7/2/07

USCIS (USELESS?)

Tap, tap, tap. Is this mic on?

I knew not to get excited. And yet I did anyways.

It's akin to being pregnant and wanting to tell the world but knowing I can't because I stand great risk of losing the baby (so says the woman who was preggo 5 times yet only has 2 hijos).

Anyhoo, we got kicked in the gut today.

The Bad
No sooner did I take our Canadian flag and windsock down from the Canada Day celebrations in order to make room for all the nearby American flags that are beginning to flap happily in the wind, than we receive this news.

In case you don't speak government bullschmidt, it says they (I won't even honour "them" with a name ~ they know who they are) will be reneging on their green card fulfillment requirements.

Guess who was in that July pile of applications? Guess who just forked out $1,000 American buckeroos to do medicals and shots, etc., etc. Guess who is extremely peevola'd? Yeah. Times two.

In fact I'm so pissed off that I think I'm going to lie low today because if I dare head out and spot even so much as one Ford Ranger truck with a gunrack and a Bush/Cheney sticker, I can't even fathom what that might do to me. I'm ovulating too, so I'm also more than a little hormonal and altogether unstable. It wouldn't be good, she says in wide-eyed rage, shaking her head perhaps a little too fervently.

They're claiming the backlog will only be until October but the more I Google this whole immigration deal, the more I'm sensing that we're being fed a pile of schmidt. All promise, no delivery. Look at the passport fiasco. I'm hearing it's taking months for some people to get their passports. Well, duh, Joe and Jane Fed Immigration Directors....like you didn't think to advise your bosses to think that one through three chess moves ahead before you (collectively) started locking up your borders with an electric fence and pushing for mandatory passports between borders within short order?

From the very start last year, we've been playing a green light, red light game and it sux hugely. Don't even get me started on the immigration ironies.

Oops, too late. On account of this being my soapbox.

But....and here's my giant disclaimer. I'll post it in red. If, if, if, you see immigration law restrictions as a black/white issue (please don't pardon the pun, it's deliberate), then do yourself a favour (Canadian spelling - I can't even be bothered with the nicety of Americanizing it today). Don't read on. Really, don't. But, but, but, should you perhaps view this issue as one that has many voices, sides, polemics, tribes, facets and dimensions, then read on.

Here's but one lone view.

That of a Connie and Curtis Canuck. What's our demographic, you ask?

The Boring
Well, let's see. I'd say we're the average Western Canadian immigrant. Professional couple, formerly of DINK persuasion until two kids and a subsequent move due south knocked us firmly into the two-kids, one-income category. We drink freshly ground coffee, own a tent trailer, pay cash for most purchases, permit our kids to watch Cartoon Network, and drive a Honda Odyssey and Mazda 626 respectively. Need I say more.

Are we harmful to American society? This blog might smell mildly of dangerous thought, if the tradewinds as they did today, blow every so slightly to the left, but for the most part, we are the contrary. Read that how you may.

In fact, we are the technicolour hue you see when you stare at the stars and stripes on the flag too long after too many Budweiser beers at a hot and humid 4th of July picnic. We are the breath of fresh, quasi-unpolluted, Canadian mountain air that arrives in the form of a U-Haul truck to your friendly, local neighborhood. We come in peace, we sprinkle our sentences with eh to appear harmless and somewhat no-mindish, we brandish hockey sticks in hopes that we can have you a game of street hockey and kick your butt, we brush debris off our driveway with a curling broom ('cuz heh, it works), and we've been known to smuggle Okanagan citrus fruit and pork sausage across the border for personal consumption but will vehemently deny this if questioned by the authorities.

My husband, Monsieur Canuck, who speaks not a whit of French owing to his Western roots and all, is one of only a handful of skilled, non-American workers (indeed) on his team who can accurately identify all the parts of a certain impressive and sophisticated, advanced-tech manufacturing product. If I were to name said product, you would be afraid, very afraid. Given the kind of work they're doing and the ramifications such lack of product knowledge might have on the end-user consumer, I won't go there.

Suffice to say that until he had arranged a tour of a local repair facility to view said product, many/most of his young and green counterparts had never even seen the inside bowels of this nameless thing. Which one might arguably think would be impossible, but I have discovered what it means to live in the land of opportunity. It means anything is possible, even the impossible. Anyways granted, he has twenty years experience in his field, but so, too, do some of these full-time, lifetime employees.

