UMCOR attorney wins immigration appeal
July 14, 2006
The Rev. Paul Dirdak
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) — An attorney for the United Methodist Committee on Relief
has won an appeal from the nation’s highest immigration court for a native
of Guyana who is a U.S. citizen.
T.J. Mills, the attorney, said the decision was
particularly important “because
some people who have been deported to Guyana now may return to the U.S. as
UMCOR’s immigration ministries include Justice
For Our Neighbors, a national network of church-based, volunteer-led immigration
clinics that assist
asylum seekers and immigrants in navigating the maze of rules and laws that
affect their lives in the United States.
The Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR’s chief executive, said he is heartened by
Mills and other attorneys doing immigration work for UMCOR on a modest budget “who
take on the entire system on behalf of some extraordinary voiceless or silent
The attorneys “bring to the attention of the judiciary system” errors
or problems with interpretations of U.S. law, he pointed out.
Such work is carried out “in an organized, intelligibly clean way, insisting
on being heard when it is lawful to be heard and pursuing cases despite setbacks,” Dirdak
Mills’ client in the appeals case was Lawrence
Rowe, 30, born in Guyana to parents who never married. He became a permanent
of the United
States in 1986. The U.S. government initiated removal proceedings against him
in February 2005 and he had been jailed for more than a year.
For Rowe, the issue was “whether the respondent is entitled to derivative
citizenship because his paternity has not been established by legitimation
under Guyanese law…,” according to the June 29 decision issued
by the Board of Immigration Appeals for the Executive Office for Immigration
Review, U.S. Department of Justice.
Rowe claimed such citizenship under former Section
321(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, specifically the part stating
child born outside
the United States could become a citizen with “the naturalization of
the mother if the child was born out of wedlock and the paternity of the child
has not been established by legitimation.”
The appeals board found “it is undisputed that the respondent was born
out of wedlock and that both his admission to the United States as a lawful
permanent resident and his mother’s naturalization occurred prior to
his 18th birthday…”
After considering related cases and Guyanese law,
the Board of Immigration Appeals found that because his parents had never
paternity was not established through legitimation.”
The board agreed that he obtained citizenship when his mother became a naturalized
citizen and terminated the removal proceedings.
Two years ago, Mills won a case for a Burmese asylum seeker, Mang Hau Khup,
who had fled to Guam to avoid arrest for his activities as a Christian pastor.
Khup, one of a thousand displaced Burmese who were given a one-time visa waiver
to Guam, had initially been declared ineligible for asylum and sentenced to
prison by the U.S. government.
UMCOR secured his release from jail. A July 16,
2004, ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California directed the
to reconsider Khup’s
petition in light of “well-founded fear” of both past and future
While immigration reform remains a priority for
the relief agency, Dirdak noted that working within the current process of
is important. He
called the attorneys attached to the immigration clinics “some wonderful,
unsung heroes in the practice of the law.”
Contributions to Justice For Our Neighbors, which
operates in partnership with the denomination’s annual (regional) conferences,
can be made to UMCOR Advance No. 901285, JFON. Checks can be dropped in church
or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit-card
donations can be made by calling, toll free, (800) 554-8583.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.