Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Not Easy Getting Green - Part 2

You read about these immigration interviews and how they ask you all kinds of personal questions to try and trip you up and make you admit that you only married a US citizen to gain access to the country and that you really don’t love them or even live with them.

James and I discussed things like what our favourite colours are, just in case they asked.  We tried to remember what colour our toothbrushes were.  That one was a little confusing because I used to always get James orange toothbrushes (to match his hair) and me green ones (because that’s my favourite colour) but since giving birth to so many girls I had been trying to explore my pink side and so one time I bought myself a pink toothbrush and got James a blue one.  I realised one day quite a long time later that even though he had just come out of the bathroom with minty fresh breath his toothbrush was still dry.  I questioned him on this and he was adamant that he had used his toothbrush.  I asked him which one it was and he said “the pink one of course”.   After nearly throwing up I asked him why he thought I would buy him a pink toothbrush and he said “well, I thought it was a little bit odd but since I know you really don't like pink I figured you’d got it for me and the blue one was yours.”  

It turns out that they have far more advanced “figuring out if you’re really married” skills at the immigration office because they never once asked us about colours.

We got the appointment and it was pretty clear that you weren’t allowed to bring children.  I had learned that when an immigration form says “you are not required to bring your children to this appointment” what they really mean is “we do not need to meet the fruit of your loins for you to prove that your relationship has been consummated.  If you bring your darling little ankle biters we will take them and turn them into delightful little robots and set them on silent mode, we are not kidding”

So we set out on our own, it was kind of like a date except that we were slightly nervous.  So maybe like a first date except that we’d been married for about 6 years by then.

We got to the place and went inside.  The waiting room was huge and filled with all knds of people from all kinds of different countries.  There were no kids but there was a little corner with miniature chairs and children’s books.  I figured they had all the kids out the back in the robot conversion room.  Our names were called and we were escorted to an office.  There on the desk was the stack of forms I’d filled out all those months ago and all the photos I’d submitted and even the desperate letter I had sent explained the situation with the doctor and pleading for leniency.

The immigration officer who sat behind the desk gave me a bit of a shock.  Rather than being a middle aged man with piercing eyes she was a young woman who looked barely old enough to be out of school let alone to be solely responsible for my future.  She did not smile.  She had obviously passed with flying colours the ‘never smile at the immigrant’ course.  Either that or she had had too much botox but she seemed a little young for that.

I made it my mission during this interview to make her at least smile.  She went through some preliminary questions, noted down a few things, typed some stuff on her computer.  She mumbled about children and then asked if I had actually given birth to all my children.  I kind of stared at her and then James piped up “oh, yes she did.  I saw it.  Didn’t really want to see it but they definitely came out of her body”.  Not even a hint of a smile.  Man, she was hard.  She kind of nodded and noted something down again.

Then she did it.  She pulled out a sheet of paper and said “I’m going to have to ask you some questions.  I need you to answer verbally to each and every one”.  I thought ‘here it is, the colours and the toothbrushes and the brand of soap,  I’m ready, bring it on’.

She started on the first question.

“Have you EVER in or outside the United States knowingly committed any crime of moral turpitude or a drug-related offense for which you have not been arrested?”

Oh boy, these were the questions I had had to answer on paper with the original submission.  These were the ones where I had had to get the dictionary out to make sure I hadn’t done any of this stuff without realising it.  These were the ones which I had giggled over and read out loud to my family so they could giggle too.  How was I supposed to keep a straight face while answering these questions?  And would I get bored with saying ‘No’ so many times that I would slip up and say yes to one of them by accident?

I was pretty sure I hadn’t done any of the stuff she'd mentioned, I don’t remember doing anything with turpentine except tyring to get sticky stuff off something once.  And anyway, if you had done this stuff and not been caught why would you tell this lady?

I took a deep breath, glanced at James, decided I shouldn't do that again in case I got a case of the giggles, looked at the lady and said “No”.

The questions went on from there.  They got even more ridiculous.  They included such gems as:

Have you EVER within the past 10 years been a prostitute or procured anyone for prostitution, or intend to engage in such activities in the future? “No”

Have you EVER engaged in, conspired to engage in, or do you intend to engage in, or have you ever solicited membership or funds for, or have you through any means ever assisted or provided any type of material support to any person or organization that has ever engaged or conspired to engage in sabotage, kidnapping, political assassination, hijacking, or any other form of terrorist activity? “ could you repeat that one please?”  “No, I don’t think so”, "is that really one sentence?"

Do you intend to engage in the United States in espionage? “oh, that sounds very exciting, but no”

Have you EVER been a member of, or in any way affiliated with, the Communist Party, or any other totalitarian party?  At that one I had to ask “what is a totalitarian?”  The lady said “a dictator”.  I looked at James and said “well so long as you don’t include Helen Clark in that category”.  He choked and the lady actually laughed.  Yes, people, I actually got the immigration lady who could not smile to laugh out loud.  I was triumphant.  I’m not sure she even knew who Helen Clark was but Helen had made her not only smile, but laugh.

The list continued.

Was I a Nazi between the years of 1933 and 1945?  Well duh! Of course not my parents weren’t even born then.

Did I plan to practice polygamy inside the United States?  I don’t even plan to practice it outside the United States.

They got to the end of the list.  I was nearly there.  I was surprised that they hadn’t managed to ask me yet again if I had syphilis but apparently they had got the message.

The lady looked up from her screen and said “well this all seems to be in order.  Welcome to the United States of America, do you have any questions?”.  I did have some questions as it turned out.  I asked her if we had to come back for further interviews to prove our relationship was genuine.  No, she said, you two are most definitely in a genuine relationship.  I wasn’t sure how she could tell.  Maybe it was the way I had automatically taken James’ wallet out of my handbag when she requested his id, maybe it was the way we sat in our chairs quite comfortably apart from one another because we were just happy to have our own space after being climbed on by small children all week.  We’ll never know but apparently we look genuine. In two different countries too, since we had the same response to the same question in New Zealand when getting James' paperwork done there.

I had one more question.  “Is the green card actually green?  I hope it is because that’s my favourite colour”  As a matter of fact it is greenish and they just redesigned them so its actually pretty cool looking, she said.

At this point James all but pushed me out the door probably thinking if I kept asking silly questions they would revoke their decision on the basis of depleted brain cells lowering the national IQ.

We went home and a few weeks later the card arrived.  It is green and very pretty and has its own little tin foil envelope which it has to be kept in all the time to prevent people secretly accessing its information.  I am supposed to carry it everywhere I go.

I had occasion to use it when I went to the social security office. When I handed it over to the clerk she gasped, held it up to the light and moved it round and then with big round eyes whispered “this is a real one!”.  ‘Yes’, I said, ‘it was rather expensive too’ while thinking ‘please give it back’.  Then she floored me, she said “the guy just before you had one but his wasn’t real”, she had let him just walk away, right past the police officer sitting in the foyer.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here I was with a completely genuine and very expensive Green Card and there were bunches of people walking around using fake ones they got from goodness knows where for a fraction of the price and they didn’t even arrest them!!


  1. Wow......that is some excitement....You crack me up!!!

  2. Thanks for lots of laughs :) What a hassle! I'm glad you're here, though. :) - Amanda