I was gripped with old anxiety again, the one from lying awake at night worrying about this shit. It left.
I was gripped with old anxiety again, the one from lying awake at night worrying about this shit. It left.
Because I have seriously neglected my greencard. The conversation at the border turned a little cold when asked how long I had been away. "6 months." They don't like that. It doesn't show proper love and devotion you should have as an immigrant to the You Es A. Especially since you might not be an immigrant any more then.
I need to find out from a qualified source what the latest rules are. I am committed to being here, so I might need to give it up just to enter as a tourist.
I always carry my passport in my hand with me through the security gate: it is important and I want it with me since I already gave up all my other ID with my wallet. I am sure rationally there's no reason for the fact that I want ID on me for the whole 3 feet that walking through the metal detector while my bags are in the machine next to me takes, but I do, with my boarding pass, and it has never been a problem, for over a decade now. I think it has something to do with having had such a tenuous hold on the place where I lived for 13 years: without the proper papers to be produced at a moment's notice, airports are the place where I was most likely to suddenly be deported. You want to keep those things in order and under control.
So, after a decade of walking through metal detectors with my passport in my hand, the machine guy today insisted, insisted it had to go in the tray, just on top of the rest. I told him I didn't like to do that, and I wasn't all smiles about it. He started challenging me what could possibly happen when it went through the machine. I told him, as I flung on to my tray and had walked without a beep through the gate, that sometimes things going into the machine do not make it out in places. He was really cranky at that. "Wir sind ja eine sicherheidsdienst!"
Ha. Ha ha. Check the "loss" points in any mjor airport some time, it always involves security. My bag required a manual check while machine guy was glowering at me, and after that I walked away.
Now, when i got my Greencard, I was tested for TB. I was tested for HIV. I was tested for insanity, I kid you not, during the 5 minute interview. But was I tested for this? No. I walk among you, unprotected, and possibly infectious. THANKS YOU ONCE AGAIN, USCIS.
I think I will call Cedars-Sinai, and in the meantime cancel all my appointments.
Edit: I see my voice post never made it, so this means squat to all of you. My wallet dropped out of my pocket on the shuttlebus to LAX. After the panic subsided, I was ready to fly pennyless with my printed boarding pass and passport to London and see if they could print my boarding pass to Amsterdam based on my last name alone, because I would not miss my father's 75th birthday he has been planning for months. And oh, on the way back, enter as a tourist and then apply for a replacement greencard, because that is in my wallet, breaking I do not know how many Immigration rules.
The United ground crew were completely unhelpful, but another FlyAway bus stopped and gave me the number for the dispatcher. He radioed the bus I was on, but that driver did not find my wallet when she pulled over on the highway. When the bus arrived to the depot, the dispatcher did find it, and drove the wallet up from the depot in Long Beach back to LAX to hand it to me. I was never so glad to, when he said he would arrive in a Gold Cadilla, to see one of those enormous gas-guzzling airplane-arrier-sized 80s Caddies in gleaming gold in my life.
Now that he brought it to me ten minutes before the gate would normally close, we are all waiting for a part to be flown in from San Francisco to put in engine nr2. We will be delayed two hours -- oh well, I guess I will get the next flight to Amsterdam in London. I wonder if they can re-book me over the phone right now.
Ook had ik leuk iets willen schrijven over de column in Anil Ramdas in 'nrc de week', waarin hij opent, onder het mom 'duidelijkheid', met groepen mensen benamingen aan te meten waar van hij expliciet meldt dat de mensen in die groepen er helemaal niet van gediend zijn, maar ja, Anil kan niet anders. Dat dat op zijn minst onbeleefd is, zoniet onbeschoft, en dat groepen mensen zo te schofferen nog nooit iets heeft bijgerdagen aan welke discussie ooit, zit Anil blijkbaar niet mee; hij vat mensen samen zoals hij dat wil want anders zou hij zich nog eens met niet-achterhaalde nuance bezig moeten houden zeg! Waarna hij zijn bespreking over groepen in Nederland, die hij dus onmiddelijk op scherp heeft gezet, eindigt met het recept "Geef ze goede opleiding en goede banen". Als hij nou zijn eigen krant zou hebben gelezen zou hij geweten kunnen hebben dat de kids het te druk hebben met 50 Cent na te doen om hun goede opleiding af te maken, en het is algemeen bekend dat teveel het VMBO niet eens aan schijnen te kunnen. Maar het is misschien teveel gevraagd van een schrijver om te weten dat in de normale wereld een goede baan niet gegeven wordt, want er moet geproduccerd worden, maar dat een goede baan wordt verdiend, met het afmaken van een opleiding of het goed afhandelen van een niet zo goede baan. En als Anil nou niet zo gefixeerd zou zijn op simplificatie dan had hij misschien kunnen weten dat een goede baan hebben niets betekent als je omgeving zoveel vooroordelen over je heeft dat je die baan niet goed kunt uitvoeren, want weinig goede banen gebeuren helemaal alleen in je eentje. Kip, ei, kip, ei, maar niet voor Anil, voor Anil is het duidelijk dat het met wat weggeefertjes het allemaal wel terecht komt. Maar ja, het is nu de krant van vorige week, dus niet meer aktueel.
