May 26 Damnitalltohell!!! Where is your prince in shining armor when you need him? My first instinct, as always when I panick, is to look for help, preferably in the form of a tall, well-built olive-skinned Iranian man that I am hopelessly in love with months after we broke up. Will I ever learn to stand on my own two feet?
Well I guess today is as good as any other day. Ali wasn’t home when I placed my desperate call to him telling him in mumbled tones, in between drags of cigarettes and hysterical sobs, that my friend Artie had been taken into I.N.S. custody. I don’t know how Edmund and I did it, but we managed to find our way to the El Centro I.N.S. Detention Center, where we had been told Artie was being kept.
On the way there, I asked Edmund to fill me in on this situation but he doesn’t really know anything except that something was “fishy” with Artie’s status. I thought Artie was as American as pumpkin pie. I mean, he has immigrated over from Armenia when he was 3 years old!!!
I close my eyes and try to see if I remember anything, anything at all, from my days as a paralegal in my former boss Mr. Grolpy’s immigration law office back in New York. But how do I know if any of that stuff is valid today. After 9/11, they changed so much stuff, so many new laws and regulations, what help am I really gonna be?
When we get to El Centro, we find out to our dismay that our friend has been transferred almost immediately after his arrival there. We probably missed him by minutes. They took him to Lancaster, just north of Los Angeles, since it is closer to where he lives.
By the time we get there of course visiting hours are over. No choice but to return first thing in the morning. Edmund and I both decide we will not let Artie’s parents know about the situation until tomorrow morning. No reason to get them all upset throughout the night.
May 27 After a night spent tossing and turning, and waking up in a cold sweat or my stomach in knots, Edmund and I are at Lancaster. Although we called Artie’s parents to let them know of the situation, we decided against bringing them there because you never know. I am not sure exactly what the situation is and I don’t want Artie’s parents to join him in his cell.
When I see Artie, his face is pale and his eyes are bulging out of his sockets. This poor young man, whose only crime is indulging in too many Barbra Streisand movies, has been put in an overcrowded cell with strangers, some with criminal records, awaiting their deportation. God, what am I gonna do? I can’t bear the thought of poor Artie spending another night in this place!
— “Artie what happened?”
— “I don’t know exactly Naz…,” he sighs. “I think when my parents got here, they didn’t speak any English or whatever. Ummm… I believe they got someone to help them out with, some lawyer or consultant or whatever. Apparently, my dad even got his employment authorization. The guy helping them kept telling them everything is okay and they believed him. Then one day he disappeared with all their money as well as that of dozens others. Ever since then, they have been too afraid to inquire into their real immigration status. Guess they figured, if it ain’t broke… “
— “I know the rest… “
Knowing that each precious minute counts, I leave so Edmund and Artie can talk in private. I decide to ask for the supervising officer, but apparently he is not in. Great! Reluctantly, Edmund and I say goodbye and we drive to the home of Artie’s parents.
There, with the help of Edmund’s translating skills, we get them to hand over whatever documents they have left from years ago. After a quick glance, I figure out that Artie’s dad filed for political asylum but when the charlatan who was supposed to help them fled with their money, the application was deemed abandoned and Artie and his family are now considered fugitives.
From Artie’s family house, I call the detention center and ask to speak to the officer so I can straighten this out.
— “Hi Officer, I -“
— “Hold on!”
I am put on hold for what seems like an eternity. To add insult to injury, they put Celine Dion on their freaking phone system.
— “Yes?” a grumpy voice barks into the phone after a few minutes. Not an auspicious beginning.
— “Hi Officer, I’m calling on behalf of Artaches –”
— “Say that again????”
— “A-R-T-A-C-H-E-S… “
The officer grumbles something about these crazy eye-ranian names, ironically enough. He is not far off. Iranian, Armenian, Uranian, what’s the difference after a while for the INS?
— “So?????” The officer growls.
I try to explain my situation.
— “Officer” I plead, “He was only an infant at the time his family was ordered deported! And they were the victims of a con-man”
— “Tell it to the judge” He barks then actually has the nerve to hang up on me. I never thought I would long to hear Celine Dion’s voice.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Now I remember why I left the legal field. I explain to the best I can to Artie’s parents that I need to go before a judge to let Artie out but that I don’t know how long it will take before they release him, at which Artie’s mom basically crumbles down onto the floor, wailing uncontrollably and beating her chest. My own eyes fill with tears. Just then, Edmund’s cell rings. We all hold our breath, hoping it is Artie. But Edmund shakes his head and hands me the phone.
— “Naz, what happened? Are you all right?”
My heart skips a beat. It’s Ali. At the same time a light bulb goes on in my head. I may not have been sure exactly what I needed from him when I called him. It was almost a reflex. Panick and call Ali. But now an idea begins forming in my head.
— “Ali, you still have your contacts at CNN?”
— “Naz?… .” He tells me in that “Desi catching Lucy in the middle of another disaster” tone of voice, “What are you planning?”