 2009 : L2 visas are issued to Bruce, Sarah & Michael. But valid only until 10/19/2010, a shorter period than Dianne's L1B which is valid until 12/05/2011, but better than nothing. We're not sure why the differing validity periods ... we can only assume that this is because Sarah turns 21 on 10/18/2010. Notwithstanding this, we can now attempt to find air-tickets to South Africa to make Jennifer's 80th Birthday and should hopefully now have sufficient time to await the decision on our Permanent Residence appeal to the AAO.
February 25, 2009 : The USCIS requests I-94 records for Bruce and Sarah. No mention of Michael, but in case they don't know that Michael exists, we submit I-94 records for Bruce, Dianne, Sarah & Michael on March 6 and receive a notice that case-processing was resumed on March 9. We expect an answer before the end of the month and Deo Volente we will still make Jennifer's 80th birthday in South Africa on April 18.
Of concern is that there has been no acknowledgment from the USCIS in Nebraska or the AAO in DC that the 900-page permanent residence appeal brief has been received or that the appeal is being considered. (We have proof of delivery & receipt, but no confirmation that case-processing has resumed. We assume that our appeal is sitting in someone's 2010 pending / to do file.)
February 24, 2009 : We receive a notice that Dianne's L1B has been approved until December 2011, longer than we had hoped for. We're ecstatic! But there's no mention of visas for Bruce, Sarah & Michael.
January 14, 2009 : We receive a request for INITIAL evidence in support of Dianne's L1 application. The USCIS wants evidence about Dianne's CURRENT job-duties & salary in South Africa and evidence describing her PROSPECTIVE job-duties in the USA. WOW! Apparently the USCIS does not know that Dianne has been legally in the USA since 2001 and has previously been granted an L1-B visa by the very same office that is now requesting this information. We have no choice but to send them a full evidentiary & legal brief .... another 800 pages.
January 2009 : Bruce and Chris Greene are in the final stages of preparing a 900-page motion to reconsider / motion to reopen / appeal brief to the AAO, due for submission on 01/30/09. In the interim, still no word on the success of Dianne's L1 application. But at least, being "in process", we're still in-status.
December 5, 2008 : Chris Greene our attorney files a petition for an L1-visa for Dianne. If granted, this should afford us sufficient time to remain in the USA while our Motion to Reconsider the dismissal of our appeal is being considered. With support from Jill Dinwiddie and Catherine Connor we are seeking to secure an appointment to meet with Senator Kay Hagan.
December 4, 2008 : Our appeal has been dismissed. Full of errors of fact and in our opinion, an incorrect interpretation & application of the relevant laws of the USA. Decision.
November 7, 2008 : Bruce's birthday is spent with our attorney Chris Greene working out a possible strategy to buy us a little more "legal-status-time" after Dec 5, 2008. Notwithstanding the undertaking from US Rep Sue Myrick's office to attempt a visa extension for us, which is not possible (as Bruce has reached the end of his L1-visas's 7-year lifespan), we receive a copy of a GREAT letter from Sue Myrick to the AAO singing our praises and requesting an expeditious appeal decision. How much effect this will have, we don't know. But at least Martha Rea Calkins has some support from Alice Torres and Sue Myrick in her tireless crusade to find a solution. It's essential that we resolve this now -- Sarah graduates from school in 6 months and is still precluded from applying to colleges and universities without a valid visa or SS# -- destined to remain unemployed and uneducated. Our prayers are that Martha and Sue Myrick can pull off a miracle. At the same time Bruce loses teaching assignments in Canada, the UK and the UAE because of his "hostage"-status in the USA.
October 31, 2008 : Our stalwart and tenacious crusader, Martha Rea Calkins, receives a phone call from Alice Torres in US Rep. Sue Myrick's Office. She undertakes to request that the US CIS grants us an extension of our visas from December 5, 2008 until our Permanent Residence Appeal has been heard.
October 29, 2008 : We receive a letter from the Ombudsman's office saying essentially that there is nothing they can do as our case is pending in the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) and this could take up to 18 months to process. Once again we are left hanging and up in the air - with no resolution or decision. How on earth are we meant to continue our lives under these unbearable circumstances? Our L-1 visas expire on Dec 5th, 2008. No news from Rep. Mel Watts office as at todays date. Martha Rea Calkins continues her crusade on our behalf and will be calling all these entities on our behalf in the coming days.
