By Stan Crader
I bid farewell to a friend today. After spending 10 years trying to become an American, Hiro Inoue will return to Japan. "America is a great country," he told me today, "but there's something wrong with your immigration laws." I couldn't agree more.
Hiro first came to America during the summer of 2000 on a study abroad program. He fell in love with America during that summer and talked his parents into letting him enroll in a boarding school. Hiro turned 14 that year.
He studied hard in boarding school because he wanted to attend an American university and get a good education, a job and citizenship. With excellent grades he essentially had his choice of universities. He chose Colorado and earned a degree in computer science.
I first met Hiro after landing in Boulder during a trip to Estes Park. A small fellow approached my plane. "Sir," he said, "would you mind if I looked at your airplane?" We introduced ourselves. Hiro bowed slightly. At that time he'd just begun to take flying lessons and was a fresh, curious aviator.
There was something about him that intrigued me. I asked for his e-mail address. On the next trip he met Debbie and me for lunch. During lunch he told us of his journey from the first summer of 2000 until the present day. That lunch took place in 2008. Since then we've hiked several trails and flown the portions of the Rocky Mountains together.
Hiro is the kind of person that one wants to help succeed. He's easily described as one who is optimistic to a fault. He just knew that eventually he'd be in the right place at the right time and gain citizenship. Countless people assisted him in a number of angles on gaining citizenship. I made contact with every person I knew in Washington. Hiro hired an immigration attorney. Every attempt failed.
He has completed his studies in Colorado and has earned several flying certificates. His education and work visas have expired. After 10 years he's leaving America, the country he loves, to return to Japan. You see, Hiro wouldn't dare remain here illegally. "That would be wrong," he said, his Japanese accent barely perceptible.
After speaking to Hiro I thought about the immigration debacle that plagues our border states. And I thought about the notion that so many illegal immigrants may be granted amnesty. This weekend, a 24-year-old computer science engineer will weep as he boards a jet for Japan. Through the tears he'll be smiling. That's Hiro.
"I hope to someday return," were his final words today.
I agree with Hiro. There's something wrong with our immigration laws.
Stan Crader is a Jackson resident.