John Lennon was a founding member of the Beatles whose immigration case became the foundation for what is known today as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. On this episode, we examine Lennon’s immigration battle and the court ruling that eventually led the Obama administration to release DACA as an executive order.
History of DACA
John Lennon’s Deportation Proceedings
Leon Wildes and The Deportation Battle
Lennon, Obama and the Legal Basis of DACA The Future of DACA
Find the full article and more
Dave Kelso: Hi, welcome to OnlineVisas.com, the immigration show. I'm your host, Dave Kelso, here with CEO of OnlineVisas.com, Jon Velie. Jon, how are you today?
Jon Velie: I'm great, Dave. How are you?
Dave Kelso: Well, I'm excited about today's show because today we're going to talk about one of my very favorite musicians, John Lennon, and how his immigration case became the foundation for a bit of immigration news that we've been talking a lot about lately, DACA and the DREAM Act.
Jon Velie: Okay.
Dave Kelso: I was reading at OnlineVisas.com, your blog, about the House of Representatives having passed three pretty major pieces of immigration legislation. One, is to extend TPS status to Venezuelan citizens, and before we get too farther into this list, I want you to tell me what TPS means.
Jon Velie: Temporary Protected Status. It's for people, citizens of countries that are going through a really rough time as Venezuela is-
Dave Kelso: Clearly is.
Jon Velie: ... as Vietnam has. So Venezuelans would then have a basis to come up and reside in the United States. That is a significant piece of legislation.
Dave Kelso: I understand there's about 150,000 eligible Venezuelans living in the United States right now. Is there any chance that they're not going to be granted TPS?
Jon Velie: Yes. The House of Representatives is just one of the prongs of Congress, and all of these bills that have been passed by the House now have to go to the Senate. We've seen that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is not only trying to keep these things from going in, he's blocking them from even going up to a vote. So as of right now in the political climate we're in, there may be no TPS for Venezuelans or no new DACA Act or any of the other legislation that Congress or the House of Representatives arm of Congress has been passing.
Dave Kelso: Now the House of Representatives did, to quite uproarious applause, 237 to 187, the chamber apparently erupted into "Sí se puedes", which means "yes we can" in Spanish. But the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, the DREAM Act, was passed.
Jon Velie: Right.
Dave Kelso: Right, and that relates to DACA, and I think I know a little bit about this, but I'd like for you to kind of clarify my understanding. Tell me first what the DREAM Act is and how it relates to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Jon Velie: So that's what DACA stands for, Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals. What deferred action means is that these people that came in as children came in usually without entry, and what I mean without entry is they didn't come in with visas. But many have come in from Mexico or the southern border illegally, and so the deferred action is to defer the action of deporting them.
Dave Kelso: Right.
Jon Velie: Right, and to not deport them if they came in before the age of 17 and filed it before they were 31, and there are some other parameters. They can't have committed crimes, they have to have graduated high school or gotten their GED, applied to be in the military draft, all of those types of things.
Dave Kelso: Productive members of society kinds of things.
Jon Velie: Right, and many are in college and stuff like that. There's almost a million of them that received DACA benefits under the Obama Administration. Now, interestingly, Congress did not pass the DREAM Act in the first place, and that's what created DACA.
Dave Kelso: Back during the Obama Administration.
Jon Velie: During the Obama Administration, and that was an executive order, so it was not passed as a law through Congress. It was not a bill that became signed into law, so the Obama Administration said under its discretion, it could have Deferred Adjudication. It did not have to deport people.
Dave Kelso: Now I understand President Trump is trying to end that policy.
Jon Velie: And President Trump has said that he would. He hasn't yet and could have. I think part of the problem is there's a million productive people that are working for American companies and they would be deported. So it doesn't really make a lot of sense to strip that benefit away just because – it's a political football for either party, but that's kind of where we are.
Jon Velie: Interestingly, to segue into John Lennon, it was John Lennon's arguments and how he got through the deportation process that was the basis of the Obama Administration.
Dave Kelso: We're sitting talking with Jon Velie, the CEO of OnlineVisas.com, and we have been discussing the new DREAM Act that the House of Representatives passed just the other day, and how it relates to John Lennon and his immigration case.
Dave Kelso: Now I know that back in the early '70s through about the mid '70s, John Lennon, founding former member of the Beatles, was going to be deported. He had been arrested on some pretty basic charges, small drug charges in England, and they were going to throw him out, I think essentially because they didn't like him. Now the battle raged on from there.
Jon Velie: Well, let me back up and explain a little bit about the nuts and bolts of that.
