Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled - shit, what are we saying?!? Fuck off!
I've always been aware that those who work in the mighty cogs of government bureaucracy are not quite human anymore. They've been separated from reality for too long, drowning in hieroglyphic forms filled in triplicate, bizarre and completely useless make-work projects, and procedural regulations that were obviously written by drunken monkeys. They exist in a world where it's considered standard protocol to ensure you know absolutely nothing about what's going on in other related departments or even in your own, as this ensures that no taxpayer will ever discover who's to blame for this whole fucking mess and therefore that every elected politician is able to pursue contemptable and sometimes downright illegal activities while simultaneously guaranteeing re-election.
come hither - back off
This awareness was recently strengthened as I followed the crazed hoop-jumping and pretzel-twisting of my older sister, who recently married a mutant ogre and who is following said mutant out of Canada to live in the mighty metropolis of Tampa Bay. The ogre is a dual citizen, and was stalked by rabid headhunters as a prime candidate for a rather nifty job in said city. He starts work in September.
My sister, however, is not a citizen of the United States. Neither is her young son. Therefore, she has been taking steps to acquire an immigration visa for both herself and her offspring so that she may join her newly married-to mutant. Now, since she's married to a US citizen and is herself a whitebread middle class Canadian, you'd think she should be able to get a temporary visa immediately and a permanent one within no more than six months quite easily, right?
First, she visited the US immigration website. There was plenty of useful information on it. There were also 800 numbers she could call for more information. This was where she encountered her first problem. The 800 numbers are only good in the United States. Think about that for a moment. This is the US Immigration website. Immigration. Those who usually wish to immigrate to the United States aren't presently in the United States. That's generally why they wish to immigrate, after all - because they're not there yet. In other words, they have to illegally enter the US to make a phone call to US Immigration to find out more details about immigrating there, which of course means that when they apply for an immigration visa, they have more chance of being turned down, having demonstrated nefarious border-sneaking behaviour in the past.
There was another option - a 900 number. Of course, the charge for this 900 number was 10 dollars a fucking minute. She'd have to pay $150 just to be put on hold listening to Musak. And she wouldn't even get any phone sex out of the deal. Her response to that alternative was, sanely enough, "fuck that noise."
Finally, she managed to find one number she could actually call: the field office in Sweetgrass, Montana that handled border crossing from the province of Alberta into America. This is how the conversation went.
LACKEY: Hello, US Immigration Field Office.
SISTER: Hello, look, I'm calling from Canada and tried the US Immigration's website's 800 numbers listed, but they're only good in the US. This border office was the only thing I could reach. Could you give me the main immigration numbers with area code that I can call instead?
SISTER: Erm - what?
LACKEY: We don't do that.
SISTER: But I just told you - the numbers don't work outside of the US.
LACKEY: Well, I'm sorry, but that's just the way things are.
SISTER: So then - can you answer my questions?
LACKEY: I'm not authorized to.
SISTER: OK, wait - you're not authorized to answer my questions?
LACKEY: That's right.
SISTER: And you're the border office.
SISTER: Where people will be crossing the border.
LACKEY: Uh huh.
SISTER: And you can't answer questions about crossing the border.
LACKEY: Oh, we can answer questions, but only if you're a US citizen.
SISTER: You're an immigration office, for fuck's sake! Why would a US citizen ask you questions about immigrating to the United States?
LACKEY: Look, I don't have to put up with your attitude.
SISTER: All I want to do is get a temporary visa to the US so I can immediately go there with my new and very US citizeny ogre husband to Tampa Bay and I can work and my son can go to school while I apply for a permanent immigration visa, OK? Are you authorized to tell me anything about that?
LACKEY: Oh, you can't do that.
LACKEY: You can't do that. You have to wait six months while your immigration visa goes through.
SISTER: But my husband's a US citizen.
LACKEY: Uh huh.
SISTER: And I'm married to him.
LACKEY: Uh, yeah.
SISTER: So, do I just go the US without a visa and apply for it there?
LACKEY: That's against US law. You need a visa to stay in the US.
SISTER: Yet there's no way for a married couple to stay a married couple while the non-US married individual applies for permanent residency in your country. They actually have to split up and live in different countries for six fucking months.
SISTER: That is total bullshit. I know for a fact that when you come to Canada from the US, you can get a temporary visa immediately if you're married to a Canadian citizen.
LACKEY: Yes, well, that's Canada. We all know how lax Canada is. We can't let just anyone into our country, you know. It's Homeland Security protocol.
SISTER: But I'm Canadian. It's not like I'm coming from Iraq or Saudi Arabia or something, where you can get all terrorist-paranoid on my ass.
LACKEY: Can you prove it? Do you have a Canadian birth certificate?
SISTER: Well, no, because I was born in Kampala, Uganda.
LACKEY: You're an African? Well, then there is a whole different set of rules you have to follow.
SISTER: No, I'm not an African, I'm a Canadian. I moved to Canada when I was 6. I've lived here all my life.
LACKEY: Except when you lived in Uganda. I'm pretty sure that country is on our Homeland Security watchlist.
SISTER: No it isn't. It's the Sudan and Egypt you're paranoid about, I'm pretty sure.
LACKEY: Same diff. It's African, after all.
SISTER: Oh, of course. Wouldn't want any more coloured people coming to your fine white country, now would you?
LACKEY: Are you calling our country bigoted?
SISTER: Nooooo. Of course not. That would imply you racially profile people at the border, now wouldn't it? And if a white chick comes with an African birth certificate, that obviously means she's a spy, right?
LACKEY: Well - yes.
SISTER: You don't know fuck all about US immigration, do you?
LACKEY: I am an employee of US immigration, bitch.
SISTER: Yep, that answers my question. *click*
At this point, my sister's ogre husband has been reduced to driving 4 hours to the US Embassy in Calgary, Alberta to find someone who actually knows what the hell they're talking about to get more information, because obviously Sweetgrass, Montana has a dearth of potential government employees with IQs higher than their shoe size. This person essentially contradicted every piece of information on US Immigration's website, and this is the person people coming from the province of Alberta to the US meet as their first representative of the country. And they wonder why Canadians make so much fun of the United States. You just make it so easy.
I told my sister to just hire an immigration lawyer and have them deal with the government so she can wash her own hands of it. It's worth the expense. And why do you think they charge so much? Why, to cover their psychotherapy costs, of course.
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