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Not that there's anything funny about the case of Kichul Lee of Federal Way, formerly of South Korea, who's been branded as morally unfit for U.S. citizenship.
The Alaska Airlines accountant, church volunteer and father was shocked when his application for citizenship was recently denied because he was deemed to lack "good moral character" in John Ashcroft's post 9/11 America.
And what was his criminal character flaw? A few months after Lee and his wife arrived in this country, they went on an outing to beautiful Dosewallips on the Olympic Peninsula where they'd heard they could gather oysters.
They didn't know there was a limit so they took a few too many. And when ticketed, they promptly paid their $152 fine and figured they were square with Uncle Sam. Later, they freely revealed the small misunderstanding when Lee applied for citizenship.
But the shell game was far from over. His application was denied.
Never mind that Lee and six others like him who are now part of a class-action lawsuit have been living in the Puget Sound area for years, paying taxes, doing charity work and observing the speed limits. In fact, they've been doing everything a citizen should do but vote, which they'd dearly love to do.
The "moral flaws" of the six others aren't funny, either. Openly and obediently, they provided the government with full disclosure about their relatively picayune previous convictions. One is a low-level domestic dispute involving a verbal argument reported by an apartment rent-a-cop. No slaps, no pushes involved. Another is a DUI years ago, resulting in no accident, injury or property damage. Still another was a single incident of negligent driving.
The suit claims all were unlawfully denied naturalization "by delay ... or mischaracterization of minor convictions as demonstrative of lack of good moral character."
Some of the others simply weren't told why they were found with insufficient ethics. Their cases remain veiled and interminably "under review" while the smudge on their character stays like a stubborn stain that never comes out in the wash.
Understand that none of these people is an illegal alien. All have been fingerprinted and scrutinized by the FBI. All have passed English, history and government tests that many natural-born citizens might fail. So, no, nothing about their frustration is funny.
Still, when I talked to Lee this week, I remembered the old borscht belt joke about the picky housewife who walks into the butcher shop and insists on sniffing the chicken. She sniffs it under the wings. In between the drumsticks. When she's still not satisfied it's fresh the butcher remarks, "So, Mrs. Levy. You could pass such a test?"
Nothing about this strikes Lee or his lawyer as amusing.
The standard ought to be good, not perfect moral character, attorney Bob Gibbs says.
Even the State Fish and Wildlife folks say they'd never intend a ticket for too many oysters to keep a good man from becoming a citizen. Still, the INS's definition of "good moral character" remains muddier than low tide at Dosewallips.
And the application process, frankly, smells fishy.
Applicants are told to provide all facts and paperwork regarding arrests, whether oyster or auto-related. But they're not told that they can also provide proof of good works and extenuating circumstances, Gibbs said.
"The local (immigration) people can only type in the name and it goes somewhere. No one seems to know where. You don't know who the Wizard of Oz is, back of the curtain, and whether or not he's asleep."
But something -- maybe Chris McGann's Page One story in the P-I last week -- may have just poked him awake.
Two of the clients in the lawsuit have already been sworn in as citizens. And Lee was called in yesterday to have his fingerprints taken again -- perhaps in case they've changed since the big oyster caper.
His case and three others have been pried open again. And he's holding his breath.
Lee's wife and 3 1/2-year-old daughter are already citizens. And Lee, 35, longs for the right to officially join the community. "I'm a person of good moral character," he told me, frustration in his voice. "I've never made any other mistakes."
He may get his wish by the Fourth of July. But no fireworks, he says. They're illegal. Besides, once he gets past this humiliation, "I want to become a citizen very quietly."
Meanwhile, until the statute is rewritten and the definition of "good moral character" undergoes some reconsideration by the U.S. attorney general, thousands of others will sadly, surely and quietly follow in Lee's sandy footsteps, picking up evil traffic tickets and immoral oysters as they go.
So, Uncle Sam. You could pass such a test?
Quote: So, Uncle Sam. You could pass such a test?
G.W. Bush - one (1) DUI Richard (DICK) Cheney - two (2) DUI's.
Only 2 of many Republicons... Democraps are no angels either... Don't forget that Silly Willie 'may have' raped one or more women. My points, in brief, are: How are any these people able to make 'moral' judgements?...and... Who say's that their morals are just?
-------------------- <~>Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake <~>
It's funny that Bush wants to give amnesty to illegal aliens, but if a legal alien picks one too many oysters...
-------------------- To call humans 'rational beings' does injustice to the term, 'rational.' Humans are capable of rational thought, but it is not their essence. Humans are animals, beasts with complex brains. Humans, more often than not, utilize their cerebrum to rationalize what their primal instincts, their preconceived notions, and their emotional desires have presented as goals - humans are rationalizing beings.
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