But, he's a contractor and more to the point, a foreigner. Thus, despite his role as mentor, new employee trainer, project manager of sorts, task innovator/initiator, senior (in more ways than one if his birth certificate is any indication) and seasoned worker on the beat, and last but not least, paid-overtime contractor who is expected to come in and work circles around the employees (who punch clocks and take time off to deal with hangnails or look outside and see it's raining and decide not to come into work that day), he is still not permitted access to certain company documents and/or information that he needs in order to do his job for this very American company that is trying desperately to one-up it's closest (European) competitor.

And what will I have to offer? Ahem. Not a whole darn lot, admittedly. Just a few sales and marketing smarts, the odd, outside the box idea and I do mean odd in its truest sense, an occasional flash of blouse cleavage on days I'm feeling bodacious, a bi-monthly Tully's coffee splurge for my co-workers on days when I'm feeling magnanimous, and most importantly, a nose-to-the-grindstone tourism industry work ethic each and every day (translation: will work damn hard for next to nothing). Spoken like a true immigrant, oui/si?

Now I totally get and love patriotism and I even get immigration fears to a narrow degree, emphasis on narrow though because that is the view I'm blogging about here, but here's the thing.

The Ugly
While some Peter and Penelope Patriots are out there waving their flag singing Up with America, Down with the Rest of You (left unsaid: who have the audacity to come in here trying to steal our jobs, homes, way of life, etc.), they remain oblivious to a few key inconvenient truths. Namely:

a) America was founded on a little thing called immigration. Lest we forget.

b) In fact, stealing homes, lands and livelihoods is the most a priori American instinct there is. If you don't believe me, quiz an American Indian. They'll confirm this most biological and historical of American realities.

c) Skilled and professionals workers from other nations lend 'other' perspectives, worldviews and dare I say, efficiencies that are a refreshing addition to the American way. There is, after all, more than one way to cook November turkeys. Just ask those of us who cook them in October or better yet, a vegetarian from Turkey who can drink coffee with the best of us, whilst effortlessly citing "A Sad State of Freedom" and other brilliant Turkish poems. In English with a slight American if distant Baywatchy accent, to boot.

d) How many Americans does it take to design a lightbulb? No joke, I'm serious. I would argue it takes a Canadian, some Brits and a handful of other zealous and ingenious Europeans to simultaneous invent and patent it; and yes, an American to then carpe the darn diem and the glory in true bootstrap American fashion. My point is hardly an illuminating one. Quite simply put, it takes a globe to trade in today's economy.
Thus, it behooves any nation playing in the global arena to attract the best of the best of international workerbees because the grim reality, and I hate to sound apocalyptic here because then I'd be right (teehee - my lame attempt at a religio/political joke), is that there is going to be a skilled labor shortage in the high tech fields. Europe is already facing it. So is America but few are willing to admit that.

I ayn't no roket sighantest but if I was, I would venture a guess that current universities and college enrollments are living proof of the impending shortage. So is the contrived benchmarking for No Child Left Behind. And shows like Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (I don't even want to know where those contestants work - that's just way too much information). And job boards such as that of Microsoft, which boast hundreds upon hundreds of unfilled positions. Too many jobs, not enough skilled labor. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire world to fuel a global economy.

e) They, Peter and Penelope the fearful, play right into the hands of terrorists and a few unnamed politicians, the ultimate prophets of fear and hate. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the world stood in awe, watching as New Yorkers showed us what it meant to be heroic and humanitarian. Of these tender years thereafter though, history may not tell as kind and compassionate a tale. If provoked, it might whisper of tribalism; the very sort of tribalism that spawned the likes of Al Quaida-think. America and Americans collectively are at a pivotal crossroads in history methinks. And it's an exciting one if viewed as an opportunity instead of a threat. If America is brave enough (and I unequovically believe it is) to open the blinds and extend to its friends, Romans, and countrymen alike, the same kind of compassion, hope and generosity of spirit it displayed in the moments, hours and days after the Trade Center and New Orleans disasters, imagine how the ethos might change. Perhaps then certain unnamed illegal immigrants might not be stealing from Arnold to pay George so Dick can profit.

The system feeds a vicious cycle by it's very duplicitous nature. It fairly begs for the little guy to stick it to the man.

Having said all this, I'm all for immigration reform. They can start with reforming the hold-up on our green cards, for one. (Kidding but not). Breath in, breath out, recite serenity prayer. Repeat process.