October 26, 2008 : We are amazed to hear that some of our friends are doing "write-in's" on their ballots for the Senate race in NC. Instead of voting for either Kay Hagan or Elizabeth Dole they are writing in... "Dianne Stewart!" Not sure how this works, but they are doing it!
October 10, 2008 : Jennifer Stewart, matriarch of Clan Stewart, turns 80 on April 19, 2009. Dianne's mother Kay Ennis will celebrate her 75th birthday 2 days later. To celebrate Jennifer's birthday at the family home in Hermanus, South Africa, family & friends are gathering from Australia, England, Scandinavia, Canada and the USA. The Stewart family has not been together for over 20 years. If our permanent residence is not granted soon, Jennifer's birthday will be without her eldest son Bruce, her daughter-in-law Dianne and her grand-children Sarah & Michael. If we leave the USA to attend this family reunion, we will not be allowed to return to our home and business in the USA. While "hostages" in the USA, we've buried both of our fathers in absentia. We now have a painful & heartbreaking choice -whether to attend the Clan Stewart Reunion & Jennifer's 80th and thus give up our fight for the priviledge of living in America, or to be the only absentees at Jennifer's birthday. We pray daily for a miracle and for strength & guidance.
October 8, 2008 : Sarah has her Drivers License renewed at the DMW - expiring December 5th, 2008 coinciding with our families L1 Visa expiry date.
October 3, 2008 : Through the tireless work and efforts of our dear friend, Martha Rea Calkins, we speak with Mr Torre Jessup at Congressman Mel Watt's (Rep-D) office about our matter and he says he willing to investigate it further for us, through their congressional contacts.
Sept 26, 2008 : A Glimmer of Hope at last! We receive an email reply from the US CIS Ombudsman to say that they have accepted our case and that they will be investigating it with the US CIS on our behalf and that they will get back to us in 45 days.
Sept 8, 2008 : Our supporters contacted the office of Sen. Richard Burr to request a meeting on our behalf. No response to this as yet. They are also currently planning our media campaign to launch this month, in order to bring our story to the public's attention.
Chris Greene sends an appeal to the US CIS Ombudsman to see if they will investigate our case.
Still no word regarding our Permanent Residence Appeal, in spite of being told in June that we would have an answer in 30 days. Our attorneys continue to be both frustrated and ham-strung. We are now trying the newly appointed, US CIS Ombudsman route.
August 20, 2008 : Our daughter Sarah, an IB Senior at Myers Park High School is denied getting her drivers license renewed at the DMV - citing that her license has been flagged and that Homeland Security and ICE need to be advised if she attempts to renew it, in spite of the fact that we have a valid L-visa until December 2008. This has led to her not being able to driver herself to school and all her many extra mural activities, both for the community and school. A major set-back for a young persons self esteem and confidence. There is no bus from our neighborhood to the school because we were grand-fathered in after Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools changed their zoning areas repeatedly. So we are having to drive Sarah around, causing much inconvenience to our lives and business activities. Sarah has an impeccable driving record.
July, 23, 2008 : No word as to our fate from the Appeals Board, in spite of being told that we would hear by June 30th, 2008
July 7, 2008 : We are still waiting. Our appeal was filed in March this year. We were due to receive a decision by the end of May. Told to wait 30 days more. Still nothing. Chris Greene is going to chase them up for a decision. Could this be the beginning of our American Dream or the end of Shattered Dreams??
June 7, 2008 : We have received the reasons for the denial notice emailed to us on June 3. And to our surprise, this is NOT a denial of our appeal. It's a denial of an application to extend our L1 status, filed by Shante Smith on 21 December 2005!!! Reason for the denial? Shante Smith filed Form 1-539 instead of Form I-129. It's taken the US-CIS 2½ years to tell us that Shante filed the wrong form! The good news is that we have still not received a decision on our appeal. The bad news is that a positive decision on our appeal pre-supposes some degree of professionalism, intelligence & competency within the US-CIS.
