The End of the Immigration Affair (Almost)

We’ve been waiting for Gerry to get his permanent green card since we applied for it in the summer of 2017, ninety days out from the date the conditional green card was due to expire (21 October 2017). Well, as you know, the current “president’s” administration is understaffed, inefficient, and way behind on everything (not to mention anti-immigration); they sent us a letter extending the temporary green card for another twelve months. No new card, just a piece of paper. When it got to be October of 2018, they sent us another “oops” letter extending the card another six months, to April 2019.

Meanwhile, after three years of legal residency (from his date of entry: 21 October 2015), Gerry was entitled to apply for citizenship … which is something else you do ninety days out. So in July 2018 we paid the money and filed those papers.

As of April 2019, we’d heard that the citizenship application had a case number; we had not gotten another extension letter for the temporary green card, and we were a little nervous. But our attorney said the expired letter date didn’t matter: “You are legal until they send you a letter telling you you are not legal.” Um, OK.

And then May happened: some action at last. Our attorney got an email saying Gerry’d been assigned a date to appear for the citizenship interview. (She was thrilled: “I think you are skipping ahead a whole year in the process!” she said excitedly.) Meanwhile Gerry got an email saying his permanent green card was being processed. The card never showed up, but we gathered up the materials we needed for the citizenship interview. Proof, proof, and more proof of our life: I’ve been setting photos aside since July 2017, and we pulled together IRS records and on and on, the sorts of documents we have already submitted twice.

The citizenship interview was today.

Gerry had decided last month to go ahead and pay our attorney to come with us, because the whole process has been so unpredictable, so arbitrary, so haphazard and random. We are so glad we made that decision.

Surprise! It’s a Green Card Interview!

She met us at the USCIS (US Custom and Immigration Service) office in Nashville where the interview would happen. As we waited, she told me a story about how there are three agents who handle the interviews; two of them are very nice. The third had threatened to throw her out of his office because she’d smiled at her client during an interview. (She smiles and laughs a lot.) “He’s an asshole,” she said.

Guess which one we got?

I also am a person who smiles and laughs a lot, and it’s a wonder I wasn’t thrown out right away. This guy—early-mid thirties, short, bearded, carries a backpack rather than a briefcase—spoke very, very fast and in a low mumble. I had trouble hearing him. And right away he asked us something about our relationship that was so silly, so ridiculous (I wish I could remember what it was) it made me giggle-snort.

He gave me the stink-eye; I made a mental note not to smile or laugh.

And so we proceeded. Although he had two large binders’ worth of photographs and documents such as birth certificates, passports, material establishing that we live in the same house—all the documentation we had to submit for the first two stages of the green card application—he made us relate our entire story, pitting us against each other, asking and re-asking the same questions as if he was trying to trip up one of us. It was a never-ending barrage of questions, with no direction. He’d ask a specific question, which we would answer, then he would just sit there staring at us for a few beats. Finally he’d say, “Go on,” as if we’d failed to read his mind.

That was the green card portion of the interview—the one we had not been notified to prepare for. (The citizenship application—the one we had been notified about—does not require my presence.) For example, we’ve been submitting copies of our joint tax returns to CIS for several years, but on this day this guy wanted proof that we’d paid the taxes (our CPA handles it, so no, we didn’t have a nice little thank-you letter from Uncle Sam), and he wanted recent proof that we have joint banking accounts. He questioned strenuously why Gerry’s name was on the title to our car along with mine, if Gerry didn’t drive. He questioned repeatedly why we bought a house together all the way back in 2007 since we didn’t marry until 2014. (“We were planning for our retirement,” I snapped, growing weary of him.) He wanted the deed to our house to confirm joint ownership, even though we’d brought the most recent city and county tax bills, which had both our names on them. (We’d even brought the bank statement showing we’d paid off the mortgage.) These (IRS proof of payment, deed to house) are all things we could have brought with us had any of us known we’d be having the green card interview.

