Closed Door Policy

A Chilean national's struggle against deportation raises fundamental questions about the constitutional rights of immigrants

Fuchslocher liked Chile, but says it was very difficult to go to school and pursue his judo interests at the same time.

"When we got here, we started from bottom. I mean, we didn't have anything," he recalls.

Fuchslocher volunteered at the local Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA, teaching judo, and his high school friend Bobby Hunt got him a job where he worked, at the Chili's restaurant at 20th Street and Camelback in Phoenix.

There, Fuchslocher bused tables and washed dishes. And met Jennifer Mehall, a waitress.

Eventually, he, Bobby and Jennifer all took jobs next door at Coyote Springs Brewing Company, a microbrewery/restaurant. There, Fuchslocher worked just about every position in the place.

Oscar and Jennifer began dating.
Was it love at first sight?
"No, I didn't even like him when I first met him," Mehall says, giggling. She's sitting in the living room of the Fuchslochers' small house in Phoenix. The home is ramshackle, but in a whimsical way. Outside, the paint is peeling, and the winter lawn never really came up, but the inside is full of fat candles and throw pillows. Clean white drapes hang from curtain rods fashioned from tree branches.

Mehall recalls Fuchslocher's first days at Chili's.
"He used to work in the kitchen, and there was a garden hose that they'd spray down the entire kitchen with. And I was out working one night . . . and I come back to the kitchen--my hands were full, plates everywhere--and he takes out the hose and just starts spraying."

Slowly, Fuchslocher's obnoxious behavior turned goofy and fun, and the two became friends. Then they went to a George Strait concert, with dancing afterward.

"That was the first time I knew that he was it, finally," she says. "After our first date, he kinda moved in."

She laughs. "One tee shirt at a time."
They lived together in an apartment for about a year, then bought their house together in late 1995. They had discussed marriage for months, and then one day Mehall came home from work exhausted, and fell asleep in the bedroom.

"When I woke up, there was a ring and a rose, right by the bed," she says.
They were married January 22, 1996, by a justice of the peace, with family and Bobby Hunt present. With the end of Fuchslocher's stay of deportation looming, Mehall filed with the immigration service for recognition of their marriage, which, she thought, would allow Oscar to stay in the U.S. It was granted in May.

When immigration officers started showing up that summer, Oscar went to live with a friend, while he tried to fight his case through INS' administrative channels.

Then one day INS found Oscar at home.

Since that day--October 24--Oscar Fuchslocher has resided at the Immigration and Naturalization Service Processing Detention Facility in Florence. "Processing Detention Facility" is just a fancy way of saying "jail," but Fuchslocher is glad he's not up the road at the Arizona State Prison. Or back in Chile.

If Fuchslocher hadn't misplaced his passport--he says he couldn't find it when INS came calling--he would have been sent south immediately. But his deportation was delayed while INS officials sought travel papers from the Chilean consulate in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Patsy Kraeger had time to intervene.

In November, she sued INS on Fuchslocher's behalf in Federal District Court. Kraeger secured a temporary stay of deportation from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will last until his appeal is heard.

That won't happen until March.
The food's not so bad in the detention facility, Fuchslocher says during an interview the Friday before Christmas. He's been reading Anne Rice novels, and has passed the time by ripping the black nylon cord from his underwear and socks. With the cord, he crocheted small crosses for his wife, Jennifer, and friend Bobby.

Fuchslocher is the four-time national judo champion of Chile, but he wouldn't dare practice his passion in the immigration lockup. That would be asking for a fight. He lifts weights, plays chess, and waits.

Across the dank hallway from the tiny cubicle where Fuchslocher sits for an interview, someone has scratched "FUCK THE COUNTRY USA" into the malt-colored paint. It wasn't Fuchslocher. He's not angry. Confused, maybe, but not mad.

In the six years he's lived in the United States, Fuchslocher has become fluent in English. He's far from dumb. But like most people, he has difficulty comprehending the byzantine structure of INS, let alone the nuances of recently passed American laws. All he knows is that he doesn't get to wake up next to his wife.

If Fuchslocher is deported, he will be barred from returning to the United States for three to 10 years, Kraeger says. The waiver that would allow him to return quickly is very difficult to secure, she says, and if he's deported, there's no guarantee he would be granted entrance into the country again. Ever.

Certainly, there is no guarantee Oscar Fuchslocher will not be deported, even if he gets to argue his case before a district court judge. But he says all he wants is his day in court.

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1 comments
Dumoudan
Dumoudan

Is this law Racist? Does it specify brown people?Are the people who agree with this law racist?Are those who want this law enforced racist?The law says nothing of little "brown" people but it explains what is illegal entry. It's not very hard to understand. Why is this law "broken"? Why can it be selectively ignored?Illegal alien includes all people who entered illegally, could be Croation, Russian, Chinese, Irish, Canadians and yes even Mexicans. No one single race or people is referenced in the law. Under Title 8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code, "Improper Entry by Alien," any citizen of any country other than the United States who:Enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers; or Eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers; or Attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact; has committed a federal crime.Violations are punishable by criminal fines and imprisonment for up to six months. Repeat offenses can bring up to two years in prison. Additional civil fines may be imposed at the discretion of immigration judges, but civil fines do not negate the criminal sanctions or nature of the offense.Gordon could never understand this and has cost Pheonix and surrounding cities hundreds of millions to support the education, health and welfare of these illegal immigrants.

 
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