Chris Greene has been our attorney of record since August 2006 and yet the US-CIS does not appear to know this. While not professing to have all the answers yet, we now have a pretty good take on the US-CIS and it is our considered opinion that the US-CIS should be quietly euthanazed! Here are just some of the basic problems :
Each time you file an application, you get a new receipt number. This receipt number does not indicate your identity. And all enquiries to the CIS are based upon the receipt number for that particular application filed. Over the past 7 years, we have filed dozens and dozens of applications and have dozens and dozens of receipt numbers, none of which have any visible link to ourselves or to one another. In fact, we have a strong suspicion that Shante Smith was collecting money and dishing out the same receipt numbers to multiple clients.
Then the filed applications are sent to various CIS Service Centers for processing - we've been dealing with Service Centers in Texas, Nebraska and Vermont, so we must have files in at least these 3 centers. Since November 2006 we've been dealing with Vermont (for our L1 re-in statement) and with Nebraska (for our permanent residence application) and now with Washington DC (for our appeal). These service centers obviously have little to no communication with one another, which is possibly why Texas, in 2008, has just denied the application, filed in December 2005, to extend our stay, not knowing that in 2006 Vermont granted our application to extend our stay or that in 2008 Nebraska denied our application for permanent residence, or that DC is presently considering our appeal.
I know that the INS (the old CIS) was embarrassed when it became public that they had just issued visas to some of the dead 9/11 terrorists, and that it was hoped that the matter could be improved by incorporating the INS into Homeland Security and changing its name to CIS, but has anything really changed? 2½ years to tell me my former attorney filed the wrong form??
June 3, 2008 : We receive an email notification that our matter has been denied and that reasons will follow in the mail. This is beyond our comprehension. We are self-sufficient, we own a home, we own a successful business, Sarah is a rising IB senior at Myers Park High School, Michael is part of the Duke Talent Identification Program, is in the top 95% of math students in the country and has spent more than half his life in America. What do these people want from us??? After 7 years in this country, WE ARE AMERICANS, dammit!! We've committed no crimes, we're financially secure, we're part of our community and we ask for nothing. And yet the US-CIS says we're not the sort of people you want in America. The US-CIS says I'm not an executive! Well then who the hell has been running and managing my company since I started it 33 years ago? The US-CIS says I don't earn enough to live in this country! Balls! I don't live on Wall Street but I can afford to live in in $400k home, own my SUV free and clear and received finance for Dianne's Pontiac Solstice and Sarah's Scion! But I'm not good enough to live in America, while 50,000 Green Cards are GIVEN away each year, mostly to peasants from "Godknowswhereistan".
January 15, 2008 : Our Permanent Residence (Green Card) application was DENIED because the US CIS believes that Bruce Stewart is not an "Executive", has spent too much time in South Africa in the last 7 years (sic) and that we are unable to sustain ourselves to their satisfaction in the United States!
June 7, 2008
Reasons for the denial - An application to extend our stay, filed in Dec 2005 by Shante Smith, is denied because the stupid woman filed the wrong form. Huge relief - our appeal has still not been adjudicated so we're still in the game.
June 3, 2008 We receive an email from the US-CIS telling us our application has been denied. We panic because we assume that our appeal has been denied.
May 29, 2008 We receive a message from our attorney to say that he spoke with the US CIS about our appeal and that we should have a decision on our Green Card Denial Appeal from them in 30 days.
March 11, 2008 We receive an email from the US CIS to say that our appeal has been sent to the Administrative Appeals Office in Washington, DC, for review.
We receive third-party word that Sen Elizabeth Dole's office is looking further into the matter, but we have been unable to verify the accuracy or reliability of this information as yet.
February 5, 2008 We receive letters from Rep Sue Myrick and Senator Richard Burr to say that they are unable to assist us with our matter any further and explaining our situation to us, if we stay in the US illegally.
This letter from Sue Myrick is interesting in that we are expected to leave the US and return to SA while our appeal is being considered. In effect, close down our business, terminate our contracts with suppliers and clients, sell our home in Charlotte, ship our furniture and personal belongings back to South Africa, sell our three vehicles, pull our children out of school and sit in limbo in South Africa for months, possibly years, until our future is determined by the US CIS and then to return to the US and start our lives all over again. It seems to be overlooked that we are self sufficient human beings with real lives and real children, not just some commodity.
