Imagine for a second that there is one visa available for entrance into the United States, and two people are vying for it. The first person is the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen. The second is an artist looking to perform in New York City. All other things equal, taking into consideration the values and priorities of our country, who should get the visa? Think a little about that.
Last month a member of immigrate2us.net reported that her friend’s husband, during an interview for a spousal visa in Ciudad Juarez, was informed that he was permanently ineligible for an immigrant visa despite his marriage to a U.S. citizen. His condemning “crime”: Years earlier, while living in the U.S. illegally, he was walking down the street when someone he was with offered heroin to an undercover police officer. I agree, it sounds bad, right? Well, the group was arrested, and besides the individual who actually offered the drugs, everyone was released with no charges, no fines, no penalties. However, at the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, all that is required to ban someone for life is suspicion that they were/are a drug trafficker.
This couple was caught completely off guard. His illegal presence in the U.S. would require a waiver, which they were aware of, but they had no idea that an innocent arrest, with absolutely no charges filed years before could possible derail their case, and their lives. There are no means to appeal the decision or try again later. She can move to Mexico or another country with him. More likely I suppose, he will attempt to re-enter the U.S. again illegally, desperate to re-claim the life he thought he would be re-starting as a permanent resident.
Another friend from the forum, also married to a Mexican who once lived indocumentado in the U.S., is dealing with a three-year separation from her husband due to a related issue. They filed the same petitions Fermin and I did, received their interview date in Ciudad Juarez, planned to submit the waiver for his illegal presence and have him on the road to legal residency in about a year. Instead, because he disclosed very occasional marijuana in his immigrant medical exam, he was given a three-year bar on filing the necessary waiver. Essentially, three years of limbo, and another four years in Mexico when you consider he will still have to file the waiver and wait for its approval once the three-year ban is up. His wife, a student in upstate New York, went to live with him in his small, rural hometown for several months before returning to the university. Financially strapped, their lives on hold, they live an impossible marriage.
The reason I tell these stories stems from feelings of rage I experienced yesterday when I read “New Bill May Speed U.S. Visas for Artists” in the New York Times.
When it comes to artists trying to obtain visas, notorious performers like Amy Winehouse usually get the headlines. That British soul singer’s application to come to the United States for the Grammy Awards in February was initially denied, with speculation that the refusal was because of her alleged use of illegal drugs.
But as the House of Representatives voted this week to speed up the visa approval process for some foreign artists and entertainers, the heads of arts organization said attention was finally being paid to the real problem: the time, money and complexity involved in getting visas for lower-profile artists, including dancers, singers, musicians and actors.
“It has become a huge burden,” said Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center Festival, the renowned arts showcase that this summer will bring together 57 performances and events from nine countries. – Felicia R. Lee
I’m sorry, but in response to Mr. Redden, I would like to obnoxiously whine like a 3-year-old, perhaps rub my thumb and forefinger together and sarcastically comment: “This it the smallest violin in the world, playing a sad song for you,” as an unsympathetic high-school teacher once did to me. Seriously.
Now, I do realize there is a big difference in both process and purpose between getting an artist’s visa to enter the U.S. temporarily and a U.S. citizen spouse’s application for permanent residency, but come freaking on!? How is the House about to pass a bill that will speed up the visa process for artists and performers while citizenship applications are processing at around 18 months (preventing law-abiding, long-time permanent residents from attaining the right to vote)? While H1Bs visas (which allow skilled foreign workers into the U.S.) run out in mere hours? While some farmers are so short of labor for the 2008 growing season (because of crackdowns on undocumented laborers) that they are literally closing up shop? And moving their farms to Mexico?
With current laws dictating that the spouse of a U.S. citizen is not allowed to enter the U.S. ever again for just the mere, casual suspicion of drug-related crime, and handing down three-year punishments to family members who admit a recent history of minor drug use, we should not be re-considering the artist visa laws on the basis that they are “unfair.” If it makes us look like “fortress America,” as someone quoted in the full article stated, it’s because we are becoming just that. And perhaps if there were more attention to the devastating affects our “strong” and “secure” immigration policy, we might also see some humane bills passed that protect the rights of families to live together in peace.