Friday, April 21, 2006

A Personal Tale about Immigration

I was born in the United States, and I'm single, so I've never had occasion to deal directly with our nation's immigration system. For most of my readers — whether in the United States or in any of the 88 other countries in which this blog has been read — the same is true. There are a lot of other experiences that I've never personally had, though, like working in a coal mine; that doesn't mean that I can't try to empathize with those who have. In particular, one friend of mine, a man about my age with a successful home business, had the sort of experience with the I.N.S. that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. By way of James Frey disclaimers, the following is a true story, although I may change some minor details to protect the anonymity of the innocent.

Read more...You see, my friend was a great "Blankophile," where Blank is an unspecified E. U. nationality. He visited Blankland as often as he could. On one of his visits, he met a Blankian. They fell in love, and moved in together in San Francisco. The Blankian lover got his green card and was 100% legal to live here. Times were good. Times were a little too "good" one time, and Blanko Blankovich was infected with HIV; they both shared the religious view that sexual pleasure should not be shared with only one partner. As Blanko's health deteriorated, he was no longer able to hold down a regular job. However, my friend needed a part-time bookkeeper for his expanding business, so he hired his lover. The lover may have had a little bit of a "leg" up in the interview process, but he was qualified to do the job.

But then one day, Blanko went on a visit to his family back in Blankland. His health had stabilized with some new meds, but even so, he knew he wouldn't be able to endure the Transatlantic flights forever. A couple of weeks later, he flew back to San Francisco — or tried to, I should say. When he arrived at the U.S. border control station, he was denied entry, even though he had had a green card for more than a decade, because the government found out that he was HIV-positive. Never mind that he still had health insurance, and at least a part-time job; he couldn't be allowed back into the country because he had a virus in his body and therefore might be a burden on the state, even if not a contagious threat. He wasn't even allowed to stay in the United States temporarily; he was sent right back to Blankland.

My friend had been wanting to move to Blankland in a few years, perhaps, but he wasn't ready to leave his in-home business and try to establish himself from scratch halfway around the world. Well, the thing is, the United States' immigration policy doesn't give any status at all to same-sex life partners. (My friends' lack of monogamy was not in any way a reflection of lack of emotional commitment.) In at least some E.U. countries, it does. Thus, my friend is now a registered domestic partner, living with his same-sex spouse somewhere in Europe, and flying back to America for occasional visits.

America needs to reform our laws about illegal immigration, but we also need to reform our laws about legal immigration. (Of course, we also need to do something about the problems in other countries that create such pressure, or even desperation, to come to America looking for any job you can get.)

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