Dave Kelso: Okay, great.
Jon Velie: Okay, so John Lennon entered into the United States on a B1/B2 visa in 1971.
Dave Kelso: Now what's a B1/B2?
Jon Velie: That's a Visitor Visa, right?
Dave Kelso: Okay.
Jon Velie: And so that's what you can use to come into to the U.S., to watch a Beatles concert or to go to Disneyland or to see your uncle Joe, on a Visitors Visa. So Lennon was deported in 1972 with quite a fanfare. They came to his house and filed papers and stuff like that. Now one of the reasons was, this is 1972, the Vietnam war doesn't end until 1973, and John Lennon, a British citizen, is on the United States soil singing music about ending the war, and he became one of the most vocal critics of the United States' involvement in Vietnam.
Dave Kelso: And a very powerful spokesman for the antiwar movement.
Jon Velie: Totally, right. And so John Mitchell, who we later learned was Nixon's attorney general during Watergate, was the big proponent of getting rid of John Lennon. "Why do we want this foreigner here stirring up trouble," getting all of our people excited about these anti-American thoughts? Strom-
Dave Kelso: We like being excited, don't we?
Jon Velie: Strom Thurmond was the Republican congressman, or senator, actually that was against Lennon as well. And, you know, John Lennon was not loved by everybody in the government that was trying to wage this war in Vietnam, so they're going to deport him. Now the basis of the deportation was on a possession of marijuana resin.
Dave Kelso: Yeah.
Jon Velie: All right, so that's very little. In U.S. immigration law now, a basis of deportation can be for possession of narcotics. The only exception is if it's marijuana and it's less than 30 grams, so he would have been under that exception, but they were going after him anyway.
Dave Kelso: Because they didn't like him.
Jon Velie: They didn't like him. They wanted to get rid of him. So his lawyer, a man named Leon Wildes... Now, Leon Wildes has become a folklore-
Dave Kelso: Hero.
Jon Velie: ... status because of the John Lennon case. One of the funny things that we know as immigration lawyers is in 1971, I think when, or maybe it was in '72, when John Lennon went to Leon's office... Now this is after the Beatles have already even broken up, it's after they played the Shea Stadium in 19-
Dave Kelso: '64.
Jon Velie: ... '64 and released Sergeant Pepper's and all of this stuff, The White Album, all these things. Leon Wildes didn't know who John Lennon or the Beatles were.
Dave Kelso: No. My mom knows who John Lennon was.
Jon Velie: Well, the lawyer that saved John Lennon didn't.
Dave Kelso: Wow.
Jon Velie: Right. So that's kind of a funny thing. Anyway, what he did was he came up with 1,800 cases in which the United States had deferred from not deporting somebody for some basis.
Dave Kelso: Deferred action.
Jon Velie: Right, so that is what the basis was of the Obama Administration in creating a policy that the President of the United States and his agencies, USCIS being one of them, Homeland Security, ICE, all of the immigration-related ones, do not have to deport someone if they don't think they should.
Dave Kelso: Just because they can doesn't mean they have to.
Jon Velie: Right, and so the argument that John Lennon's attorney, Leon Wildes, made to the court was, "Here is 1,800 instances where somebody wasn't deported," or deported just because they could be deported.
Dave Kelso: I like deported. That's a good word.
Jon Velie: Yeah, I know-
Dave Kelso: That's a good word.
Jon Velie: ... which is invented language here today-
Dave Kelso: Strategery.
Jon Velie: ... on the Immigration Show. Yes, we did. So what was all so interesting is that why was John Lennon wanting to stay in the United States? Well, he's married to Yoko Ono, and Yoko-
Dave Kelso: Whether we liked it or not.
Jon Velie: Might have been the reason the Beatles broke up. But Yoko was estranged from her husband and they had a daughter named Kyoko, and apparently her husband had run off with the daughter, and they needed to stay in the United States to find her and fight for her possession. So there was a big reason besides John Lennon just being here singing-
Dave Kelso: And upsetting the war apple cart.
Jon Velie: ... songs about the United States to stop fighting wars in Vietnam. So anyway, the judge was sympathetic to it. It took a lot of determination and a lot of court hearings and very-
Dave Kelso: A whole lot of litigation.
Jon Velie: ... A whole lot of litigation to end up with this result, which he was not deported, and then lived in America until he was-
Dave Kelso: Until he was shot.
Jon Velie: ... and killed, but-
Dave Kelso: So essentially the argument that Mr. Wildes made on Lennon's behalf is, 'just because you can doesn't mean you should.'
