|Ken Sah sits with his son Kunal after the boy won the southeastern Utah regional spelling bee in Green River in April. The family now faces deportation back to India.|
Immigration has been a hot topic lately and Emery County has its own immigration story which has become a nightmare for the Sah family of Green River. They have been ordered to leave America by July 1.
Ken Sah is from India and has been in America for 16 years. He came to the United States as a student in 1990.He studied and graduated with a degree in aviation-engineering from a college in Oakland, Calif.
"I looked at America as the land of opportunity," he said. "I liked it here. I liked the history of the country. I decided to stay. I applied for an asylum in 1991 while still in college. I was already married to my wife Sarita, but there were those that said if I married an American I could stay. But, I couldn't do that because I was already married."
Sah said it took 10 years before he had a court hearing on staying in this country.
"What can you do? In 10 years time I had to work and earn a living. We worked hard night and day until I had $100,000 saved to put on a down payment on a motel in Green River," he stated.
He and his wife came to Green River in 1997 and purchased the Budget Inn, which he operated for a long time with no help.
"In 2001, we built a new hotel, the Ramada Inn. We are also co-owners of another motel in North Carolina," he stated.
"Ten years is a long time to wait for a hearing If it could have been decided in a couple of years that would have been better," said Sah. "But 10 years? We have built a life in America. Now they have denied my asylum. They said I could go back to India."
Sah is very concerned about his son, Kunal, who is an American citizen.
"He was born in Oakland in 1993. He has never known any place but America," states Sah.
"My lawyer appealed my case to a higher court but it was denied. I am now at the end of all the administrative avenues. I have no place else to go. I have sent faxes and emails to Pres. Bush at the White House. I have had no response."
He says he has been working with Senator Bennetts office to help him.
"I would need special legislation written now just for my case. The politicians seem unwilling to do that. The president could also offer me asylum. I just can't get a hold of anyone to help us," he says. "Everywhere I have met a dead end. We have been scared for the last five years. My wife, Sarita, cries every day. I try to console her, but I feel terrible, too. If I had done anything wrong it would be different. But for the past 16 years I have been involved economically in the country. I have a social security number and have been paying taxes."
Sah says he has written to Governor Huntsman but that the state office tells him it is a federal issue.
"I have seen on the TV where Gov. Huntsman adopted a baby from India. He is a nice man and has saved a child's life. But, what about me? What about my son? Could the governor try to help me? I need someone to lead me to the resources who could help."
Sah says that a couple of weeks ago the immigration department came and took the families passports away.
"They said we can have them back when we have of the country."
He says because of their situation there would be a 10 year ban before they could reenter the United States.
"My son Kunal doesn't want to leave. He doesn't know India. His life is here. He is an American."
Kunal Sah recently won the regional spelling bee run by Scripts and sponsored by the Sun Advocate/Emery County Progress.
"My son is a very intelligent boy. He is a good student," said Sah. "He will be competing in Washington D.C. on May 31 and June 1. While we are in Washington, I hope I can contact our senators or congressman for an appointment to tell my story and get some help so we don't have to leave. At first the political people were very hopeful and positive with me, but lately they have just said they are unable to help and I have been left completely alone."
Sah says he has not slept well for the last five years. But he still is positive about what could happen.
"I still feel that something good should happen. We don't deserve this. This shouldn't be happening to us."
Local people have been supportive of the Sah family by sending letters to politicians and officials. Local officials have also tried to help, but so far to no avail.
"I have tried to keep a positive attitude through all of this. I have had a work permit all these years and have always been legal. I have not been illegal and if I leave by June 30, I will be OK and not arrested. It is sad that someone like me who has been here so long is being forced to leave. I have trusted in the rules and regulations and tried to do everything right. It is harder that way, there are many who look for loopholes in the system. After 16 years, I am still trusting the system."
The family is occupied full time at the motel especially during the summer months. But, sometimes when it's slow during the winter the family gets away for some family time.
"Kunal is an American kid, we took him to Florida to Walt Disney World," stated Sah.