Filmmaker - Musician - Photographer

this is more important than you know...reading will mean the world to me

The blog you are about to read is not written by myself; it is written by my best friend and roommate Ryan Conner. Ryan's family is among the most welcoming people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I have known most of his family since I was in the 6th grade and they have always treated me like one of their own. The wonderful thing about them is that they would do the same for any of you.

Ryan's family needs help....fast. Please read the blog in its entirety. Its very long, but this is one of those times when I need for us to not be lazy and really take in whats happening to them. If you can't help them, then please read this anyways. Its a great lesson on how corrupt our system can be and how thankful we should all feel for what we have.

Thanks:

Q.Ledbetter

I was minutes away from writing a blog of funny observations, until I just received a distressed call from my mom. Instead, I'll be writing about something that is important.

It is very important to pay attention to what our government does. Many are apathetic, which is appalling, as its actions have consequences for all of us. Many who aren't apathetic only read the headlines. It is to those people that politicians use buzz-words and propaganda, namely fear-mongering, to get their vote.

Several issues of the day I find absolutely offensive. Because if everyone would just think through them, instead of acting on instinct, out of fear, then they would not be issues at all. These are all humanist issues, such as health care and immigration.

Let me just say that I've had at least nine friends serve in Iraq. One was killed. What happened this morning offends me much more. The pandering to a political base has hurt my family deeply, and possibly gravely.

Before I get into details, allow me to state that I'm not blaming this issue on the president himself. He cares deeply about the issue. The problem is that he seems to be the only person in his administration who has a conscience on this matter. And his isn't strong enough to speak out against the position of his party during an election year, when pandering equals votes.

I have 11 brothers. My parents are very compassionate people. They adopted four of my brothers at the same time, three and a half years ago. Their plan was to adopt a girl, but they saw four siblings, the sons of a drug-addict and prostitute, who were scared that they would be split up. My parents couldn't accept that. On the spot, they said they wanted to adopt all four. They didn't think about how they would raise another four kids at their ages. They only thought about how they could save these kids' lives. They have succeeded in doing so.

I have one biological brother, two step, and one half. I'm not going to talk about them here. Just wanted to straighten out the math for you. Here is a picture of all but one of us.

My other three brothers are Asian, as you can see from the picture. The shortest and lightest is Phong. He was a Vietnamese immigrant. He grew up in Saigon in a well-to-do family. When given the opportunity to immigrate, he came to the United States, while his mother went to Belgium. The other short Vietnamese brother is Ut. His story is very long, heart-wrenching and inspiring. I'll abbreviate, because this isn't about him. He lived in absolute poverty, in a village on the east coast of Vietnam. When he was 10-12, his mother paid a man to take he and his brother and sister to a refugee camp in Thailand. They were captured soon-after by the Viet-Cong. Facing execution, my brother escaped and navigated the Vietnamese jungle, by himself, bare-foot, until he arrived in Thailand and was directed to a refugee camp. Two years later, my family would welcome him as one of us. That was February 2, 1988. Now, 20 years later, he's an American citizen, an owner of a small, prospering business, and is proof that the United States is a great country.
Phong and Ut were introduced to my family through a great organization called Catholic Charities. Through the same organization, my parents also sponsored four entire Vietnamese families in their immigration to our country. This involved the families living with us, usually for a couple months each, until the kids were in school, the adults had jobs, and they could find a house of their own. We would continue to spend time with them over the years. One of the families had four kids. Two were 5-year-old twins, Thai-An and Than-An. The older siblings graduated from Virginia Tech. One is a mechanical engineer. The other works in biotechnology, I believe. Thai-An and Than-An were high-school valedictorians, and are now attending UVA on academic scholarships. If they didn't come here, they would have lived out their lives in thatch huts. Once again, proof that we live in a great country.
The taller Asian brother in the picture is Dong. He is Chinese. I've never been asked the question, but if someone was to say, "Who are your heroes or role-models?" I would have to respond that they are Ut and Dong. What my parents have done in changing so many lives is admirable, but I see it as doing what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to look out for other people. I don't see it as extraordinary, only right. Everyone should do it. Ut and Dong have overcome long odds, and have accomplished things that are absolutely awe-inspiring.