February 5, 2008
Dr. Bruce Stewart
5617 Providence Glen Road
Charlotte, North Carolina28270-3711
Dear Dr. Stewart: I have received a telephonic update from the Congressional Relations unit of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) in Washington, DC regarding your request to be allowed to remain in the United States during the appeal of the denied I-140 occupational visa petition.Unfortunately this is not an option under existing immigration law and you must return to your homeland before your current L-1 visa expires or else you will become an overstay.
An expired stay of less than one year imposes a 3-year bar from being eligible to return to the United States or gain a benefit.An overstay of one year or more imposes a 10-year bar from being eligible to return to the United States or gain a benefit.This is true even if an immigrant occupational visa petition is approved on your behalf.If you are still inside the United States at the time of immigrant visa approval, your eligibility to benefit from the approved immigrant occupational visa petition becomes null and void if your non-immigrant visa has expired.If you are in an expired status you will lose the benefit that the approved petition would have afforded you.The 3-year/10-year bar will be enforced on expired visa holders.You may discuss this matter further with your immigration attorney.
It is in your best interest to comply with immigration law and not become an overstay.It is unfortunate that the filing was unsuccessful in being completely adjudicated and approved before your L-1 visa expires.Please be assured that once adjudication has been accomplished, and a favorable decision rendered, the approved occupational visa petition would then be forwarded to the nearest U.S. Consulate General abroad having jurisdiction over your residence in South Africa.Your attorney can handle having the transfer of the case to the U.S. Consulate General.You must provide your attorney and CIS with your current residential address within 10 days of a move.This is accomplished by filing Form AR-11 and mailing it to the address specified on the form, and by writing the CIS office adjudicating the application.You must list the beneficiary's name and the case number in all correspondence to CIS.
I hope this information has been helpful to you.Form AR-11 is enclosed for your perusal.
Best wishes and kindest regards.
Member of Congress
January 31, 2008 Since the latest campaign to Keep the Stewart's in Charlotte started on January 18, 2008, we have had 2093 unique visitors to the website!
NOTE : No mail has been personally received by us to date from the Lincoln, Nebraska US CIS advising us of our Permanent Residence denial with reasons. Only one item of mail was sent to our attorney's office.
January 29, 2008 Carol Armstrong from Senator Elizabeth Dole's office calls Bruce Stewart to say that they are investigating our case.
We receive the tracking note for the delivery of our Notice of Appeal and it is signed by Mr Gerard Heinauer at the Lincoln, NE office of the US CIS, who made the determination to deny our application.
January 25, 2008 Senator Richard Burr and US Rep. Sue Myrick step up to the plate and advise us that they are taking up the cause and have started investigating our case with the powers that be in NE and DC. We are thrilled and relieved. See their letters below :
January 24, 2008 Bruce meets with Chris Greene, our attorney, to finalize the full submission of evidence to support our Notice of Appeal, filed on Monday January 21,2008. This will be FedEx'd to the US CIS in Lincoln, NE today.
January 21, 2008 Our attorney sends our Notice of Appeal documents via Fed Ex to the US CIS in Lincoln, NE to appeal their decision to deny our Permanent Residence application. We have no idea when these will be adjudicated and can only hope and pray that support from the 2 NC Senators and Rep. Sue Myrick may assist us in getting this resolved before February 15th, 2008!
January 20, 2008 Ten days after the US CIS made the decision to deny our green card application, we have still not received any formal / written notification in the mail from them. They obviously have no intention of letting us know of their decision.
January 18th, 2008
Senator Burr's office tells one of the Stewart supporters "that the Senator is aware of the Stewart's and will be contacting the Stewart's and the Stewart's attorney."
January 17, 2008 The Stewart's send out an email campaign to over 500 folks to help with our case by writing and contacting elected NC officials. The response from friends and colleagues is nothing short of incredible! STILL nothing in the mail from the US CIS to officially inform us of their denial - its unbelievable!
January 16, 2008 After studying the denial document and much discussion with our attorney - he is of the opinion that this denial is nothing short of bizarre based on the reasons they have given. First, the assertion that Bruce doesn't function as an executive is ridiculous and the reason that our salary is not commensurate with an executive has never been raised until now. It was fine for the last 7 years and we are happy with it, but suddenly its no longer OK!
