Look at me. I, a poor weak girl far away from home with none of my countrymen beside me, yet I find my strength in God to give voice to this sensitive issue. Centuries ago, my ancestors came to the United States in search for something better. Together with millions of Europeans they built farms and factories, creating a wealth for everybody. For 11 months I have been incarcerated at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center because I am European. I was charged with a petty misdemeanor on state level but was never allowed to attend my own trial and no public defender was available to talk to. A couple of months later I wrote them a letter and the case was dismissed and my record erased. Nevertheless, ICE saw it as an opportunity to create a reason to arrest me and put me in prison, without any federal charge, trial, time or defender. They referred me to an attorney, except it clearly stated that attorney doesn't represent incarcerated immigrants. Yes, you have rights but we are not going to let you exercise them...
I was a graduate student in Organizational Change and Development at Hawaii Pacific University with the majority of my Masters Degree completed with A's, but transferring my Swedish credits took a year to expedite. A waiting time that made it impossible to register for spring 2011. But I have a valid passport, a valid visa and a valid I-20 together with several letters stating our indifferences and promises from their part to solve it. Yet, the Immigration Judge didn't receive these because I wasn't allowed to send them and when I finally could fax some of it at the same time the hearing was held through a monitor in handcuffs at prison, he just piled them into one document without reading them and ruled by default for Volunteer Departure. HPU promised to pay for the ticket, but never confirmed neither with me nor with Kathy Makaena at ICE before the last date for VD. I appealed.
Altogether I have spent about 50 000 USD in Hawaii for my tuition, room, board, books, airfare and insurance 2005 and 2010, through a Swedish studentloan and I still have not even gotten a transcript of the classes I attended, passed and paid for. When I complained to the former president of HPU, Chatt Wright, he said: "Why don't you just complete the same classes again because it would be so easy for you?" I said I don't want to pay for classes that I don't need for my degree. He then said: "Well, the Swedish Government pays for everything anyway." No, it doesn't. My studentloan is a personal debt, a life commitment, with mandatory duedates where ever I live.
In the United States money is all that matters. In Sweden, the academic records are based on grade levels, not the size of our pocketbooks. Since I couldn't register I became uneligible for more studentloan, as well as scholarships and wasn't allowed to start the on-campus job I was offered, unless I paid HPU another 6000 USD first, regardless for which classes. Since it is obligatory for foreign students to be full time registered, the universities can use it as an excuse for poor academic advising and have conveniant cash-cows while threatening us of deportation if we don't comply with new conditions they set upon our arrival. I filed a federal lawsuit against Hawaii Pacific University during spring 2011 and contacted ICE-investigations myself, who assured me that I was not going to become deported and allowed to continue the process both with court and USCIS. They just didn't communicate with ICE-ERO or the Immigration Judge about it. Why was I, and thousands of others, in prison for civil matters?
Now my morale character is being questioned by BIA and 9th Circuit. I didn't work illegally but sustained my living during spring and summer 2011 through the gracious support of Oahu churches for my rent and Hawaiian hospitality by dozens of "strangers". I owe it to them to finalize what I came for. The US have more crimes than any other country in Europe per capita. We found our morale characters on centuries of historical and evolved values, often carried out through the lifelong commitments and education by our monarchs, who are ethical rolemodels and the gathering neutral force in times of crisis. Our politicians focus on their job and less on their personas. The US politicians throw pies in each others faces and invade countries based on a perceived superiority that is nothing but hypocricy since a country advocating democratic peace wouldn't increase and idolize its military. How can you evaluate my moral character when your standards are so much lower than mine?
I have met many local Hawaiians, who struggle not only financially but also professionally with their landrights, socially with their identity and lack of collective goals. Hawai'i is rich in its potential in becoming a peaceful, sustainable, diversly integrated model for the rest of the world, if, and only if, the true native Hawaiian values are resurrected and carried out with proper respect for the environment, people and life itself.
My paternal great grandfather worked in Kauai as a successful botanist in 1783. That was before the US even had a constitution and long before the US illegally overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom. By this I can not help but wonder, if the US is unlawfully present in Hawaii, who has the right to deport whom?
I didn't come here to talk politics or have anything to do with the US Government. I came here to finish my degree, start my own business and perhaps through the grace of God my own family, so why don't you let me?
My English is learned in New York, my figure is inspired by Paris, but my heart is Hawaiian.
(Inspired by Princess Kaiulani's speech in San Francisco. Picture borrowed through Google.)