It was a needlessly confrontational, exhaustingly adversarial conversation. He was like a dog with a bone, and we were the bone he was determined to chew up. Our attorney inserted herself a couple times; her comments reminded him that as he knew (he had all the official correspondence, after all) we had not been notified to prepare for a green card interview. He truly was an asshole, and the whole time we sat there I was reflecting on what it must be like to have brown skin, to not understand the language as well as we do, and then get this guy for the interview! Thank goodness our attorney was there. Thank goodness we could afford to hire her. And what a sad, miserable little life that guy must lead. I wonder if he’s ever traveled outside the country.

That said, if anyone ever utters the words extreme vetting in my presence, I will give that person a piece of my mind. (They know who they are.)

And Now For the Citizenship Interview

Mr. Miserable was done with me, and I had to move to the second row of chairs, away from his Big Desk in the Tiny Office. Woo. Now the interview was straightforward: a series of questions about character (already asked and answered on paper a year ago). Have you ever been arrested, for example. Again, asked in a very fast mumble; if English were your second language, the potential for misunderstanding and giving the wrong answer would be very high.

Then the actual citizenship questions. A year ago we’d been given a booklet with the one hundred possible questions about US history, US government, and so on. These are things I learned in high school, although I’m told they don’t teach civics in public schools anymore. Applicants are asked ten questions of the hundred; to pass you must get six right.

Gerry only needed to be asked six.

You also have to say at least one sentence in English, and you have to write a sentence in English. (In this case: “The American Indians were here first.”)

At the end of all this, Mr. Miserable said, “I am recommending you for US citizenship. You will be informed when to appear to take the oath. It will be sometime in the next three months.” And that was that. No “Welcome home, Mr. Hampson,” as the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) agent in Dublin had said back in October 2015 when Gerry got his immigration visa under a different presidential administration.

Until the oath ceremony, Gerry’s still in limbo. His green card has an expiration date of 21 October 2017, so it’s no good for ID. If he needed to travel outside the country prior to his oath-taking and the arrival of a new passport (how long does THAT take these days?), his Irish passport would be flagged. There is a stamp that USCIS can place in the passport to “keep him legal,” should anything arise, but naturally Mr. Miserable declined to do that for us, although he could have right then. (He will if we need it, he said. But no favors, you see.)

Doing the happy dance right outside the door.

We Are Delighted, Of Course

We left the building with our heads down (Gerry muttering “Prick!”) but when we were outside, we laughed and took a photo. We stopped at Famous Dave’s on the way home and picked up some barbeque, the way two little old people might celebrate. 🙂 This long journey is almost over … and we are looking forward to Gerry’s opportunity to vote in the 2020 election.

But again, I want to stress this: we had an attorney to guide us through the process, a knowledgeable one who gave us great advice. We both speak the language, and we are white. Additionally, I have been around the block enough times to not be afraid of assholes. But just imagine someone who is truly foreign trying to navigate this process with Mr. Miserable.

• • •

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25: 35, 40 ESV)

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Who Dat? Old Family Photos

One is reminded (when looking at old family photos) that back in the day, you took a photo and couldn’t be sure what you had snapped until days or weeks later when the film was developed. Was the lighting OK? Was it fuzzy? You just didn’t know. And film wasn’t cheap, so you didn’t take three (or ten!) photos of the same thing to make sure you got a good one. Most of my father’s photos are in focus but he didn’t throw out the bad ones, either.

I have no idea who the adults in this photo are. 🙂

My parents kept a little 3×5 metal file box of addresses (for the Christmas card list) because their air force friends became family to them—and they kept in touch, year after year after year. They kept in touch if they moved away but they hung out if they were stationed together.

This couple appears in several of the family slides; I can’t remember their names but I know we were close to them. He was a pilot. I seem to recall a story of airplane hijinks (flying under bridges? flying under something, something the US Air Force frowns on). He met her while he was stationed in Italy and married her. That’s me* in his lap, Jill in hers (probably early 1957). What intrigues me about this photo, though, is that marvelous carved wooden partition. That sure wasn’t our house!

*Notice I’m wearing a dress. Until I got older, I was always in a dress. Ninety percent of these slides, I’m in a dress, a dress sewn by my mother.

Moving Humanity Forward (At the Oscars)

I got really worked up—inspired!—watching the Oscars this year. And I want to preserve that feeling.

