File puptcrit/puptcrit.0503, message 133


Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 12:48:14 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
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Subject: [Puptcrit] Fw: Turkish Puppeteer


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Subject: Turkish Puppeteer

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<H1 align=left><A name=article1></A>Strings Attached: Pending deportation threatens Turkish <BR>puppeteer=92s bonds with United States</H1>
<P align=left><IMG height=300 src="http://www.vermontguardian.com/images/local/Puppeteer.jpg" width=200></P>
<P align=left>By Kathryn Casa | Vermont Guardian</P>
<P align=left><EM>Posted March 18, 2005 </EM></P>
<P>BRATTLEBORO =97 It was in the rubble of the World Trade Center that Caglayan Sevincer became part of this country.</P>
<P>Sevincer was a Turkish immigrant living in Connecticut on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were hit. As thousands fled New York in panic and police shut down access to Ground Zero, Sevincer headed straight into the maelstrom.</P>
<P>=93Why? Because I couldn=92t be anywhere else,=94 he said last week. =93I didn=92t think I would be able to sit home and watch TV. I felt that I had to be there and help in some way. I couldn=92t just sit and watch it happen because I knew I could be useful.=94</P>
<P>By the time he got to the city, only emergency responders were allowed to enter the gaping wound at the heart of New York=92s financial district, so Sevincer wandered the downtown streets until he stumbled across a Salvation Army storage unit with people scurrying to load boxes onto trucks. He asked if he could help, and was told to return at 4 a.m. When he did, they asked for ID, gave him a Salvation Army nametag, and put him into a van bound for Ground Zero.</P>
<P>Sevincer spent the next nine or 10 days distributing energy drinks, food, and fresh socks to emergency personnel. The environment, he said, was like a parallel world, where =93everything was quiet, in slow motion. The color was different, the smell was different. I didn=92t feel the time.=94</P>
<P>When he finally emerged, he said, =93I went through this complete stripdown as far as identity. I wanted to make myself part of the community through language, art, social work.=94</P>
<P>The experience became a defining moment of Sevincer=92s 20-odd years. Afterwards, =93I knew myself,=94 he said, =93and I knew what it felt like to be an American.=94</P>
<P><STRONG>Not that simple</STRONG><BR>The problem is that Sevincer is not a U.S. citizen =97 at least not on paper. In 2001, he had already overstayed his student visa by a year.</P>
<P>Caglayan (pronounced Cha-leon) Sevincer, 31, worked for an Istanbul theater company as an actor, puppeteer, and stagehand before coming to New York in 1997 to study English. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Connecticut to continue his studies, but found it financially difficult to remain a full-time student =97 a requirement of his visa.</P>
<P>=93I kept full-time as long as I could afford to, then dropped down to part-time, then back to full-time again. It took me three years to study the language, and as soon as I had a good grip of English I started taking art lessons, teaching children art and theater. That was my main intention, to learn more about theater.=94</P>
<P>Sevincer=92s puppet artistry blossomed, and in the summer of 2001 he was offered a job as third puppeteer with a southern Vermont company. That fall, he moved to Brattleboro, where a thriving arts community welcomed him with open arms.</P>
<P>=93This art form is not one you find everywhere,=94 said Inez Zeller, co-founder of the Sandglass Theater in Putney. =93He contributes a lot in this country to the art form. His specialty is marionettes =97 puppets on string =97 an even more intricate art form which I don=92t think that many people do anymore.=94</P>
<P>Sevincer became an active member of his new community. He taught deaf children at the Austine School, and his puppet performances drew crowds of enthusiastic theatergoers. But his illegal immigration status needled him. So early in 2002, unbidden, he called immigration officials in St. Albans.</P>
<P>=93I was looking for resolution. I wasn=92t going to try something fake=94 like seeking refugee status or a marriage of convenience to a U.S. citizen, he said. The officials told him that he would be summoned to court within a month to begin the process of determining whether he could legally stay. =93I didn=92t hear from them for more than a year, so I called again, and they said just wait.=94</P>
<P>After a year and a half of no news, Sevincer drove back to St. Albans and finally, in February 2004, the U.S. immigration machine kicked into gear. But because Sevincer refused to contort himself into a politically acceptable immigration category, such as political asylum, after three hearings there was little hope.</P>
