Nov. 3, 2004
|A UMNS photo courtesy of David Arnold.
Arnolds are urging Congress to pass a special immigration bill that
would allow people like their daughter Maggie (center) to obtain a
A UMNS Feature
By Steve Smith*
into the United States from China six years ago so she could get a good
education, Maggie Arnold earned straight A’s, finished as valedictorian
of her high school class, led her student government at college and
amassed a résumé full of academic awards.
adoptive parents, the Revs. David and Candace Arnold, both United
Methodist pastors in Central Pennsylvania, are as proud as a mother and
father can get.
Maggie, 19, may get kicked out of the country or forced to return to
her homeland, all because her entry into the United States six years ago
was not documented.
Arnolds, who adopted Maggie legally four years ago when she was
attending high school in their town, are urging Congress to pass an
immigration bill solely for her or to renew provisions that would allow
people like her to obtain "green cards" allowing them to stay in the
country. They also want the government to approve her amnesty petition.
"I hate to think of abandoning my dream I had since I was a little girl — that is, becoming an educated person," says Maggie.
am very scared because I don’t know what’s going to happen to me if I
do have to go back," she says. She is concerned about her education, her
safety and her ability to practice Christianity.
Maggie, a junior math major at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., is
deported or leaves on her own, she must live in China for 10 years
before applying for re-entry into the United States.
Arnolds and their supporters are focusing on an immigration policy,
which expired in early 2001, that would allow undocumented immigrants
like Maggie to become legal if they have U.S. relatives, are offered
jobs that U.S. residents cannot fill, or pay $1,000 fines. In 2001,
Congress was debating whether to renew the policy, but the terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon shoved the issue aside as
lawmakers launched a war on terror.
doing everything we can to make sure she’s able to stay in the
country," says David Arnold, pastor at Rockville United Methodist Church
in Susquehanna Township. His wife is associate pastor at First United
Methodist Church in Mechanicsburg. "If they come after (Maggie), they’re
going to have to take me first.
immigration people are running all over the country chasing bad guys
and have bigger fish to fry than a 19-year-old Chinese girl who is a
straight-A student in a Christian school, a valedictorian of her senior
class in high school, and a leader of her student government in
far, immigration officials have not threatened to deport Maggie, but
without proper documentation, she cannot work legally in the United
States or gain admission to the country’s top graduate schools.
Wanting a good education
Maggie, born Qiao Qi Jiang, was 12, her biological parents in the small
coastal village of Fuzhou paid smugglers $40,000 to $50,000 to sneak
her into the United States so she could get an education not afforded
women in the communist country.
the arm of a woman posing as her mother, Maggie landed in New York
City, only to wind up dumped in the city’s Chinatown. Concerned about
being stuck in a Brooklyn school unable to speak fluent English, Maggie
got her parents to reach relatives in the United States, who hooked her
up with the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Perry County, Pa. The
Arnolds served as pastors in the area and patronized the eatery
clergy couple became impressed by what they called Maggie’s sweet
nature and hard work. The owner told them about her plight, and soon the
shy girl asked the couple to adopt her so she could remain in the
United States to pursue her educational goals.
months and a ton of "prayerful consideration" later, the Arnolds
legally adopted Maggie; her birth parents had consented to signing away
Arnold says, he, as a father, is deeply concerned about his daughter’s
future. "To even think of all that she has gone through and to finally
find a family who adopted her, loved her and to face having to give all
of that up is truly depressing," he says. "Maggie needed a family,
needed somebody to look after her. This is the hardest working, most
driven person I’ve ever met."
meanwhile, says her meager upbringing and limited opportunities in
China have made her grateful for the outpouring of support from U.S.
am thankful to those who have tried all their ways to try to keep me
here," Maggie says. "At the same time, I like to thank God the most, who
has always been present with me."
‘A lot of Maggies’
Trebilcock, an immigration attorney in York, Pa., has been retained by
the Arnolds to push Maggie’s case through the legislative labyrinth. He
warns that if immigration officials begin deportation proceedings
against Maggie, she’s as good as gone.
immigration laws, people who enter the United States legally — such as
on visas — but later become illegal when their stays expire, can become
legal residents through relations to American families. Not so for
Maggie because she was smuggled into the country — unless Congress takes
special action, Trebilcock says.
are a lot of Maggies out there who are excellent people and being
forced into the shadows," he says. "During the past two years, most
congressmen and senators don’t want to touch immigration issues with a
10-foot pole. In the eyes of the American public, being soft on
immigration and pro-immigrant could be construed as being soft on
terrorism. I don’t see the logic in that because the country was founded
adds that he’s "cautiously optimistic" that something will happen in
Maggie’s favor as the debate over immigrants cools.
people look at these situations, they need to look at the cost to the
country by keeping somebody as talented as Maggie out of the mainstream
and fearful of her future," he says. "In the United States, she can
contribute amazing things to the future of this country, and we should
be seizing on her talents."
*Smith is a freelance writer residing in Dallas.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.