Here legally for 12 years: Mel Trotter worker now facing deportation

Posted at 7:38 PM, Sep 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-24 19:38:39-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich-- It's a topic that's been discussed a lot in recent months: immigration and deportation.

While family separations continue at the U.S./Mexico border with people entering the country illegally, one man in West Michigan is hoping to stay here, after being in the U.S. legally for the past 12 years.

After high school, Theodore Tabiri came to the U.S. from Ghana and studied at Davenport University on a Student Visa. He eventually extended that visa, and received a Master's Degree in Technology Management before going on to work at Mel Trotter Ministries.

Now, after 12 years in America, and bouncing off various extensions, his student visa is getting ready to expire. And with thousands of people already in limbo, Tabiri says there's no real path to a longer stay for him.

“I am just on the edge. I’m essentially getting really close to the end of the line,” said Tabiri.

While his situation may be discouraging, according to Immigration Employment Lawyer, Susan Im, it's not uncommon.

“Theodore is stuck in a maze [and] limited to immigration laws that were created two decades ago, not considering today’s demographics and employers' needs,” said Im.

Im says the Trump Administration's Buy American, Hire American executive order from April 2017 doesn't help, because it established a new directive for HB-1 work visas to be given to the people in the best and highest paid positions. For people like Tabiri working in entry level positions, she and Tabiri say it doesn't do much good.

"If anything, it should be a merit and need-based system that looks at what people are bringing to the table,” said Tabiri. “I have a Master's Degree, I have no criminal record, I followed all the rules, I’ve done everything right, I’m bringing value.”

Even with Mel Trotter as a sponsor, the application process can be lengthy and expensive, costing nearly $10,000 for employers. Im says it's a lot of money to spend on workers many businesses are in need of.

"We could use them, companies could use them and we’re sending them home,” said Im. “Contrary to the myths, our clients hire all the U.S. workers they can, but unfortunately in the STEM field, like Theodore, with the engineers, robotics engineers or the highly specialized engineers, you can’t get enough U.S. grads.”

So for now, Tabiri is playing the waiting game while his case is reviewed. But after several policy changes threw past attempts in limbo, his options for a work visa are running thin. He can either marry, re-enroll in school or hope for the best from a visa lottery.

“That’s what he’s looking at. Those are his remedies under law,  otherwise he’s going back home," said Im.

By contrast, while Tabiri began working on a work visa with Mel Trotter in 2015, he told FOX 17 his brother who works in the U.K. waited only a week for his employer to obtain one.