<P>His friends in Brattleboro gathered nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition urging the judge to let him stay, and collected money for his legal defense fund. They rented a van so that 25 of them could accompany Sevincer to his fourth and final hearing in Boston. VIPs =97 from the town manager to state representatives to Vermont=92s congressional delegation =97 wrote letters in his favor. </P>
<P>But at the hearing, Sevincer=92s bid for a special visa reserved for aliens with =93extraordinary ability=94 failed. He had exhausted his legal avenues. The only hope, the judge told him privately, was Congress.</P>
<P><STRONG>Private relief</STRONG><BR>According to U.S. immigration law, any member of Congress may sponsor private legislation for permanent resident status of an illegal immigrant =93when strong equities exist and other relief is not possible.=94</P>
<P>Such bills are rare and extremely difficult to pass when they are introduced, said Ruth Spivak, an immigration specialist with the Washington Lawyers=92 Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.</P>
<P>But Sevincer=92s hopes were buoyed earlier this month when a popular Boston high school teacher facing deportation to his native Ivory Coast got a 17-month extension, thanks to a private relief bill sponsored by Sen. John Kerry, D-MA.</P>
<P>Like Sevincer, Obain Attouoman had broad community support, from his students and others. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, wrote to the Homeland Security secretary that =93the unique and impassioned effort by these students to convey to our government the important contribution of Mr. Attouoman certainly demonstrates the impact he is having as a member of our education community.=94</P>
<P>Public support in that case was critical, said Chris Nugent, a member of the community services team with the Washington-area law firm of Holland & Knight.</P>
<P>Last year, just five private relief bills passed Congress, Nugent said. In Washington=92s current political climate, the only glimmer of hope for such bills comes from =93major public outcry and a public campaign,=94 he noted. Skittish about expending their political capital, members of Congress =93need to see it as a matter of significant importance to constituents.=94</P>
<P>=93It=92s ironic, because there is a greater need than ever for compassionate treatment of exceptional cases because the law is so restrictive,=94 Nugent added. =93Yet the private bill process is one that is used so sparingly.=94</P>
<P>=93You turn to private bills when there is nothing left, but it seems meritorious,=94 said Alan Pampanin, the Cambridge immigration attorney Sevincer was able to hire with donations from his friends. =93That=92s when you go to a congressman and say, =91We need your help.=92=94<BR>Supporting a pair of private relief bills in June 2000, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on which he sits, =93We should continue to be attentive to this issue =97 these should not be the last private relief bills we report during this Congress.=94</P>
<P>But despite his earlier letter of support for Sevincer, Leahy will not attempt a private bill, according to the senator=92s spokesman, David Carle. Sevincer =93unfortunately does not meet any of the criteria spelled out under the law for =91cancellation of removal,=92=94 Carle said, referring to a last-ditch legal maneuver that can stop deportation. =93The circumstances of this case also are not favorable for a private relief bill.=94</P>
<P>Vermont=92s other senator, independent Sen. James Jeffords, =93hasn=92t sponsored private relief bills, since doing so would mean having to favor one Vermonter=92s need for such relief over another=92s,=94 said spokeswoman Diane Derby.</P>
<P>A spokeswoman for Rep. Bernie Sanders said the independent congressman =93did not comment=94 on Sevincer=92s case.</P>
<P>Ever the optimist, Sevincer still holds out hope for an 11th hour reprieve. Just as he felt he could be =93useful=94 at Ground Zero, he said he still has more to offer the country he wants to call home.</P>
<P>=93I think I represent the cross-cultural person. I can be the middle person between two cultures. =85 And I think a middle person is needed even more after September 11 because misunderstanding of other cultures is the source of the problem,=94 he said.</P>
<P>Sevincer acknowledges that, legally, he should have returned to Turkey when his visa expired in 2000. =93But I didn=92t feel I was ready to go back. I hadn=92t done what I came do to, at that point. Legally, yes, I should have gone back. But what is the meaning of coming to America?=94</P>
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