A painful story of how the U.S. anti-immigration system separates children from their parents who behaved legally.
On the surface, Dr. Pradyuman Singh has all the makings of the immigrant American dream. He has a business recruiting students to medical schools; a wife, son and daughter who is pre-med at UC Irvine; and his family lives in a Laguna Niguel home with ocean views.
But his picturesque life in the U.S. has been unraveling almost since it started. Now Singh is separated from his family and stuck 90 miles away, just across the border in Tijuana.
The Singhs are just one family making their way through the labyrinthine U.S. immigration process. But their experience shows that not even higher education, wealth and investments in the U.S. may make a difference when it comes to navigating a system that for many has become a bureaucratic black hole.
Singh, 55, arrived in the U.S. with his wife and daughter in 2008 on a work visa after he purchased a motel in Kansas City, Kan., where members of his extended family lived. The family landed in deportation proceedings in 2011 after his visa renewal was denied, but because of court backlogs and scheduling issues, he said, they didn’t get their day in court until this summer.
“The Singhs are not lawyers and they don’t have a USCIS handbook. They fell in love with this country; they solicited legal advice and lawyers including me provided them with advice; they followed that advice,” Raj said. “The Singhs never ran, never tried to do anything false, tried to adhere with every single law possible.”
Singh has missed three Father’s Days, Elena’s 21st birthday and his 25th wedding anniversary, which he and Shashi celebrated in June over FaceTime with Champagne. Elena hopes her father will make it back in time for her college graduation in December.
Throughout the years, even before becoming separated from his family, Singh considered leaving the U.S. He could go to Russia, where he lived for 18 years and owns two apartments and an office. Or he could go back to India, where he owns more properties and recently invested in a grocery store chain.
But he feels trapped. Home, for his children, is California.