The I-word

So, speaking of racism and prejudice, my husband is an immigrant.

Think about your reaction to that word for a second. Immigrant.

Do you get the mental picture of huddled masses, yearning to breathe free? People who can’t speak English well, smell like garlic and work in landscaping?

Rarely is the perception of the immigant inclusive of the highly-qualified IT professional, the experienced specialist doctor, or the gifted artist. It’s usually one of paint under the nails, worn clothing (carefully patched), sitting in a free ESL class at a community center.

We instinctively react to the immigrant. Unless we have some major reason to look further than our own perceptions, we classify them in the “untouchable” category without much thought. That vacant look when they don’t understand what you’re saying. The almost unconscious way you raise your voice to make them understand. The way you feel like an idiot when you realize they don’t understand you, giving way to frustration and anger.

The bumper stickers that ask, “Why do I have to press 1 for English?!”

When do they become valid to us? When they have their citizenship card? When they can discourse about the current political ideaology and American GDP? When they are promoted to the manager positon?

We’re in the process of what the USCIS calls “permission to adjust status”. R entered the country on a visa (no, not in the back of a van or by swimming the Rio Grande) which has since expired. Since we are married, he can become a “lawful permanent resident” (aka, green card) by virtue of a marriage certificate. The process only takes 13-15 months, and costs the bargain price of $1300!! What a deal, right???

Except…

Since we’ve not been married long enough, we only get the temporary green card. Within a certain time period, we have to file for the permanent green card…which also is offered for the bargain price of around $1300!! We have to prove that our marriage is not one of convenience, designed to give rights to one of those problematic aliens.  And so we get the interview questions like, “What color is his toothbrush?” and “what side of the bed does he sleep on?” Cause, you know, the US Government is highly concerned with that sort of thing.

Is he valid then? Oh no, ladies and gentlemen, not so fast! He’s still only a legal alien. And they keep very close tabs on those pesky aliens, let me tell you. Fingerprints and all. Checking in every few months. Keeping the US Government apprised of any movements. Big brother breathing down our necks.

So the solution? Become a citizen, of course!! And how long does that process take? Try three years. Only this time it’s a steal at $500. But it gives us an American passport, which opens doors, and gives him the right to vote. Valid then?

Not until he can pronounce citizen correctly.

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10 Responses to The I-word

  1. antropologa says:

    I, of course, have very positive associations with the idea of immigrants. I plan to be one myself one day. It’s ridiculous how difficult they make things for people.

  2. evenshine says:

    I’d be interested to know what the process is in the country-to-which-you-plan-on-emigrating. Tedious and expensive? Or streamlined and progressive (as are many things in that country)?

  3. When my husband applied for permanent residency (we started our marriage on temporary residency, too) I looked up the cost on-line and sent in a check with the application. Then they approved him as a permanent resident and refunded the money. They sent back the check without cashing it. Apparently the transition wasn’t supposed to cost him anything. I couldn’t figure it out, but I was glad!

    You’ve written a great post.

  4. evenshine says:

    fightingwindmills- WOW! Here’s hoping it’ll go that way for us, too. And thanks for the compliment!

  5. faemom says:

    That sucks. I had a friend who wanted only a green card and she was married to an American any ways. She was from our beloved sister country Canada, and it still took her sixteen months and several hundreds of dollars, including last minute flight back to Canada because oops, we only give you a week before the interview in the capitol, not your home town. Stupid red tape!
    Good luck!

  6. Karen says:

    I am thankful that this road is over with for my husband and I. He just became a citizen in Jan 2008. It’s a lot of paperwork, headaches, and cash … but worth it. When my family went together to be with him as he was sworn in as a brand new US citizen, there was a palpable pride amongst myself and our 3 kids. I will pray for you and your immigrant man!

  7. badmommymoments says:

    I’m sorry that I don’t have any insight to offer, but I wanted to tell you that I’m learning a lot from your blogs and really, really appreciate the style of your writing.

  8. We’ve been through the same thing. It caused tremendous stress and a tremendous investment of time and money.

    Our consolations are that we didn’t pay for a lawyer and that his temporary green card came through relatively quickly (took about 5 months from start of paperwork to recieving card).

    It was such a relief to finally get that card!!

  9. Pingback: At least I know I’m free « Evenshine’s Weblog

  10. Karen says:

    errrr…. wouldn’t recommend going through immigration without a Good immigration lawyer. I have seen too many people get snared up in technicalities that have either slowed or stopped the process. I am glad that it worked for you minnesota.. just wouldn’t be comfortable telling anyone that you weren’t using a lawyer.

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