I don't have any more answers that the next guy or gal. Just my never-ending naive idealism and endless hope for a better future for everyone caught in the border barbed wire.

The Bold
To play devil's advocate a minute though, I admit that many cite the other extreme of immigration woes. The southern one. The unskilled workers who sneak into the country under the hood of a truck. Now granted, there are all sorts of correlations one can draw. Higher illegal immigration, higher crime rates is but one. But theoretically, it's become a cheaper form of outsourcing for way too many companies. Wal-Mart no longer needs to operate sweat shops in Mexico and Central America. They've got a whole population of people willing to sweat for them in their own backyard.

The Brave
Who do we think is getting paid under the table to build houses or work in the hospitality industry or accept minimum wage at par or below? Certainly not the construction company owner or Ma and Pa Motel owner who reap the profits and have figured out exactly which disgruntled employees dare not have the audacity, not to mention legal legs to sue.

What gets me are the fear-mongering many who bemoan the welfare burden. It reminds me of a song lyric I once heard - 'sometimes when it's quiet, you can hear the aristocracy whine.'

The Bloat
Immigration stories are the greatest of six o'clock news upsets, are they not? It's hard to digest one's prime rib dinner accompanied by grilled asparagus and seasoned potatoes and the obligatory glass of vintner's reserve pinot noir when one must first have to get up and lock the doors, shelter the young and innocent and steel the eyes and ears from such unwanted intruders and invaders. Who are, incidentally, the very same immigrants slaughtering the cows and planting the potatoes and picking the grapes and growing the asparagus; but this lesser and subsequent story gets left out of that 30-second soundbite.

My observation, and take it with the grain of salt it's worth in a food stamp line, is that the term welfare is largely oxymoronic in this great nation. So might claim the disabled gent who didn't have the dubious privilege of losing his limbs at war. Or the widower with a mortgage to pay, three or four mouths to feed, a lousy job, no insurance and a retro-country music record on perma-skip. Or the young couple who must choose between high-cost daycare and zero revenue stay-at-home parenting options for their three month old infant. Like that should even be a choice-based proposition in a global superpower nation like the US. And yet it is.

The correlations between being pregnant with child and this blog are numerous. This is a very pregnant blog, stretching at the seams with bloat and scars that will not soon fade after its birth or should I say narrowly-missed abortion.

Yes, this blog post is very much like a miscarriage, whose delivery must be suffered in the privacy of one's home or as is the case with stillbirth, the bowels of the hospital basement, far away from the excitement and chatter of happy new families, oblivious to the wondrous miracle born unto them that day, even as others below them, beneath them, suffer.

I speak as the voice of stillbirth experience. And I feel a pathos and sadness not altogether unlike the days following our daughter's loss 12 years ago. I remember that everywhere I turned in the days, weeks and months following, I was constantly bombarded with young moms and beautiful bouncing babies. It was like an extreme form of torture.

I felt it acutely again the other night, as I sat watching a recorded episode of Oprah, in all her insensitive glory, poo-pooing the woman who suffered the loss of her newborn one moment, and then in the next, glorifying all the mothers of the world. Perhaps only one who has lost a child in such a manner would pick up on the subtlety of that full frontal insensitivity, but I felt it, nonetheless.

The Gloat
And I suffer it in lesser form again today. Just days ago, I stood up at Safeco Field, proudly belting out Oh Canada and then immediately switching to an equally heartfelt, "O say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" I felt very Americanadian and dually patriotric, singing both anthems and rejoicing in my stars, stripes and maple leaf hybridity. Unbeknownst to me, the revised July immigration bulletin was already being drafted for release today.


The Lament
Today, as I see flags fluttering everywhere and 4th of July paraphernalia in every grocery, convenience and department store, I cannot help but feel the same kind of affront to the senses that I felt post-stillbirth delivery. Everywhere a reminder of liberty gained and liberty lost. It's like feeling the sting of being slapped in the face and for no good reason except that I was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. I cannot sufficiently describe this discomfort. I can only lament that it does not feel good.

I'm back to that uneasy place of wanting to take my Canuck toys and go home. She mumbles on the penultimate eve of signing escrow documents, scarce days away from taking possession of a home here.

The Good
The good news? We can now travel to Canada this summer, as we are still a few months away from final filing and thus, the holding pen stage of our green card paperwork. Thank phricking God for small pleasures in the midst of big upsets.

