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An Incident at Immigration Control

My friend bekitty recently went to join her partner in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is working until September. She didn’t make it. She tells her story in full, and it’s worth a read to see what happens when the eye of immigration falls upon you.

In particular, I draw your attention to her framing of the experience, as a reminder of how privileged she is. Here’s a hint:

In Tank 6 with me were 16 other women… I was the only woman who didn’t speak Spanish.

Just another in a long line of bad experiences with immigration controls. Although I can understand the need for limits, the ruthlessness with which borders are patrolled troubles me. The things that concern me in particular, in this story and others I’ve heard, are the huge scope for discretion by immigration staff, the lack of recourse for people who find themselves on the wrong track, and the high-stakes decisions being made under pressure without access to advice or support.

Although this story has the distinctive fingerprints of the U.S.A. all over it, I doubt somehow that this story would be massively different in any other country. I’ve heard bad stories about every first world nation. It would be nice to achieve a culture shift. Can’t see it happening any time soon though.

(Movie poster above is The Visitor, which covers some of this same ground. Nice film.)

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Timb | April 13, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The visitor was a dope little movie!

  2. sonal | April 13, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Le sigh … Speechless and upsetting. I’m glad your friend is home again, safe.

  3. Karen | April 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Sucky sucky sucky sucky sucky sucky…

  4. 2trees | April 13, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Dude that sucks big time. This is the second person I have herd of who has dissapeared in the imigration system at the U.S boarder. Makes my U.K boarder ordeals seem like nothing in comparrasion. Give bekitty my love when you see her.

  5. Steve | April 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    What irks me from her post, when she contacts the NZ consulate, they tell her “since it was a matter of US immigration law, there was nothing they could really do”.

    Well gosh, thanks NZ consulate, good to see you’re looking out for us, checking in on our wellbeing and making your presence felt… Instead, their thoughtlines seem closer to: “uh oh she’s got in trouble, better not rock the boat with our American “friends””

    Maybe our NZ passports should have a message on the back page: “as usual should you be caught or captured, we will disavow all knowledge of your existence.”

    I wonder would the Australian and Brti consulate have been a bit more proactive for their peoples?

  6. Pearce | April 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Steve: Yeah you right. What the hell is the point of the consulate if they are limited to saying “Oh dear, what a shame, goodbye!”

    Something else that irks me is that some of the comments – not on the LJ post, but at the Shakesville blog, and also on Facebook – are basically apologists for the way Urs was treated. Like “Oh well, you were probably breaking the law in some unspecified way,” or “We need to defend our country from terrorists and moochers,” or “Other countries would have treated you worse so you should be grateful really,” etc.

    Some of these comments are phrased as “I feel for you, but…” which reminds me of “I’m not a racialist, but…” — as if putting a qualifier before saying something ignorant magically transforms it into something wise.

    Most of the comments were actually really supportive, but too many of them were not.

    Thank god Urs is now home and safe.