This was the first thing I took notes on last night, this clip introducing the movie Roma, a nominee for Best Picture. Actor Diego Luna speaks in Spanish (and I loved all the Spanish spoken last night! Loved it!) and then chef Jose Andres makes some comments about the “recipe” that creates humanity never turns out the same—we’re each unique—altho the ingredients in that recipe are universally the same. So. Very. Special. You can just hear him say “are universal” where this clip begins. You’ll then see exactly where I leapt to my feet and started shouting …

Yes, immigrants and women move humanity forward. There are plenty of conservative old white men (say, my brother) who were probably annoyed by this little bit of politics, but piss on them. They are the past. The future is on the way, and some of it speaks Spanish.

Speaking of the future, I saw a one-minute version of this ad last night too. “Dear Tech.” Brilliant. And thank you. Let’s do make a difference in government. Let’s keep our voting data secure, for one thing. Conservatives probably hated this too.

And you know I’m an old softy when I can get inspired by a television ad. Looooooove this. You go, ladies. Show them what crazy can do, indeed.

It made me really happy to see Spike Lee get an Oscar after all these years. Some years ago (and yes, I’ve probably told this story before) Spike Lee and I were waiting for an early morning flight to New York from Nashville. He was studiously ignoring people who tried or even looked like they might try to talk to him by keeping himself buried in a Kindle. I’d noticed him as soon as I got to the gate, and I’m well-schooled in “Nashville Rules”: don’t bother celebrities, we say, let them have their privacy. And I sat there and fought with myself about it, because I have strong feelings about Spike Lee. But right before boarding, I broke the rule. I spoke really fast: “Mr. Lee. I just want you to know that Do the Right Thing is one of the best and most important movies I’ve ever seen in my life, and 25th Hour was pretty stunning too. Keep up the good work.” He looked up at this chubby middle-aged woman, set his book down, stood up, and shook my hand and thanked me for saying so. It made my day.

So I’m glad for Spike Lee, and I’m glad Americans saw Spanish spoken at the Oscars, and I hope maybe the hearts of other folks were touched too. Immigrants, women … crazy, man.

 

Bean the Brave

10 January 2018 (Obituary)
Today we had to let Beanie go. Our hearts are broken, but we couldn’t bear to let her suffer any more than she had. She is stardust, she is golden, she is of the Tribe of Tiger, she is Bean the Ferocious, Bean the Fierce. Sing it.

On the prowl in the iris bed.

27 January 2018
Bean has visited me two nights in a row. The first night I saw her above me, looking to see if I was awake, her beautiful eyes big and round. Last night I felt her beside me in her usual place. I put my hand down to touch her, and when I did, she changed her position, just a little. Her fur was so soft. I know it’s just in my dreams. But they were so vivid.

• • •

27 July 2018
My little cat got sick last summer, right about this time. That is, she seemed fine, but she began to lose weight. We took her to the vet, did a lot of tests, gave her pills and vitamins and special food. She was only twelve years old, but she’d always had little ailments—a cough; a tendency to puke—and now she was wasting away.

In November I had written, “She hates all these pills. She is no longer well groomed; she doesn’t groom. She eats, but not enough. She loves a food flavor one day and won’t touch it the next. I spend a lot of time trying to coax her to eat, trying to find the thing that will, frankly, keep her alive. Her appointment for an ultrasound is still three weeks away (December 6). And really, how likely is it that her wasting away is something simple that can be fixed and she lives another five years? It’s torture. I don’t want her to go but I don’t know how much more either of us can take.”

I was trying to prepare myself.

She came to me in 2006, rescued by my son. She’d been a neglected, lonely indoor cat from kittenhood. She was terrified of the outside, but I had two older cats who spent their days lying on the deck in the sun, and she’d watch them from the glass door. So I’d carry her out there, and eventually she loved it. Her name was Precious then, a perfectly ridiculous name for a feline as cranky as she generally was, and I renamed her Bean. She grew right into it.

And she became My Cat. Wherever I was in the house, she was there. When I was working (I’m an editor) she was most often asleep on the desk.

Daily. This.