So, failure as a blogger, today.
I must go to the DMV and give them my passport. The Dutch embassy could not possibly be slower in confirming me than the USCIS.
Remember this, everyone who wants to take part in the imigration debate with admonishments about what imigrants and wanna-be imigrants should do and wait for: the main administration for immigration issues is unable to do a routine database check for a confirmation of identity in less than three months for someone who they have already totally vetted.
Or their government to stop torturing people. Or even cop to that what they are doing is torturing people. Because that is hard. Of course it is, and undocumented aliens aren't coming here because they are desperate for a challenge, like crossing the desert is some kind of ESPN2 bungee jumping on a skateboard contest. they do it because crossing the border at the risk of death by dehydration, scorpions, snakes, other wildlife, drug traffickers, competing human traffickers, assorted overworked border patrols of whom most try to do the right thing without knowing in their fucked-up structure what the right things is, minutemen, and other assorted dangers, to then do hours of backbreaking work in the hot sun or under the gaze of some hospitality-industry manager hellbent on being the cheapest on the block, is probably the only option to feed their family or better themselves.
I used to work with two, back in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. It was during my stint in 93 as a barback in a gay leather dance bar. I needed something else in my life after breaking up with my first boyfriend after 3.5 years and shaving my head, and I saw the want go by ad on the LED tube. I had limited hours so they put me in barbacking. The bartenders were all Dutch and strapping, slinging their beer bottles from the fridges below them and making change, while the Brazilians carrying the full crates of Heiniken and cola up the stairs or past the dance floor were slender and dark and schlumpy by Tom of Finland standards. A less nice manager might not have wanted us to hang out so visibly in those few moments when the fridges were full and the empty bottles and glasses taken away -- well, us, us... them more than me. I may have been a skinny hairy boy, but I was a tall blond one, and I already had the jaw.
So we talked a little of course, about life underground, and the free healthcare that comes with it, in a country half of the US populace probably thinks was a Socialist country in that respect. Free healthcare? It is healthcare strung together by weekly clinic hours where you wait forever for an overworked generalist, of not getting therapy of any kind after any event but an instruction sheet of what you should do by yourself at home, of not getting follow-up but cheap pain killers, of everyone being caught in having to wait until things got so bad you could do a real intervention at an Emrgency Room. In short, it is not a hair better than what uninsured people in the US get, and often less because of how documentation issues -- can't have a paper trail now -- makes having a long-term care plan and follow-up rather difficult, except that the population at large expects more gratitude. Still, it is bound to be better than what was healthcare back home. Gawd I wish I was reading less "those damn illegal immigrants are getting more than me!" and more "Why did we let healthcare get so bad it can't handle a bunch of low-maintenance hardy people whose overriding need in life is to make as little demands on social systems as possible?" Oh no, "Go home, go overturn your corrupt government and your upper classes to make your own country better, meanwhile I can't stop my own HMO from kicking me out on my sick or disabled or unemployed ass." Homo, please, what are you asking here, and of whom? Where's your solidarity with your fellow human trying to make it like you? How deep has your government's penchant for dehumanizing foreigners until they become 'assets' to be worked over by 'Information Retrieval Specialists' worked its way into your heart that you see them, people who will always be five rungs down the ladder from you, with such contempt? Why are you giving in to this divide and conquer?
I am a documented alien in the US. This means I, and my family, and my closest friends, got to see what was involved in getting a highly skilled, white, healthy, solvent, young, male inhabitant from a very favored nation to be allowed to work and live another year in the brave shining "America". It was not pretty. It was not horrible either, I always had a competent team working for me, even if I at times had to assemble it myself. When I was an H1-Ber, I got the Harvard lawyers, lawyers inside the system who would simply call my boss and say "The INS says he's been working here too long for what you are paying him. Give him a raise now or lose him." This should tell you how much even the legal ones get exploited by institutions , places as hallowed as Harvard Medical School, if the institutions can get away with it, to get their budgets approved.
