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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blech! - Updated

12pm Wednesday - LATER...

Home again, at last. Not bad, all told?

To be clear, recall that we had to drive fifty freeway miles this morning to arrive at the Federal Building in Downtown L.A. by 8.15am, just to ask a question of the Immigration Service - or USCIS, as they are now known. I thought the "C" stood for "Customs", but it doesn't - "Citizenship".

To be clear too, three of us interviewed for green cards last November - my son, my daughter, my self - but only two of us received them. My daughter would have, should have, but for a change in the rules that meant she did now require an FBI background check whereas until that day she had not.

So: we're two for three, and waiting. And a tiny bit worried.

Leaving home at 7am was a complete miscalculation - should have left at six. I hate being late for appointments, and stress all the way there if it turns out there is the remotest prospect that I won't arrive fifteen minutes early - give myself time to hang around, sort out papers, and walk-in bang on-time looking like the Biz, like I know where I am and what I'm doing.

We were late, of course: twenty minutes late. Since neither of us work in L.A. itself, and we don't have to commute to L.A., we clearly bolluxed-up the time we'd need to leave. As it was I arrived twenty minutes late, terrified that they would cancel today's appointment and ask us to make another. They can do this; they warn you to be punctual, or your appointment will be cancelled. If they had cancelled our appointment my american born-bred-raised wife would have exploded. She, being an actual american, feels perfectly free to give her government, that she pays for, a giant piece of her mind. I on the other hand, being an immigrant alien who also pays for this government but who could be kicked-out the country for sneezing at inopportune moments, I am quaking in my boots. Pleeeeease don't say anything! Please don't say anything! To myself, naturally.

I have since learned from my colleagues that had I left a mere ten minutes later this morning I would not have made it there at all. There was an accident where I had been, and the cars were stopped from the 5/118 all the way back to Magic Mountain. My colleagues turned back, to work from home.

Twenty minutes late. I hobbled in with my daughter, while my wonderful wife stayed outside to confuse and confound some war protestors who were thrusting signs in her face while all she was trying to do was enjoy a smoke. ..Make up your mind. Is it Bush you're protesting - which I quite understand - or is it the war you're protesting? Hmm? Which one is it? Because, you know, a thousand times more people die every day in this country through stupidity.If you were truly concerned about saving lives you might do something useful, like teach drivers ed. or child safety or any one of a hundred other things... Other smokers and bus-waiters clapped, she told me afterwards. My God, how I love that woman.

But twenty minutes late, and sweating. Hobbled into the Federal Building, dropped my walking stick trying to get my ID out my wallet and my phone out my pocket to show it had no camera in it, both at the same confused time. Sweating.

Turned out not to be too bad today - quickest visit ever, in fact. Into the first lounge, wait to be given a ticket, then sit waiting for ticket to be called. Up to the booth, tell my story to the perfectly-mannered asian gentleman behind the window. I mention this only because he was later interrupted on the other side by an asian co-worker, and they began to converse with one another in what I presume to be mandarin? I found this very funny, and indeed slightly disorienting, to the extent that I could not suppress a smile. Consider: sweating at the Immigration Service of the United States of America, while two agents behind the glass are chatting away in chinese. Perfect situation comedy material, and one of the things I love most about living in Southern California. This random mix of peoples, this conglomerate, is so exotic to me, who comes from the coalfields of Scotland and never met a black man until he was thirty? Wonderful...

Anyway: blabber my story to the man behind the glass, and eventually he disappears with a Be right back. Returns with a form, which I complete on behalf of my daughter, who all this time has been shuffling her feet at my side. Name. Address. Alien ID. When and where last fingerprinted? When and where last interviewed? A whole bunch of very official questions, a signature, and a little box at the bottom in which to write my question. This sheet, once completed and checked and corrected, is then stamped and handed back to me. Take this to Room XXXX. It's on the Xth floor. So out we troop, or hobble, whatevs, take the elevator all the way up to the Xth floor, walk through acouple of corridors to arrive at another window, this one outside Room XXXX. Tell my story again, hand the lady my filled-in form, she scans it, then tells me, instantly: Your reply will arrive in the mail.

End of interview.

The Immigration rules are always changing - always. It is no longer possible to call them on the phone and ask them a question about your Immigration status. It is no longer possible for your Lawyer to phone them up or otherwise inquire about your status. You must make an appointment and drive fifty miles to Downtown L.A. by 8.15am (it happens) and wait in two separate lines and offices just to be told Your reply will arrive in the mail.

I'm not complaining - as my youngest daughter often says - I'm just saying is all. I know never to complain about Immigration - it ain't my place to do so. Not yet. Not until I'm a citizen myself. Two-and-a-half years more I have to wait, and the clock is ticking...

Welcome to the Xenoverse. This is what we're about.


Blogger -jkg said...

ahhh.. a good yarn with a sturdy bureaucratic pillar to it. two and a half years is closing in and soon you'll be free of red tape. nah, just kidding. you wont. its part of this country's charm. the long forms and the blank faces behind the window. not that i get annoyed by it. not in the least. im just sayin.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous madame l. said...

was just at that same building a little over a year and a half ago getting a new passport for my teenage daughter. my other teenage daughter just had to renew her us passport in london and they scanned her eye(!?). i'm just saying.
my husband was detained after911 and sent back to france. i think it was the beard.

9:07 PM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Chere Madame.L - is your husband a journalist, I wonder?

I was allowed in despite my beard. But that was in the Great Before, and I've never left since and tried to come back again. Not even a day trip to Tijuana, though my kids, bless them, have pestered us continuously to do so. But they'd need a passport too to come from there back nowadays.

I have no doubt whatsoever that british immigration is just as helpful in every way as its american counterpart - probably more so? But of course, I've never had any trouble getting into Britain or trying to stay there. But I used to be a civil servant, in a technical sense, and I was warmed to discover the same love of numbered and mnemoniced forms. Perform-148 or I-57(b), same the world over.

11:14 PM  
Blogger DarkoV said...

Some q.'s, if you don't mind:
1) Does your wife do cross-country comedy tours? If not, why not?
2) ...who comes from the coalfields of Scotland and never met a black man until he was thirty? Coming from the coalfields, wouldn't you have seen coal-dust covered and encrusted men, i.e. "black" men, well black-covered men?
3) In 2 1/2 years, will you be joining your wife in front of federal buildings riling up the protestors? Or is that her sole claimed property?

6:57 AM  

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