During the summer of 1994, Catholic Charities rang again, saying they had three Chinese refugees who didn't have a home. My parents offered to take care of all three until homes were found for two, and to take care of one unconditionally. Dong was the one who stayed. And I'm glad. I couldn't have asked for a better brother.

The only problem with Dong's immigration was that it was illegal. He was only 15-years-old, and didn't know it was illegal. Nevertheless, he was deemed a criminal. A child criminal who made no illegal decisions himself.

Illegal immigrants come across our borders from Latin American countries every day. Sometimes they are deported. And sometimes they return. That's because although they live in impoverished countries, at least their countries are free. Their countries do not punish them for wishing to lead a better life. This is an aside, but instead of building a fence, why don't we use that money to help bolster the Mexican economy to make their country a place that everyone doesn't want to leave?

Although the US government treats all illegal immigrants the same, they are not the same. Mexicans swim the Rio Grande. If they make it, they get whatever job they can find, and they are able to provide for their families. Immigrating from China isn't as simple. Blackmarket organizations offer to send people to the US legally, offering all the necessary paperwork. It's only $20,000 USD, which is a small fortune in China. Dong's Chinese parents desperately wanted him to live a life free of Chinese communist oppression. They wanted him to have basic human rights. So they sent him to the US, after a down-payment of $10,000. The only problem was the astronomical interest rate on the remaining balance.

Dong and I shared a room and were in the same grade. When he arrived, he spoke less than 10 words of English, but read a few more words. He didn't find it acceptable to not be able to read English, considering that school would be starting up in two months. So, he borrowed a John Steinbeck novel from me, either Of Mice and Men or The Pearl. I don't remember which one. And he sat there for hours each day, Steinbeck in one hand, and an English-Chinese dictionary in the other, until he finished the book in time for school. I have never seen anyone show so much dedication to bettering themselves. I wish it inspired me then as much then as it does now.

Dong was in ESL classes, except for math and health/p.e.. He was only 15, but knew calculus. They don't offer higher math in ESL. He got straight A's. He read every day. He did whatever he could do to better himself.
During this entire year, he was dealing with INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services, now ICE), trying to sort out his immigration status. The sad part is that had he come from a different oppressive regime, he would have been granted political asylum immediately. However, due to our trade with China, we will not grant political asylum to Chinese immigrants.
During the summer of 1995, Dong was notified that his parents had fallen behind on the payments, due to the interest. Dong was given an ultimatum. Come work for them, or his entire family in China would be murdered. Sounds illegal, right? There is no prosecution of the human trade organizations in China. And conveniently, none in the US either. He had no choice but to work for them to pay off his debt. With the same calm that he has demonstrated through every step of his naturalization, he left to work for the this organization in The Bronx. For the next three years, his lawyer would continue to work for his Green Card, while he was a slave in NYC. My family could do nothing but sit back and wait.

I talked to him almost every week that he worked in the Bronx. Along with about 12 other people in the same position, Dong worked in Chinese restaurant for 18 hours each day, 364 days a year. He had New Year's Day off. They slept in a studio apartment above the restaurant. The apartment was dead-bolted from the outside so that no one could escape. Dong would find time to sneak away to a pay-phone at night to call my parents and I. He always sounded like he was in good spirits. Even when he got robbed at gunpoint, which happened multiple times, once just after getting off the phone with me. The first year, he even sent me a birthday card from his slave quarters. I still have it.

After three years, his debt was paid off, however he was still kept as a slave, unable to leave. When he was assured that his family in China was safe, he planned an escape. He called my parents around 8pm, and asked them to pick him up in Times Square at 1AM. I guess he figured that if he held a camera, he would fit in in Times Square and the people holding him captive wouldn't find him.

Upon returning to Northern Virginia, he immediately got his G.E.D. While his naturalization case continued, he went to college. Unable to acquire loans because of his status, he paid for it out of his pocket. He excelled and got every networking certification imaginable, including the top Cisco certification, which at the time would have landed him a starting salary around 125K. However, due to his immigration status, he wasn't able to get that job. Unabated, he continued to study everything about networking. He studied for hours every day, preparing for when he could actually use his skills. I didn't even understand the titles of some of the books, and I was studying Computer Science at George Mason at the time, albeit only for a semester.
In 2002, due to the immigration crackdowns after 9/11, a deportation order was issued. He had not committed a crime. He paid taxes. Got an education. He wanted to be an American, but was denied.

