Glenwood man, daughter face deportation
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Mick Birch says he only wanted to start a new life in Colorado.
But now, a two-year-old divorce stands between him and the good graces of United States immigration officials.
Birch moved to Colorado with his now ex-wife in 2002 after she got homesick living with him in Darwin, Australia.
The couple and his daughter Natahlia, 12, moved halfway around the globe, applied for permanent residency status, and settled down in Glenwood Springs.
The divorce has now changed his life dramatically, and he’s now about to be deported, he said.
Birch finds himself caught in an immigration system that, he said, has little sympathy for immigrants whose spouses divorce them before their permanent residency paperwork is processed.
Birch has a few unhappy words for an immigration system that he said is badly broken.
“By the time I leave, four or five thousand more (illegal immigrants) will be coming across the border,” he said. “Everybody cheered when they knocked down the Berlin Wall, but this country’s putting up a fence. In Australia, we put up a fence to keep out the dingos. Here, they put up a fence to keep out the illegals, but it’s not working. I just don’t understand the immigration policy.”
Born in England, Birch emigrated to Darwin, Australia, in 1970, where he lived for 32 years until he married an American woman he met online. With a green card in hand, Birch and his wife moved to Colorado in 2002. She served as his American sponsor, and was able to help him file paperwork for permanent residency.
By 2004, when Birch filed his final papers for permanent residency status, his wife left him and filed for divorce. During an interview with an immigration official, Birch explained the divorce, but the official didn’t believe him, he says.
“He thought that I just got married to enter this country,” Birch said. “I was stunned.”
It took more than a year for his permanent residency status to be denied. Despite that he had ” and still holds ” a job as a quality control officer with a Carbondale-area construction company, he was unable to work legally, he says.
Now, Birch is stuck. He’s being threatened with deportation, but he and his daughter want to remain here with his new fiancee, whom he plans to marry before he leaves. She will serve as his new sponsor to get him back into the country next year.
To stay and work in the United States legally, Birch has to refile his permanent residency paperwork and wait in Australia until it’s approved.
“We’ve decided we’re going to go down and apply for voluntary deportation, which is crazy because we sold everything to be here,” he said.
Birch has no family or property in Australia and hopes to stay with friends while he’s waiting to be allowed to return to the United States. He said he’ll have to start from scratch back in Darwin, only to be uprooted once again if he’s allowed to return to Colorado.
“It defies logic,” he said. “Here’s a guy that’s working, paying his taxes, not a drain on the system, not a drain on welfare. We’ll ship him out, and let a few others come in and take his place.
“If you come over illegally and don’t have a paper trail, then basically, you’re quite safe,” he said. “That’s the point I want to get across, is the fact that if you do everything legal, it’s a case of, well, see ya.”
Michael Defensor, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, said immigration scenarios like Birch’s are extremely complicated, adding that it’s difficult to comment without knowing the specific case in question.
Once Birch applies to be a voluntary deportee at the end of August, he’ll have 120 days to leave the country.
This time next year, he hopes to be back in the Roaring Fork Valley. “This is the place where I want to basically let my daughter grow up,” he said. “She’s doing well in school. She loves it here.”
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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