The headline in this diary is a quote from a coffee mug that sits in my cabinet (when I’m not drinking from it.) While I don’t believe that every immigrant who set foot in the US was of pure motive, I do believe that immigrants as a group, have brought more to this country than they have ever taken from it. This story made me sick to read.
Adrian Martinca, the 30 year old founder of AM Technology in High Point, NC, and its charitable division, Technology for the future, came to Canada at the age of 8 with his 4 year old sister and their parents, from Slovakia. They later moved to North Carolina where Martinca started his business, along with a way to give back to the community. He stated that his parents taught him that “community is family”. Among his company’s work is refurbishing used laptops for underserved schoolchildren whose parents cannot afford them.
According to the story in the High Point Enterprise, their visas were good until 2023, as long as they submitted forms due on May 3 of this year. In the scramble to ready enough computers for school kids, they missed the deadline and are now facing deportation.
Martinca, founder and chairman of the nonprofit Technology for the Future, said they have been working with Winston-Salem-based immigration attorney Helen Parsonage, who advised him they may be able to get a federal hearing if they can get 30,000 online signatures on a petition. Parsonage did not return phone calls or emails from The Enterprise.
Ana Santiago, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services in Miami, was skeptical an online campaign would solve the problem for Martinca and his sister...“No visa lasts 14 years,” Santiago said. “If they’re already talking about a federal hearing, it’s because they have paperwork that tells them they’re illegal and that they have to go in front of a judge. I think they’re in the last desperate steps of trying to fix something they didn’t fix for decades.”
Martinca and his sister had two schools in a crisis who needed 250 computers for exams in May, and missed their deadline to re-apply for their visas. Unable to fly to Canada, they drove instead, and were arrested. (One assumes this was at the border, since the story doesn’t say). Their visa was canceled and they were told if they went to court and couldn’t prove they were late to re-apply, they would be deported and banned from returning to the US for 3 to 10 years.
“Instead, we took a voluntary departure, so they offered us 30 days to leave the United States,” Martinca said. “They told us to move back to Canada within 30 days, like we don’t want you here. ... Literally tens of thousands of children don’t have computers and they are asking us to just walk away.”
Martinca’s sister, Miriam Martincova, started a change.org petition asking for signatures, but it’s not certain that it will help.
Rob Russell, philanthropy coordinator for Technology for the Future, is familiar with the situation, after it took his immigrant wife almost six years to become a US citizen. (And on a more personal note, this diarist is also familiar with the gnarliness of dealing with Immigration and Naturalization, (INS) since it took her first husband, also an immigrant, about the same amount of time to become a citizen).
Last year, Technology for the Future donated nearly 15,000 computers to students nationwide, 10,000 of them right here in Guilford County, and about 2,500 in High Point (which is also in Guilford County). I would say this family has certainly given more TO the US than they’ve gotten FROM the US.
They will go back to Canada and it could take months for them to re-enter the US legally. This was an honest mistake and I believe their accomplishments here have more than redeemed them from any wrongdoing. YMMV.