Jon Velie: Right.
Dave Kelso: Or it doesn't mean you have to, and that you've done it before. Obama and his folks took that to apply to these kids who had been brought to this country illegally as children who were productive citizens.
Jon Velie: Right.
Dave Kelso: I noticed that you said that they had to be college graduates or GED or high school graduates. They had to be working noncriminal members of society. So why would you end a policy like that?
Jon Velie: Yeah. I mean, it's a tough thing. I mean, in our country, immigration has become a political football.
Dave Kelso: Yes it has.
Jon Velie: There are some that say that circling the immigrants and saying these are the bad guys is what makes Americans feel better. If things aren't going for them, they can blame somebody, and immigrants have become that blamed group in our country. Ironically, we really need immigrants.
Dave Kelso: Amen.
Jon Velie: If you think about it right now, the Baby Boomers more and more are exiting the workforce every year of retirement, and so it's not just bad jobs that we need immigrants for, we need them for all jobs. Our tech industry, we have to import that talent. We do not have enough people graduating with STEM-related degrees-
Dave Kelso: True.
Jon Velie: ... to be able to do the type of work for Apple and Microsoft and others to be at the top and do that in the United States. I mean, with tough immigration, they're having to leave the country. So immigration is a good thing. Bringing over good people creates jobs for other people, but right now that is what's happening in our country, and it's really dividing down the lines of that.
Jon Velie: Now, what DACA was about was creating a policy around Deferred Adjudication for people that it wasn't their fault that they came to America this way.
Dave Kelso: Right, that they were brought here, and many of these kids have never lived any place but the United States.
Jon Velie: Correct.
Dave Kelso: A lot of these kids don't speak Spanish-
Jon Velie: Correct.
Dave Kelso: ... because they've been brought up here. The bill that the House passed would grant DACA recipients with Conditional Permanent Resident Status for up to 10 years, and I would think that that would increase their economic productivity, not having to worry about being deported. I would think that that would save us a ton of money in deporting people that frankly we want to keep here.
Jon Velie: Right.
Dave Kelso: There's no chance that this is going to make it through the Senate though, is it?
Jon Velie: Well, it doesn't look like that. It's a political year. Immigration is very much in the center of what's dividing the country politically. It's dividing on partisan lines that way and it really shouldn't be. Immigration is beneficial to Republicans that own companies that need people to work at their companies in various ways. Those people are parts of communities. Any of them can be Republicans too. There's all sorts of incidents of Republicans being deported, or we should say citizens who married someone from another country and they may be Republicans being deported. We've got all sorts of deportations, a high level of former military veterans-
Dave Kelso: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jon Velie: ... that have been deported as well.
Dave Kelso: Foreign combat veterans being deported.
Jon Velie: Foreign combat veterans being deported, so it doesn't have to be political. It just has become political. I really would like to see the dialogue change from the fear of an insurgence across southern borders, to the benefit that having the United States as the leader in the world's economy being able-
Dave Kelso: The shining city on a hill.
Jon Velie: Yeah, being able to recruit the best people from around the world to come and work here. And the United States... and as an immigration attorney, I get to talk to people every day from around the world, and what it reminds me is there is no better place, no better country in the world that anybody can make it. Not everybody does, but you know-
Dave Kelso: Anybody can.
Jon Velie: ... anybody can. Many countries are limited to the success you can have, but here, a good idea, some hard work, some money, there's all sorts of different ways you can immigrate to the United States. There's all sorts of very sophisticated processes that we help folks with, whether to invest in a company under the L1 or E2 or EB5 visa. Whether to come over as a professional under the H-1B or the TN or E3. Whether to come to school under the F1 or the N1 and migrate into our workforce that way after kind of acculturating is a very, all the processes we have and that's what immigration is all about.
Dave Kelso: A chance to make it in the country where anybody can make it. If you have questions about immigration status, if you are a DACA recipient and have questions about that, or need to talk to a qualified, experienced, and great immigration attorney about any of the entire alphabet worth of visas, drop Jon an email at OnlineVisas.com. Jon, thanks for your time today.
Jon Velie: You're welcome, Dave. Hey reminding you guys to subscribe to our podcast or like us and spread it on Facebook and LinkedIn and all these other things. And anybody who wants to talk to me for a strategy session on your immigration matters, we'll break it down. We'll talk to you about your particular situation, whether or not we think you can make a visa or what it would take to qualify for a visa, how long it will take, and what it will cost. Please go to OnlineVisas.com and set up an appointment. We'll see you next time.