In Defense of My Citizenship

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I was born on August 26, 1973 and I grew up in Bhalche, Nepal, a very remote area—it takes two hours to walk to the closest town. In Bhalche, 98% of the people don’t go to school.
At 15 I moved to Kathmandu so I could learn about the societies of other countries. One of my friends there was a trekking guide, and I became a porter carrying 100 lbs a day. We worked early in the morning at 5 a.m. to climb mountains that were 16 thousand feet tall. It was so cold that spit turned into ice.
I did that for 3 years, and made friends with people who spoke English. I talked with tourists every night for two years. After this, I was able to communicate in English and was promoted to trekking guide. At the same time, I would go to Bhalche and help my community through the Nepali Congress Party, teaching youths about democracy.

I went back and forth to Bhalche but unfortunately, since 1996 the Communists took over Nepal in 2000, and I couldn’t go back anymore. Young people were kidnapped and recruited as Communists. Maoists spread all over Nepal because of the lack of education. I couldn’t go back home for security reasons. It was very dangerous. One time I was stopped by a Maoist, who tried to take money from me. I was almost killed in the trekking area because I refused. My friends gave him money, and I was let go.

I applied for a tourist visa to come to America, and in 2004 I filed for political asylum. I got recommended approval asylum and waited eight months. I came here by myself, leaving my wife and two kids in Kathmandu. I was scared of being denied. After a year, I finally received asylum. After that, I filed for my wife and kids and called the Nepali embassy every day, but there were huge protests in Nepal and they directed me to India, who said my family was still pending for their visas. I didn’t see my family for 18 months. I went to Thailand to visit them and my son didn’t even recognize me. He kept asking my wife, “Is he my father?” Several months later, my family was approved and we settled down in America.
Then I applied for a green card. Some people got one in six months. Mine wasn’t approved after a year. Agents couldn’t do anything, so I contacted Congresspersons in Los Angeles, who told me my status was pending in the Texas Service Center because of background checks. Six months later a government agent told me it was because I was allegedly helping Communists. The Texas Service Center thought that the Nepali Congress party was a terrorist organization when it’s really a democratic party! I don’t understand why they thought that. Maybe because they never went to Nepal.

It seemed that I went everywhere to get help and I couldn’t get any. I contacted Canal Alliance, a nonprofit in San Rafael, for help. They said I could meet with a lawyer and then Ted from the Asian Law Caucus emailed me.

When I met Ted I could tell he was very intelligent and smart. I told my wife that Ted was young and aggressive—the kind of attorney who gets things done. He asked me to send another letter to the government, and they replied that my application was still pending because of national security background checks. Ted said they didn’t know what they’re doing. We filed mandamus action for a federal judge to order the immigration agency to make a decision within 30 days. I was really nervous asking the government to decide—it depends on their mood.

On July 17, 2009, I checked on the website and I saw that I was approved. I couldn’t even think; I couldn’t say anything for awhile. Then I screamed my wife’s name—I was so happy. My wife and kids ran into the room and I told them. They were so happy. I called all my friends, and in a couple of days I got my actual green card in the mail. Ted called the DOJ attorney, and in a few days my family’s green cards were approved too.

I am really appreciative of the Asian Law Caucus and Ted. Without them, my green card may have taken 10 years, 20 years or maybe never. When I didn’t have a green card I worried every single day about being deported. It changed my life—I’m so happy now. I still help Bhalche—two months ago I built two schools there. Right now in Nepal I have a nonprofit organization called Nepal FREED (Nepal Foundation for Rural Economic and Educational Development) to help build schools in rural Nepal. So many people helped me here in America. I never thought someone would do that for me, and it was really unbelievable. I really encourage other people with pending applications to contact the Asian Law Caucus for help. You should not be afraid to file mandamus action. Don’t be afraid to fight for justice—believe that you’ll get it when you fight for the right things.

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