Senator fights to keep Italian man in the U.S.

Saturday, December 24th 2005, 5:18 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ It's a simple bill, just a couple of paragraphs long. But for Blackwell farmer Renato Rosetti, the implications are enormous.

As long as the bill is pending before Congress, the 50-year-old Italian immigrant can stay in America with his family.

If Sen. Tom Coburn had not introduced the legislation, Rosetti might have been deported by now for a drug offense committed in his native country more than 20 years ago, The Oklahoman reported from its Washington bureau.

Rosetti lives in a peculiar kind of limbo.

``I've gotten used to it,'' he said. ``I don't think about it. If I think about it, I get depressed.''

Rosetti's plight stems from a 1999 ruling by a federal judge in Oklahoma City. Citing a law passed by Congress in 1996 to toughen immigration, U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson wrote that Rosetti's drug conviction in Italy left no alternative but to order his deportation despite ``the court's belief... that Mr. Rosetti should qualify for leniency.''

Rosetti had disclosed the 1982 drug conviction himself when he applied for permanent residence here; he hadn't served any jail time and the conviction was expunged from his records in Italy.

Thompson urged special legislation for Rosetti to avoid the ``inescapable result'' of deportation.

After Rosetti's friends and neighbors rallied around his cause, former Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles introduced a bill in 1999 to grant him permanent residence.

Called a ``private bill'' in Congress because it is for the specific relief of a person, the legislation allowed Rosetti to stay in the country even while it was pending.

Dozens of private bills are introduced in every Congress, though few ever pass.

Nickles was never able to get Rosetti's bill approved by both houses. But he reintroduced it in every new Congress, allowing the Blackwell wheat farmer to stay in the country.

Rosetti came to the United States in 1990 and said he can't imagine not living here.

He said he got nervous when Nickles announced his retirement, not knowing what would happen when a new senator took over.

However, he said, ``Senator Coburn was nice enough to understand my situation. That saved me from not being with my (two) children. If I was not covered by the bill, they would have had to come and take me.''

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said he ``researched the whole thing'' before introducing the two-paragraph bill to grant permanent residence to Rosetti.

Everything Rosetti has done to be a solid member of his Kay County community merited the introduction of the bill, Coburn said. And though Coburn acknowledged the bill allows Rosetti to stay in America while it is pending, he said he is determined to get it passed.

``I don't want to play a game,'' he said. ``I put it out there to get it through'' Congress.

Though he still farms, he said it has been tough financially; Rosetti has a mechanical engineering degree but said his status could make some businesses anxious about hiring him.

Rosetti, whose sons are 15 and 9, said he wants to remove the uncertainty about his status for him and his children.

Moreover, he said, ``I'd like to receive Social Security one day because I'm paying taxes.''