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Monday, April 6, 2015

A US Immigration Tale

There is a good post up today on Open Borders in which Justin Merrill tells the tale of how he became an American abroad:  Our Wedding and Immigration Disaster.

Mr. Merrill, a US marine, served in Japan (Okinawa).  While he was there he struck up a friendship a young Japanese woman, and they stayed in touch after he went back home. They met again years later in the US while she was visiting the American family who hosted her when she was a student.   A happy ending (or beginning):   they fell in love and went back to Japan for the wedding ceremony, reception, and honeymoon.

Everything was going very well until they flew back to the US and his Japanese wife went through US immigration.  It did not go well:  she was taken into custody, questioned and deported back to Japan on a long flight through Holland.  Mr. Merill was then told that his wife was barred from the US permanently, though he hints that they did find a workaround.  With his wife in Japan and no possibility of her being allowed into the US, he packed up, sold everything, and moved to Japan.

In the last paragraph of his post I can hear his bitterness at how his wife was treated.
We were young and naïve and didn’t even know we were breaking the law. We thought that getting a spouse visa was as simple as applying after you entered on a tourist visa (turns out that’s exactly how I did it in Japan). It’s not like she was intending to overstay her visa. We were so busy planning and traveling that we didn’t properly research and the immigrants I did consult immigrated to the US before 9/11 and their information was out of date. I was shocked how they treated Eri like a criminal or terrorist, she was only twenty years old and didn’t fit the profile. I was also surprised at how the policy overrode common sense. It was actually harder for Eri to enter the country because she was married to me.
And as I read this I was amazed at how things had changed in just a few short years. Pre-911 my French husband got his Green Card in Seattle.  He had landed in the US on one kind of visa and it was just a matter of going down to immigration and filling out the paperwork to get residency status based on his marriage to me, l'américaine.  Very simple.  No one at immigration so much as blinked twice when we explained what we wanted. The final interview lasted less than 10 minutes.  That's all it took for the very pleasant official to decide that my husband merited a Green Card.

We were just as naive as Merrill and his wife.  We took for granted that because we were married, we could choose which country we wanted to live in.  And our assumptions proved true at that time.

In this story we can see how a vigorous and punctilious application of immigration law can hurt not only the immigrant but the native citizen as well.  Please note that the US not only lost an immigrant, but they forced one of their own into emigrating.  Merrill and his wife didn't get to choose where they wanted to live - they were forced in the direction of the country that would take both of them.

Interestingly enough, that turned out to be Japan - a country that many Americans consider to be unfriendly to immigrants.

Oh, the irony...


Unknown said...

Land of fear and home off the chicken hawks. My family has an similar experience where the Green Card process completed quickly and easily just before Homeland Scrutiny took over.

John Richardson said...

This is one more example of how U.S. tax and immigration policies will discourage immigration to the U.S. What the U.S. doesn't understand is that it must compete for the "best immigrants".

The U.S. "Exit Tax" (S. 877A rules) is another U.S. policy that will discourage people from seeking Green Cards. Those with "Green Cards" may (depending on how long they have lived in the U.S.) be subject to an "Exit Tax" if they move from the United States.

Think of it:

If you move from the United States you are required to give the IRS a share of your assets.

Although, "Exit Taxes" are not uncommon, the U.S. version is based on ALL assets and is the most punitive "Exit Tax" in the world.

The United States reminds me of General Motors in the early 1970s:

"We are immune from foreign competition. Toyota will never compete with us."

The human mind always overestimates what can happen in one year and underestimates what can happen in ten years.

In ten years, I could imagine that the U.S. would NOT be perceived as an attractive option for emigration.

No Fatca said...

Rand Paul is our only hope so far.