His lawyer filed an appeal. As the appeals process started, our Congressman, Tom Davis, pushed for and successfully got a Green Card for another constituent in the exact same position. My mom and Dong wrote to him. His reply stated that he had already done it for one person and that should be enough.

I haven't yet stated the importance of Dong not being deported. This is the issue. If he is sent back to China, he will be obtained, tortured and executed for treason. That's why this is so important. My brother did nothing wrong and is facing a possible execution if the US government, to whom he has paid taxes for years, doesn't stand up for him.

After being rejected by Tom Davis, my mom wrote to a Congressman who had been a family friend for about 40 years. This guy, Virgil Goode, used to be a good person. Now, if you Google him, you'll see that he's probably the most hate-filled, intolerant member of Congress. Another Congressman, Mark Kennedy, from Minnesota, tried to help. He was a great guy, but was unable to do anything because Dong wasn't his constituent. He said Davis had to be the one to do it. He even talked to Davis, but Davis refused. So, Mark Kennedy:1, Davis:0, Goode:0.

With no Congressional help, it was time for Dong's case to go to trial. On the morning before the trial, his lawyer was murdered. His body was later found in Rock Creek Park. Everyone knows who did it (I'm sure by now you do too), but the case was marked as "unsolved." The trial was delayed.

The appeal had been processing for years. Everything looked great when President Bush presented his immigration reform proposal. It would have provided Dong with a Green Card, which would spare his life. However, the Republican establishment would have none of his proposal. It was dead on arrival.

Then McCain and Kennedy co-sponsored reform that would have done the same thing. It did not get passed either, due to receiving no Republican support in the Senate, other than Hagel, McCain, Specter, Lugar, and I think Olympia Snowe. Not enough to override a filibuster.

My family was devastated when this legislation didn't pass. But a few months ago, it seemed that it didn't matter. Dong was granted a worker's permit, which was sure to lead to a Green Card. I can't say that I was ever more excited than when I heard that news.

Now that the campaign is in full-swing, even McCain has turned his back on illegal immigrants. It is shocking. And with orders from the top, the Department of Homeland Security has begun to deport illegals at alarming rates, a sure election-year tactic. Dong seemed to be in the clear, because of his worker's permit.

My mom called [yesterday] morning with different news. Dong was arrested at his house at 6AM by DHS officials, and taken into custody. He called my mom and told her not to worry about him. He insisted that everything would be fine. We all know what will happen if he's sent back to China. The US Government knows. Anyone who wants to know, knows. South Park did an episode about this. The information is out there, but ignored.

Not only was he taken into custody, but they won't tell him, or my family, where he'll be held, for how long, why, or anything. All they'll say is that his earlier deportation order trumps his work permit. My mom hasn't been able to speak to any DHS official, only voicemail. Dong wasn't able to speak to his lawyer directly. But the lawyer was given the order to do whatever he has to do.

The irony of this is that there are millions of American criminals in this country. There are countless Americans who hate the country. There are tens of millions of Americans who don't know how lucky they are to live here. They take it all for granted. There are also thousands of illegal immigrants who are criminals. Millions of illegal immigrants don't pay taxes. Dong was arrested this morning because he does everything by the book. That's how DHS knew where he was. He pays taxes. The government knows who he is and where he is, because he pays taxes. He never hid anything because he's trusted the government to do the right thing. Dong does everything a citizen should do, and he's been prosecuted, while the murderous [human trade factions are free to roam as they please].

This could have been prevented if the Republicans in Congress had followed President Bush's lead and passed immigration reform that was in the best interests of humanity. Instead, my brother, Sun Tao Dong, an example of what all Americans should strive to be, now faces a possible execution. We are a government that speaks out against political imprisonment, but are aiding and abetting to a political murder. All this because of politicians who would rather win the votes of intolerant ethnocentrists, than serve the better interests of all people.

If you know of any media outlets that can bring this story to light, then contact me either on myspace (www.myspace.com/qledbetter) or at my personal e-mail, qledbetter@gmail.com

If you cannont help, then take this as a lesson that it is important to not let the wool get pulled over your eyes.

If you read all of these words, then I thank you. I means the world to me and I'm sure the same goes for Ryan and his family. If not, then I can understand. It is our nature to overlook matters like this, but just know that until we realize that WE are the ones with the power situations like this will continue to lead our country further into corruption.