Those of you who know us will know that our standard of living in the US can hardly be considered living below the poverty line. In accordance with US CIS guidelines, we should be knocking on your door for food stamps and donations sometime soon!!!! Our new strategy will include appealing this denial as well as going back to all our Senators / Representatives' offices to bring some kind of sanity to this situation.
NOTE : We still have not received the notification in the mail from the US CIS in Lincoln, NE on their decision! How is it possible that the very beneficiaries of this life-changing negative decision could not even be mailed to the very concerned recipients to advise them, and is only sent to their attorney? How irresponsible! What would happen if the attorney was remiss or worse and failed to pass this information on to us?
January 15, 2008 We receive a call from our attorney to say that he has received the notification from Nebraska on the reasons for the denial of our application. We receive it via fax and are contemplating their reasoning - one of which is that they do not consider Bruce to be an "Executive" and that we are not able to sustain ourselves in the US.
NOTE : No mail to this effect has been received by us from the Lincoln, Nebraska US CIS yet.
January 10, 2008 We meet with Chris Greene our immigration attorney to discuss the options and are told that we can take no action until we hear what the reasons for the denial are. Our options are extremely limited and situation looks even more dire than we thought. The waiting is agony.
January 9, 2008 We receive an email notification from the Nebraska US CIS office to say that all our applications for Permanent Residence in the United States, have been denied. No reason given. Its says that they have mailed us the reasons and we should expect to receive the document in the mail. We are in a state of severe shock. We cannot imagine why this could happen and for what legitimate reason.
January 4, 2008
We have an appointment with our attorney Chris Greene on January 10th, 2008 to discuss our next steps in the saga. We are extremely confident that this matter will be resolved in a positive manner very soon!
December 4, 2007 The 60 day anniversary of our submission to the US CIS on October 4th, came and went with no response and no news to report to date.
November 2, 2007 We thankfully receive all our new South African Passports today, as well as the expired ones back with our US visas in them, after waiting 8 months for them and after they "lost" Sarah's passport for 2 months. Does anything ever seem to go smoothly for us in this process?
October 4, 2007 The US CIS receives our response to their request for further information and we receive receipt of this documentation with a reply that we will get a response and decision in the next 60 days......
August 23, 2007
The US CIS requests further evidence with regard to our application for permanent residence. We are confused, as the evidence they require, appears to be asking us to prove that we had a business in South Africa, that we were employed by the business in South Africa, and that Speed Reading International, Inc. is a subsidiary of the company in South Africa and that we are now employed by Speed Reading International, Inc. All of which was submitted and proved in September 2000 in support of our application for our L-1 visas and which has been re-submitted on numerous occasions with the ongoing renewals of our L-1 visas for the last 6 years.
So, we are now working on preparing yet again, the documentation that they have requested and which they have already received on numerous occasions. This is due on or before October 4, 2007.
This appears to be an ongoing bureaucratic saga with our files located in Mesquite TX, Vermont, Lincoln NE and Kentucky processing offices and that the volume of documentation that we have submitted over the last 6 years has become so enormous, that these people find it easier to simply issue a standard blanket letter of request each time a decision is called for, rather than reading the documentation and making an informed decision on the documents they have already received.
As we are property-owning, company-owning, tax-payers in this country, perhaps we should be forgiven for thinking that the US CIS finds it easier to make our lives a misery rather than to do some serious work in pursuing some of the 12 million non-property-owning, non company-owning, non tax-paying, social security / medical treatment claiming illegals in the country.
June 25, 2007 The family receives what's called "Advanced Parole" documents to enable us to travel in and out of the US. Makes you sound like a felon! But our attorney advises otherwise - great! He says wait until the Green Cards arrive - then travel. So we are back to square one on that one - going to miss a family wedding on June 30 in SA.
May 24, 2007 The family goes to have Biometrics taken at the US CIS Processing office in Charlotte - fingerprints and photo's - the next step in the Permanent Residence application process. Processing time for Green Card applications is currently running at 8 months behind.
Apr 12, 2007 Dianne is issued with an Employment Authorization Card.
March 28, 2007 All paperwork relating to our applications for Permanent Residence have been submitted to the USCIS. Now we wait.
Mar 3, 2007 We have completed our medical exams and our applications for change of status from Non Immigrant to Immigrant Status are ready for submission by our attorney. We'll keep ya'll posted!
