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Friday, December 21, 2012

The closing days of a year often usher in hope and anticipation for what the coming twelve months will bring. And the final hours of December will no doubt fill many with celebration and reflection of all that has colored 2012. But in a recent piece for PBS Newshour, the changes in immigration law this year recently made writer Katelyn Polantz hearken back 40 years to singer John Lennon’s notorious immigration case that lay the foundation for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after Congress failed to pass the Dream Act this year (

In her piece, Polantz outlines the battles John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s immigration attorney waged to keep them from being deported in the early 1970s. Originally, Lennon and Ono had arrived on a visitors’ visa to try and track down Ono’s daughter, who had disappeared in the U.S. with Ono’s previous husband a year earlier. However, in 1972, Lennon and Ono’s visas had expired, and efforts to extend them were hampered by Lennon’s 1968 guilty plea to unlawful possession of cannabis resin back in the United Kingdom.

Lennon’s original visa had been obtained through a waiver of inadmissibility available for temporary trips. Lennon and Ono needed more time to search for Ono’s daughter, but Lennon was facing a tough political climate that seriously undermined his prospects. As a prominent peace activist, certain quarters in Washington felt that Lennon’s extended presence here could damage American war efforts in Vietnam by stoking public opposition to the war.

The case would eventually go to trial. The contributions of Lennon and Ono to American arts and the humanities to support his case were considered, as was the fact that the government had gone after Lennon because of his political activism and challenged certain elements of Lennon’s original conviction in the U.K. However, the central argument of the case focused on 1,800 files that showed the government had discreetly granted a form of deferred action to others.

The case was eventually won in an appeals court in 1975. It laid important groundwork for the deferred action against 1.2 million undocumented aliens currently living in the United States.

Nearly four decades after Lennon’s case concluded, the immigration law community is still fighting for reform. The political climate has perhaps never been more receptive to such reform on a bipartisan basis. Will comprehensive immigration reform finally arrive in 2013? Millions are full of hope and anticipation. But for now, we must sit, wait, and imagine…

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