In 2007, during the administration of President George W. Bush, my 54 year old son in-law was arrested by the INS, as it was then called, on the charge of having over-stayed a visitor's visa 30 years earlier.
An honorably discharged veteran of the Israeli Army, he had come to the U.S. to tour around, met and married my Texas-born daughter and remained.
At the Plano, Texas DMV where he and my grand-daughter had gone to get her a driver's permit, his accent created suspicion, records were checked and his name came up. On the spot he was taken away, imprisoned for six weeks and deported back to Israel. At the time the mother-less child was told that if no one came to collect her, she would be sent to a children's shelter.
The sad story made the front page of the Dallas Morning News, shocking readers that a local businessman had been treated like a criminal and not even allowed to return home to organize his affairs. That he was living the immigrant's dream, owning a home, running a successful business and participating in the community was a major irony.
When I arrived on the scene, I found an immigration attorney who did little on our behalf and what's worse did not inform me when an immigration judge would hear the case. We were helpless, but not as helpless as all the frightened and impoverished men and women vegetating in the detention center where my son-in-law was sent prior to his exclusion. Located some 200 miles from Dallas, it was a frightening place as criminals were mixed with people who had been apprehended at the border.
We were relieved that this middle-aged man survived the menacing environment. Today he lives in Tel Aviv where, now that more than a decade has passed, he is eligible to apply for a visitor's visa to the United States. Needless to say, the desire is not there.