Dallmer’s wife and son are in Ireland. Neither separation nor divorce are behind their present predicament. This, he is quick to say, is a close and loving family.
“I’ve had my family stranded in Dublin for the last seven months due to my 8-year-old son Adam’s immigration status,” Dallmer said.
Dallmer’s family is an expanded one. His marriage in September 2000 to Heather Costello, a Dublin native, was a second I do for both.
Dalmer, who works as a computer analyst for Lockheed Martin, had two daughters by his previous marriage. They live with their mother but he sees them often.
Heather brought Adam into her marriage with Keith.
“He has become my son in every sense of the word,” Dallmer said.
The newlywed couple, who lived in Sicklerville, N.J., gave birth to a second son, Harry, in December 2001. The family was taking firm root. But there was a problem that would soon manifest itself in the worst possible way.
At the outset, however, everything appeared to proceed smoothly.
Dallmer hired an immigration attorney with a view to making his wife and adopted son’s presence in the U.S. entirely legal and above board.
“My wife and I retained an attorney after our wedding so that we could navigate through the process of getting Heather and Adam legal status and eventual citizenship,” Dallmer said. “He had advertised himself as an immigration expert and we had no reason to believe otherwise.”
At first, matters proceeded smoothly, though not quickly. Speed is not the habit of the immigration and naturalization system and that has been even less the case in the aftermath of 9/11.
Last year, with Heather now about to secure a temporary green card and in possession of a temporary travel documents, the Dallmers decided to visit Heather’s family in Ireland, where they would hold the christening of their new son.
By this time, Heather had not seen her parents in almost two years. The only problem was that Adam’s temporary green card had not arrived in the mail.
“Our attorney stated that his was in the works and that this sort of stuff was to be expected,” Dallmer said. “Just before Heather was granted her temporary green card, we traveled to Ireland to have our new son christened and we returned without much fanfare. There was a burp, but we thought it was rectified and we arrived back home as a family.”
Last June, however, Keith and Heather received word that her father was not doing well. She decided to fly back to Ireland to see her father and help out.
“Since my wife was in between jobs as a preschool teacher and had the summer off, we arranged to have Heather and our sons spend six weeks in Ireland with Heather’s family.” Dallmer said.
It was on the return trip to the U.S. that the issue of Adam’s still-not-fully-resolved immigration status became a serious problem.
At Dublin Airport, a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officer discovered the discrepancy and barred the boy’s reentry into the United States.
Dallmer acknowledges that the INS officer was technically correct with regard to his son’s lack of proper status. But he believes that the treatment meted out to his son was “ignorant and cruel.”
Now in something of a state of shock, Dallmer contacted his congressman, in this case Rep. Robert Andrews, a Democrat representing New Jersey’s First District.
Dallmer couldn’t have been happier with the response. Andrews’s office intervened immediately and the INS approved Adam’s paperwork in less than 14 days.
Then word came from both the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Dublin that the young boy’s paperwork would be expedited.
“But then nothing happened,” Dallmer said. “I called the congressman’s office looking to see what was going on, and they could not find anything out. Finally, in late December we discovered that his paperwork had been lost.”
After that, according to Dallmer, the situation only got worse.
“The INS blamed the State Department and the State Department blamed the INS. Congressman Andrews’s office sent copies of the approved paperwork to the INS to get things moving again.
“The INS said they would not process anything without my original signature and so we had to resubmit those forms again. It’s now sitting in the adjudicators office in the INS.
“This process is taking longer than it did the first time around and no one is taking into account that this was a little boy’s paperwork.”
Desperate to have his family back home, Dallmer has taken to writing letters.
He has written President Bush and the first lady. He has written every member of the house subcommittees on immigration.
“I received a letter from the White House stating they would forward it to the appropriate offices and two months later I got a letter stating Adam’s paperwork did not exist,” Dallmer said. “We keep going round robin and never get past the point of submitting his paperwork.”
With his wife not working, Dallmer is now facing financial difficulties on the top of the clearly evident emotional ones.
“I have only my income to keep my home going,” he said. “I am coming up very short every month. I have an infant son refers to a telephone as a daddy.
“Adam is scared to have his mother leave him, even on a shopping trip, as he is afraid of her leaving and taking Harry with her back to America as he feels all this is his fault due to U.S. immigration’s handling of this problem.”
Dallmer, who tries to sound as cheerful as possible when relating his story, said he was starting to lose hope and strength.
“My wife is getting ill, I can hear it in her voice. It is starting to affect my family, including my daughters, to the point that I am afraid the damage inflicted on us emotionally will be too great to overcome,” he said. “I am almost forced at this point to choose between my wife and my country and my children spread across two continents.”