I've had my nights of being unable to sleep wondering if that unpredictable black box of the INS, later BCIS, and then USCIS, would get its documents back to me in time for me to keep my commitments: the last family holiday with my sick mother, working another year, going to my sister's wedding back home, working another year. You'd submit in time according to the guideline, and then you'd get that call that during the latest USCIS-Immigration Attoney Association conference call the USCIS had admitted their waiting times had become so bad a request for an extension of stay during the endless greencard processing simply could not be filed in time under any circumstance -- no filings accepted before six months prior to the date the previous document would be invalid, and processing the filing would take seven months. I know what a powerless attorney sounds like whe she has had to call client after demanding white-collar client with that news.
I know those nights wondering if you will have to give up everything and start from scratch. Then my documents would come in, or be Fed-Exed to the Netherlands just in time, and I'd stand their in the Netherlands in that endless snaking line in front of the US Embassy trying to get that stamp so I could come in. And always stand in line in Immigration at Logan, with what seemed ever flimsier documentation every year as I ran out of H1-B extensions, and formal Advance Parole travel re-entry documents that then wouldn't come in time (see above) and I had to get emergency ones that looked like they came from a cheap laserprinter and an embossed seal I could have ordered from a Staples office supplies catalog. And I was on the good side. I had done the right things. I had taken one look at the questions the attorney Children's Hospital Boston had retained at the time because he charged a flat fee and Harvard Med had declined to take on my case because after five years of solid work I wasn't faculty, had faxed over from Florida, and realized that this man might be mediocre at importing clinicians as the grapevine said, but would be downright incapable of importing a computer scientist. I left my job and got myself working for a multi-national. Who promptly filed my Greencard at the but one busiest service center in the country, Texas, because Nokia's headquarters were in Dallas. This added around a year and a half to me being in limbo. Ever heard a USer complain about having to wait an hour at the DMV for their drivers licence?
I did the right things. I filed the forms. I subjected myself to invasions of privacy ACT UP actually did take the streets to to prevent in the late eighties. I can't remember, but I bet the same month this immigrant had his HIV test put on record with the federal government as negative, assuring he wouldn't be a drain on healthcare systems, he got five offers to bareback good solid US citizens who had already scored a solid supply of protease inhibitors from the systems they were teetering on the edge of being kicked out of like every sick worker in the US is. Being positive, I was told, would not have been a transgression to stop the GC processing for, and that fact was something I had H.W. Bush to thank for. Still, though, showing up as a tourist reasonably suspectable of being HIV+ will get you barred from entering by the official having a bad hair day, and there you are in the holding area in the airport looking at the laminate floor, going nowhere but back. I have had my fingerprints taken -- twice, because the greencard processing took so long the first background check expired and had to be done over again-- and handed over every financial record I had of the last seven years. I have proven to be a model citizen, someone you guys can be proud of having around.
Not a terrorist. Not ever been to either the Axis of Evil or any of its friends. I affirmed these under oath, including never haven taken drugs, thinking about all the stoned natives I had met in San Francisco. Never having sold sex for money, thinking of the US guys I knew who were working boys. Never have exhibited nor planning to perform lewd conduct, while thinking of the the drunk stoned ralphing wasted US tourists you trip over on every street corner in Amsterdam in summer, nor being a terrorist or having terrorist sympathies while thinking of the talking heads who tell you whole nations should be nuked to glass. Most US natives couldn't pass the greencard steeple chase without making themselves utter liars, and even then their debts and negative bank accounts would disqualify most.
And not being a communist. Oh no, never a communist. I do not know how many forms I checked that off on. I bet that would have been deportable from a Dutchman. My friend Gadi told me his former-Soviet Block friends got cut some slack by the INS when they checked that box on their forms, for they had good reasons: "I wanted to eat! I wanted to work! I wanted a roof over my head! Of course I was a Member!" and that answer would be ok. But for me? Nah. For a South American? Having been a member of the Communist parties there? The anti-US parties? The parties that Reagan tried so hard to undermine and wipe out that he would fund actual real terrorists and death squads, lest these parties be able to enact their platforms for free healthcare, literacy, and above all, land reform that would have created a middle class? They may have been awful in their own way, but they certainly wokred against the exploitative status quo. Being a member of any revolutionary structure that would have made their home countries better, like undocumented aliens are now told to go back and do, would probably automatically disqualify them from ever being able to enter the US legally in the future. Now how's that for irony.
