Atanas Entchev is an immigrant to the US who is currently penning a book about what he calls “[his] family’s 18-year US immigration ordeal.” He is currently blogging excerpts from the book. Atanas’s story is a poignant reminder of the harshness of immigration restrictions and the climate of fear they create. Atanas is a recognised leader in his field of geospatial studies, one of his clients being the US government. He was legally present in the US for most of the last 20 years — but because of a legal snafu in 2011, he became eligible for deportation. He and his son were arrested and held in custody for over 2 months, facing deportation proceedings.
The Free Atanas campaign published a fairly comprehensive (if obviously sympathetic) summary of why his family was facing deportation, and why they were seeking prosecutorial discretion. Atanas and his son were detained in the autumn of 2011, making them one of millions of victims of the Obama administration’s heavyhanded immigration crackdown. Obama purports to have targeted threats to public safety and prioritised them for deportation, but as far as one can tell, there is no real reason why Atanas and his family were prioritised.
After a campaign mounted by people who knew Atanas both personally and professionally, he and his son were freed at the government’s discretion, with permission to remain for 1 year. Information on why the government did this is scarce, though it probably helped that a Congressman and Senator signed on to the petition for Atanas’s release.
I’ve written before about the absurdities of immigration enforcement, and Atanas’s case is a perfect addition to the list. Atanas and his family lived legally in the US for 2 decades. He so thoroughly integrated his family into the US that his son, despite holding Bulgarian citizenship, speaks no Bulgarian. He became eligible for deportation because his lawyer made a mistake, and immigration law offered him no way to correct that mistake. Then he was prioritised for deportation for reasons unknown, detained, and then released, also for opaque reasons. What way is this for government to make decisions that literally turn people’s lives upside down?
Atanas is currently seeking a literary agent to help him get his book published. It looks like he’s been slow to release much on his blog, so I hope he gets around to publishing. It looks like it’ll be something worth reading.