OK, I'll shut up now.

11 comments:

SAAM said...

Having done the visa to green card thing once before (1993) and because I gave the green (really, mine was pink, of all colours) card back when I moved back to Canada, I now shall soon do it all over again when I move -again- to the U.S. My daughter has dual citizenship and I just want to be settled. Right now I cross the border about 2 or 3 times/ week. Most often it goes without problems but sometimes the questions they ask are so rediculous. Do I LOOK like I'm trying to smuggle fruit? I do agree with what you wrote and you did it with humour which is never a bad thing. Keep the chin up and maybe those goverment types will soon 'get it'

Jeri said...

I had not been aware of my country's inconsistent and stupidly paranoid visa policies until meeting you... and I have to say, I'm ashamed of them! And today - pissed right along with you.

That truly, truly sucks.

Maybe the INS has has a civil servant job sharing pool with the DMV - and when you get burned out on not serving your clientele in one agency, you can switch and go work for a while in the other?

mannyed said...

Haven't stopped by in awhile. Looks like I picked a good post to drop in on.

I'm sorry that this is happening to you but thanks for opening my eyes up a bit. While I can relate to what you are going through, I hope this will get settled soon. Keep your head up!

Becca said...

I am sorry that this is happening to you, but it really does not surprise me with the beauracy that is our government. I swear one hand does not know what the other is doing. Keep fighting for this, you are doing it the right way! And just think of the example that you are setting for your kids. Hard work, even though it sucks right now, will pay off!

HOLY said...

SAAM: Have you considered getting the Nexus Passport? You have to renew it every year and get fingerprinted but you don't have to get stopped each time you cross through...I think you just have to sign over your first-born male child over something, if necessary. That's the fine print. Where are you moving to - I'm guessing just across the border, right?

Jeri: Don't even get me started on DMV. Poor hubby. Finally did his learners and drivers test (just this morning for his road test) and he had to do his test and then pick a number and wait 50-some people after just to pay and then wait again for his picture. 3 hours later. Dept. of Moronic Verns. Craziness.

Mannyed: Yes, I think I need to come drop by and check out Manny's escapades as a sanity breather and to take my mind off the govt. madness.

Becca: I don't think we're setting any kind of example for our kids other than to distrust and hate federal govt. agencies - not sure that's a good thing. Our son was bummed when we told him the news last night - he's already so American already in his mannerisms and even some of the slang he says. It's cute.

Lynn said...

Holy, I'm not surprised at all you've been postponed. You're here on a public blog for anyone to read admitting to smuggling....right, like anyone believes juice and sausages are REALLY juice and sausages....
You're never going to get approved like this, woman!!!

Happy 4th, if you can find the wherewithal! It's not going to screw up your buying the house is it???

Simply Hollie said...

My dear holy one I so understand the immigration issue, down there, having lived it...does one Momrmon step mom preggers and in a shelter deserve a green card, several thought so including the judge over our divorce hearing, but alas we high tailed it back to the land of the North. Great pissed post!

manda said...

Heyla, Holy. It's been a while. I'm glad you're still out here vexing the norms.

Whatever happened to sending us your ever-loving poor, tired, etc etc? Now apparently we're too good for your skilled and your innovative. What would Albert Einstein have thought?

Jane_hates_Dick said...

I just stumbled across your blog while web surfing, and I'm so glad I did!

I'm very sorry you are going through this b.s., but like your other commenters, not at all surprised. Excellent post.

Bloggeezer said...

Whew! Do you feel any better now? I sure hope so...

Believe me when I say that I feel your pain. My government has gone so cockmaimie (sp?) in recent years (especially the last six) that I truly do not even recognize it anymore.

So, please accept my hearfelt apologies on behalf of my government (who no longer have a heart apparently), and try to enjoy yourself this holiday.

BG

SAAM said...

I Just last week mailed my NEXUS application for both my daughter and myself. Now I will have to go in to chat with those friendly people. I think they take a retina scan as well!!! That will have to do as I have no male child!!! Yes, the moving is right across the border. From near Niagara Falls to Grand Island, NY. 30 minutes with no border traffic. The plan is to keep my job in Canada (pain in the ass that will be but my brother does it, lives in the US and works in Canada. And my job is too good -read: I do nothing and get paid well for it- to give it up)... SO, that is the plan anyway when everything is done and straightened out. And everyone knows how plans change.