Yeah, I am behind the marches. At this point, I am behind almost every form of progressive civic involvement in the US political system, even if done by nominal 'outsiders', 'outsiders' who have seen more of the real inside, the US seedy underbelly, than most legally here ever do. I am behind someone, somewhere, shaking things the fuck out of its split-down-the-middle bickering cowered stupor. Maybe it is up to the undocumented aliens to do it, again, like they did a couple of centuries, waving the flags of their home countries, like every goddamn 'ethnicity' in the US does with great pride in conversations where they ask where I am from and I tell them "I am Dutch."
-- "Really? I am French Irish German."
Bet you love to celebrate St Patrick's Bastille day. If Wiedervereinigung was an excuse to drink you'd so be there too. But fear, fear the Mexican flag being flown in your streets. Shake your heads.
Me? You want my motives, my allegiances? I was fucking ready to pack up and leave for the last two years up to a month ago, until I committed to at least 18 months in LA. And I committed, hoping I'd be able to tolerate this city, for the professional loot, the spoils of money and experience and positioning I hope to acquire. Nothing else.
Now, how American does that make me?
As for immigration, the USCIS checks on whether immigrants are qualified, have sufficient education, and do not displace US workers for every visa longer than 3 months that they approve. If you think people are working as immigrants in the US while underpayed or displacing qualified US workers for the job in their local market, let USCIS know. They don't like fraud.
Curtailing US immigration will only make outsourcing of US jobs to other countried go faster, as departments that cannot work effectively due to lack of personnel are the easiest to make a business case for displacing to a low-wage country.
- mentioned my diabetic cat, if not shown the pictures I carry of him and his co-cat on my phone
- shown the hideous tackyness of the hologram on current greencards by whipping mine out.
Today a bomb went off in Jakarta right next to the Australian embassy. Last week a school with children was shot up in Russia.
When I stood in that long snaking line to deliver my passport for another H1B stamp, bright and early to be one of the first ones and not have to queue forever, I could see the kids walk to school. Bright purple and pink and red and yellow coats, the backpacks, the sneakers and boots, the giggling, the teasing, the drearyness of another day at school.
Why they sent me two identical letters, personalized with my data and all, I'll never know, I bet.
So to explain a previous entry, the day I posted the picture of the stamp, earthling177 made a point of calling me with a warning: from now on until you get the bloody card, open up all your credit card offers. Seriously. No throwing them in the trash unopened. Why? Because this vital piece of documentation is being sent to my home address in an envelope that does not identify it from the outside: it is white, it has two windows on it just like credit card offers, it contains a rectangular piece of plastic inside, there are no markers on it. I swear, all it needed was 0% APR! on the outside to be complete. And it would come weeks or months after the announcement, when I had forgotten all about it.
And I had. And I did almost not give the envelope a second look. But I did, and opened it like I was told I should, thus I have my cream-colored card with super-tacky Statue Of Liberty Shooting Our Rays That Spell 'USA' (No, Seriously) hologram laminate on it.
Today I get an SMS from Dean who has just come home:
Hey, aren't you breaking the law?
Totally. And this time I am not even naked.
The stamp in the passport that proves lawful permanent residency in the U.S.A. This stamp is valid until the date listed, and is a temporary measure to allow travel until receipt of the actual document, known informally as a greencard, in the mail, ETA a month from now.
Well, it only took three years after my approval for them to come around to give me one. It has been so long I hardly even care any more. Yup, got what is rightfully coming to me, no need to dash at 7 AM for emergency travel documents again every year. All I had to do today was swear I would tell the truth and answer some questions about who I was, where I live, show my tax records, employment document, pay stubs, everything that had determined my elegibility three years ago already -- just to show nothing had changed.
Oh yeah, I am allowed to quit my job without getting deported. I don't even reaslly have to work to be allowed to stay, according to my lawyer. As long as I am in the US every six months and can continually prove ties to the country by having real estate or bank accounts, it will stay valid.
"Well, we don't know much about your case..."
I started laughing hysterically into the phone, cutting her off. I mean, I know how they meant it, but I couldn't help myself. I must seem like this complete jerk to them by now, eventhough I have had a very good relationship with the ones I was speaking to.
Before my current one expires, on the 20th.
I return Monday afternoon. I expire Wednesday. Thus, I have to stand in line Tuesday, and thus I have to drive to work Monday afternoon to get the paperwork that is being FedExed to my desk. No margin for error, and I hate that.
June 8th - 15th: the week's window in which I have to get new fingerprints made. Ayup, TX took so long to process me before clearing me for my final interview in Boston that the validity of the current set of fingerprints and the background-check that goes with it has expired. They need to do both again first.