Feb 16, 2007 We have received the NEW L visas with the CORRECT dates on them in our hot little hands! Dated February 16, 2006 - February 16 , 2008! Excellent job done by our attorney Chris Greene and his staff as well as the office of Sen. Richard Burr specifically Miguel. Went for our physical examinations yet again - TB / HIV / Syphilis etc - and poor Sarah's veins were not cooperative and so after many puncturings in her arms and hands she has to go back next week to try again for her blood work. As soon as the results come back we can submit the next stage of applications for Change of our Status from Non-Immigrant to Immigrant. Once this is approved we can then proceed with the Permanent Residence application.......
Feb 12, 2007 Our Attorney called this morning to say that the Vermont CIS has FINALLY got with the program! They have back-dated out visa to reflect no gaps in our status, valid until February 15, 2008. We await the new visa documentation to confirm this and once received, we are now able to proceed to the Permanent Residence applications AGAIN. They say things are better the second time around............
Feb 09, 2007 Our Attorney of Record sent a request to Sen Richard Burr's office requesting assistance with an explanation and resolution from the USCIS to this problem as follows :
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this morning. As discussed, I am a bit puzzled by the recent notifications received from USCIS on behalf of Dr. Bruce Stewart and his dependent family members. As background, I filed an L-1 petition on behalf of Dr. Stewart. The application was filed while he was out of status. In the context of the petition we acknowledged that he was out of status but argued that his failure to maintain his status was due to an extraordinary circumstance which was through no fault of his own. I'm sure you are familiar with the facts on that issue. In any event, I specifically requested that the CIS approve his petition and accompanying extension of stay while restoring his L-1A status retroactive to the date that he fell out of status, in February 2006. My argument was premised on section 214 of the Immigration & Nationality Act, as amended. In addition, I filed extensions of stay in L-2 status for his spouse and children.
We were overjoyed when we were informed that the petition and his extension of stay was approved. However, our excitement was mixed with confusion at seeing that the I-94's were dated from September 2006 through September 2008. Now, we have additional I-94's for each family member bearing approvals from December 2006 through December 2008. We have two issues at this point.
First, why was the L-1A and L-2 status of the family not restored "nunc pro tunc" to the February 2006 date. The dates chosen by the Service bear no relation to the request that was filed. In fact, they appear arbitrary in nature. We would like clarification as to these dates. Furthermore, we would like the I-94's to reflect the correct beginning approval period; February 2006.
Secondly, we are concerned with the permanent residence applications of the Stewart family. Specifically, any I-485 application filed pursuant to an employment based preference category must be filed with proof that the applicant (and any dependent family members) had maintained their previously accorded non immigrant status. These rules can be found in section 245 of the INA. Section 245(k) allows any applicant who has not continuously maintained their non immigrant status to have their status adjusted to lawful permanent resident as long as the alien has not, for an aggregate period exceeding 180 days, failed to maintain a lawful status. Presently, with the dates provided by the Service, the Stewart family has been out of status for a period exceeding 180 days.
While we could argue that this failure to maintain status was through no fault of their own when we file the I-485 our position is that we have already advanced sufficient argument on this issue. It is noteworthy that the Service accepted the argument and approved the L-1's and extensions of stay. However, their approval does not properly reflect the validity dates that were requested. To avoid having to make a superfluous argument during the adjudication of the I-485 (which will be filed in the very near future) we simply request that the Service error be corrected and new I-94's be issued reflecting approval dates beginning on February 14, 2006.
At this point, since you have a direct line of communication with the Vermont Service Center, we respectfully request that you contact them and articulate our concerns. We are pleased that they have accepted our argument and have seen the hardship that the Stewart family has gone through as a result of the actions of Shante Smith. We just want the issue to be fully resolved. Should you have questions please feel free to contact me. Respectfully,.......
Jan 30, 2007 We receive yet MORE visas - now with NEW dates that have reverted back to the first set of visas we received in Dec 06 - valid from 12/06/06 - 12/06/08. Someone clearly doesn't know what the hell they are doing! Wasting time, money, manpower and creating even more confusion for all concerned.
