It’s been nearly four years since Artyom Sergazinov left the United States to return to his native Kazakhstan.
Sergazinov, better known by his adopted anglicized name, Archie, left voluntarily, although the Department of Homeland Security seemed hell-bent on physically placing him on an airplane and “deporting” him back to his homeland.
Why? Because he overstayed his visit by nine days, not realizing that to effectuate a change in status, which he was attempting to do, one had to physically leave the country, make a new application and then return.
He was given mixed messages from government agencies and charged with extending visas, advising foreign visitors, etc. In the end, he was told that it was up to him to know the laws, which I can accept, but when you are given erroneous advice from people expected to know those laws, the question of trust comes into play.
Nonetheless, a three-year ban on returning to the United States was imposed on Archie. Subsequent to the expiration of that ban, he traveled to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to meet with immigration officials at the U.S. Embassy to apply for a new visa.
He was denied. From what I recall him telling me, he was told it was too soon to reapply and that he offered no substantive evidence to convince officials he would return to Kazakhstan.
Well, sir, how about the fact he owns property and started and runs a business teaching English as a second language to Kazakhstani business leaders? Everything Archie has is invested in his country.
I suppose the refusal to grant him a visa had nothing do with the fact Kazakhstan primarily is a Muslim nation. We wouldn’t be talking “profiling” here, would we? And I wonder if Embassy officials are now scrutinizing Chechens a tad closer.
I had the privilege of knowing Archie, beginning with his brief first visit to this country in June 2006, when he arrived sporting short-cropped hair, an infectious smile and language skills most American teenagers would be proud to possess.
During his second visit from 2007 to 2009, I saw him become a responsible employee at Four Star Pizza. I saw him take his first big step toward independence when he rented an apartment and paid rent and utilities on time.
I enjoyed watching Archie discover America. I was always amazed at his skills and talents and oftentimes wondering how I would fare in his land, where just having a dream can mean survival.
I once asked Archie what he learned while staying in America. He said he learned that if you work hard, you can succeed at anything. He proved it as a successful businessman and entrepreneur in Kazakhstan.
We sent him another letter of invitation, along with a letter from state Rep. Pam Snyder attesting to the fact my wife and I are “honest and reputable” people. We can think of no better Christmas present than to have Archie return for a brief stay to his “adoptive” country. He has paid his dues and abided by the sanction. So, Mr. immigration official, don’t be a Scrooge.
Jon Stevens is Greene County bureau chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.