Two US citizens facing deportation want to stay here with their family

John Moore (left) with his brother Joseph Carrano, photo: Milan Vojtek, Právo

Joseph Carrano and John Moore, the two American citizens arrested in Prostějov, South Moravia, in the beginning of October for overstaying the 90-day visa-free period, are currently detained in a facility for illegal aliens and are facing deportation. They initially applied for asylum in the country to avoid it but have recently withdrawn their application. They are not seeking international protection, just the chance to stay with their family in the Czech Republic. They say they have been treated unfairly by the Czech authorities, and they don’t understand what’s happening to them.

The facility for illegal aliens in which Joseph Carrano and his brother John Moore have been detained is located near Břeclav, South Moravia, just several hundred metres from the Czech border with Austria. Surrounded by a tall fence with barbed wire on top and guarded by the police, this is where foreigners without proper documents await repatriation. Joseph Carrano says their offence was not serious enough to merit these conditions.

“We feel that we have been treated very unfairly; they have taken all our rights from us like we were criminals. We were only here illegally for two weeks which at the time we didn’t even know that what we were doing was illegal because we didn’t know the borders were taken down. Right now, we are in detention – they say it’s detention but it’s more like a prison to us. We haven’t been eating right here, the food is not that great. But it’s not just us – there’s a lot of people here who I feel don’t belong here. All we wanted to do was to stay in this country, to be with our family. We are Americans, we were born there but my family is Czech citizens, I have lots and lots of family here, and all we want to do is stay here.”

American citizens are not required to have visas if they wish to stay in the Czech Republic for up to 90 days. Until December 2007, all they needed to do was to leave the country and have their passports stamped at any border crossing. But after the Czech Republic joined the Schengen zone of free travel, they now have to leave for countries much further away such as Ukraine, Switzerland or the United Kingdom.

“We came on October 17. They said we could stay 90 days but I came five years ago, also, back in 2003, and at the time, I was told – by the police, actually – that if you want to stay again after 90 days, you just leave the country, you can go and get a stamp at any border surrounding the Czech Republic and you can come back for another 90 days. When I was here last time, I stayed for almost a year and there was no problem. We didn’t realize in December that the borders were cancelled. In January when I decided to go to Vienna, Austria, to get a stamp I was told that there were no more borders. That’s when we went to the police and asked them if there was any way we could stay without having to go back to America. They said no, and then they decided to lock us up.”

John Moore, the younger one of the two brothers, says they eventually contacted the police to find out if their situation could be resolved.

“We went to them to ask for help. We weren’t hiding, we weren’t trying to do anything illegal, we tried to do everything the right way. And they came early in the morning… they told us that we can go to Frýdek-Místek to apply for asylum, that’s what they told us to do, but the next morning they came to the house and arrested us.”

The brothers soon realized that the odds of American nationals being granted asylum here are very small. Instead, they appealed the deportation charges. Joseph Carrano and John Moore believe that they should not be deported because their family live in Prostějov, and they should be allowed to stay with them. I asked Joseph Carrano how come that they, being Americans, have Czech parents.

“Our father was raised and born here, he is 70 years old. He was born in Ostrava in 1937 and he has been a citizen for seventy years. Two of my brothers and sisters were also born in America and they are now Czech citizens. My brother and I were born in America but we were given up for adoption, we were taken from my parents, not even given. The American government took us from our parents. They told them they could not have us because they couldn’t take care of us at the time because my mother was very young – this was some 30 years ago. For years, my mother was trying to find us.”

It took the brothers a long time to establish the whereabouts of their parents, and finally get in touch with them five years ago.

“After 25 years of not seeing our parents, my brother found them on the internet and through phone calls, and we decided to come to the Czech Republic to be with them. My father is very old, he is 70, he is sick and he may not live too long. But they are telling us now we have to leave and can’t come back for a year. I am afraid my father may not make it for another year. I don’t want to be in America where I have nowhere to live, I am homeless in America. Years ago, America told us we couldn’t be with our family, and now the Czech Republic is telling us the same.”

John Moore believes they were not treated fairly by the authorities because they are Roma, or Gypsy.

“Another reason we feel we were treaded unfairly is because the police in Prostějov know that our family is Romany. Other people involved in this told us that they don’t want the Roma to stay here. They knew that we were Roma and right away they made the decision, they knew that they were not going to let us stay. When the police picked us up in Prostějov, they asked our mother if there was any way to prove that we were her children. The officer said he could either extend our visas and give us a chance to try and do it, or deport us. When you get adopted in America, all the paperwork gets changed, there is no way of tracing anything. Our mother suggested they take our blood which would show 100 percent that we are her children. But they said they couldn’t take one’s blood after they are 26. But he walked out on her; he just said that there was no way.”

Before they were detained and charged with deportation, they were planning to settle in Prostějov for good; Joseph Carrano says he was even planning to start his own business.

“My mother and father have a house in Prostějov – I have lots of family there, and also family in Brno. We were staying there with our mother and I was in the process of actually getting a job with a local place to maybe make pizza. The guy who owns the place asked my mother around Christmas if I wanted to work there because he heard I was an American and a good cook. He had made plans for me to come in and talk to him. My goal of being here was to open up my own restaurant and have my own business because I am a very good chef, and I feel I could make good money in this country and contribute a lot to the people here.”

The procedure of the appeal against deportation might take anything from a week up to six months. Joseph Carrano and John Moore hope that in the end, they will be allowed to stay in the Czech Republic and live with their family.

“Right now, we don’t know what’s going on because they say we can stay here up to six months. We are very confused and we are scared; they said they were going to try and cancel the deportation. We don’t know how that’s going to work. Also, everything has been written in Czech. We had somebody translate a lot of it but we still don’t understand because we don’t understand the language too well. They say they are trying to do everything as fast as they can but right now, we are just sitting here waiting. It’s very frustrating. We have been very cooperative with everybody; we haven’t argued with anybody, we haven’t fought against it. But right now, we are very much in the dark about what’s going to happen to us.”