Jan 23, 2007 We receive an L-1 visa Notice of Action for the family together with an I-94 allowing us to "travel" and which would normally mean we could return to the US. However the dates on this visa are now changed from the previous dates we received to 09/01/2006 until 09/01/2008 - leaving more than a six month gap in our L-1 visa life history, which must have consecutive and valid dates from its inception to its conclusion after 7 years. If it has any gaps in it - the Consulate in SA is obliged to refuse a reentry visa to anyone who has had this lapse in status - rendering these visas useless to us. We believe this has been done on purpose to prevent us from returning to the US if we choose or are compelled to leave for any reason. We also find it peculiar that they have now changed the validity dates of the original visa we received in Dec 06 to September dates making the visa 3 months shorter. What should in fact happen is that the visa should be valid from 02/16/06 - 02/16/08 making the dates consecutive within our existing visa dates.
Jan 22, 2007 We await the response from the CIS in Vermont due this week, for a Motion to Reopen and reconsider their denial of our status. We have received support from Rep. Sue Myrick R-NC; Senator Elizabeth Dole R-NC and Senator Richard Burr R-NC. We trust that we will be given a "Fair Trial."
Jan 5, 2007 The Stewart's Immigration Attorney Chris Greene, Esq. submits new evidence to the CIS asking for a new hearing, requesting them to reconsider their decision and US Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC 9th District) provides a letter of support to go with the submission.
Dec 22, 2006 The Stewart's Civil Attorney, David Gilpin, Esq. files suit against Shante Smith and American Professional Services on the Stewart's behalf, for damages and misrepresentation.
Dec 18, 2006
Keep The Stewart's In Charlotte Website goes live to get the word out and collect testimonials and to seek audiences with influential people. Stewart's collect evidence of Shante Smith's illegal, unethical and unprofessional conduct. Stewart's prepare a civil law-suit against Shante Smith and are working with the authorities to bring this person to justice. When we file our next response to the CIS, due before January 7, 2007, we have to obtain the following :
1. A reversal of the CIS decision of Dec 7, 2006,
2. A condonation of our 'out of status' period from the last date that each of us was 'in status',
3. An extension of legal stay in the USA to give us time to file for and obtain permanent residence this has become urgent as Sarah graduates from High School in 2 years time and wants to do medicine but until her legality of status is confirmed, she cannot apply for college admission.
Dec 07, 2006 CIS responds to the Stewart's : The CIS approves our I-129 Petition for a Non immigrant Worker for Dec 2006 to Dec 2008, but refuses to condone our 'out of status' period and refuses to grant us an I-94 extension of stay. By implication, we are illegally here and must return to South Africa to apply for a visa to return to the USA. But because of the non-condonation of our 'out of status' period, we are prohibited from returning to the USA for 3 years (Bruce & children) and 10 years (Dianne), and can never apply for permanent residence. This decision from the CIS is not subject to appeal, but we can file a notice for a new hearing if we have new evidence to present. The deadline for this is Jan 7, 2007.
Nov 27, 2006 Stewart's respond to CIS : The delay was caused by our understanding that our permanent residence had been approved on June 23, 2006. Not being immigration lawyers ourselves, we relied on an advertised lawyer who is an authorized CIS representative. This is not a case of us relying on incompetent counsel it is a case of criminal deceit, misrepresentation, forgery of federal documents and theft by false pretenses, perpetrated by an authorized CIS representative.
Nov 21, 2006
CIS responds to the Stewart's : "The beneficiary's status expired on 02/02/06. This petition was filed on 11/09/06, almost 9 months later. It is the burden of the beneficiary to be aware of the laws & regulations governing his stay and abide by them. Please submit a statement explaining the delay in filing this application. Please note, it is the opinion of this service that incompetent counsel is not beyond the control of the beneficiary."
Nov 9, 2006 Stewart's file a comprehensive submission to the CIS in Vermont :
* I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker
* I-539 Application to Extend / Change Non-immigrant Status
* I-907 Premium Processing Fee
* Affidavits from Bruce Stewart, Sean Stewart, Attorney Chris Greene and Attorney Noel Tin testifying to a meeting with Shante Smith where she admitted culpability, admitted to practicing as an attorney without a license, admitted to lying to the Stewart's and accepting sole responsibility for our lapse of legal status.
* A statement from Shante Smith which she subsequently refused to sign on the grounds of self-incrimination.
Aug 12, 2006 Stewart's retain the services of Immigration Attorney Chris Greene, Esq. of Tin Fulton Greene & Owen to handle our case.