Or sitting in the office window for a change of view.

She preferred open, and would paw at a closed window until I opened it.

Or keeping me company in the kitchen.

She could watch me from this spot.

Wherever I settled for a moment, she would show up and settle in too.

My little helper.

If I went out into the backyard, Bean was there. I never really thought about it at the time, but she was my shadow. My constant companion.

No matter how late I worked, she stayed with me, but when I went to bed, she slept right beside me, nestled up against my hip. I could put my hand down beside me at any point during the night, and feel her. We had a routine: I brushed my teeth, and she had a drink from the china bowl in the bathroom. I’d get into bed and she’d visit the cat box. When I was settled, she’d walk up the steps I’d put at the foot of the bed for her, and get into her spot. But first, a good grooming.

Bean on her favorite blanket.

She didn’t like to be held. She would tolerate your picking her up to, say, feed her. And sometimes she’d deign to sit in your lap. But no holding. No cuddling. She was tiny, but she’d rear back and swat you—wap-wap-wap-wap-wap—if you insisted on holding her. She packed quite a wallop.

• • •

I waited a long time to try to write this, but I needed to say it while I still remember everything. But doing it is breaking my heart all over again. I miss my little girl cat.

Watching birds from the deck.

She loved Gerry.

Actually, she liked him best. 🙂

She loved our bedroom; it was her sanctuary. She liked lying on my shoes.

Bean on her throne.

She had beautiful markings (a monkey on her back!) … and a whimsically curled tail.

See the monkey?

She liked lying on her back with her legs in the air. And as prissy as she was, she loved a good roll in the dirt.

Rite of Spring.

She chased squirrels.

Here she has the squirrel (ahem) treed.

She often followed the sun up the staircase, one step at a time.

I have almost as many photos of Bean on the stairs as I do of her on my desk.

• • •

Oh, Beanie, if I’d known it was the last time you’d sit in the windowsill, walk across my desk, sleep next to me … I would have stopped what I was doing.

• • •

12 January 2018
We got out of the house yesterday, had dinner with close friends Jan and Lisa. We met Jan at her office before going to the restaurant and she asked, “Do you have a cold?” I’m fine, I said.

She looked hard at me for a second. I’ve known Jan for more than twenty years. “You don’t look fine. Are you OK?” she asked again, and I hesitated. No, I said, I’m not OK, and she understood right away. It is good to have friends who really know you and get it and give good hugs. We had a nice slow dinner, then, and were home in bed by nine o’clock. I rested my head on Bean’s favorite blanket. She checked on me early this morning. I know I was dreaming but I felt her presence, coming up to look at my face, as she always did around 3am, 4am.

10 January 2018
“What happened?” our wonderful vet asked, shocked, as I was sobbing in the exam room. We’d just been texting not twenty-four hours earlier about Bean’s status, and I was hopeful. (I was always hopeful. I was always fooling myself; I knew where this was going.) I’ll never tell our dear vet how that question broke me even further. Bean was supposed to have more time; the vet was surprised. But for days—the things I forgot to report—Bean had cried when I picked her up. And since she could no longer get up onto the furniture, she had to be picked up. I think she was in more pain than she was letting on. And I think the progression of the cancer was exhausting her. The day before her morning routine—get up with me, wait by the door until I opened it, walk from the bedroom to the dining room in the dark, jump up onto the dining room table and wait for me to bring food—had been the same, although she’d already begun that funny walk where she couldn’t always get up on her hind toes. As that day progressed she was walking more and more flat-footed. I told myself that she was always worse in the evening, at the end of the day. I told myself a lot of things to keep from thinking about the end. To keep from despairing.

On the day of her death, though, she did not get up with me. She was sleeping by my pillow, and she didn’t move when I got up, though she watched me. Later I checked on her, and she’d moved from the pillow end of the bed to the foot of it. Another check and she’d moved onto the cedar chest. Another check and she was on the floor by the door, so when I opened it, she began wobbling down the hall. When I put her on the table to eat, she ate like we’d been starving her, so it wasn’t that she had no appetite; she just didn’t have the energy or couldn’t face the pain of walking. (Although I’d come immediately back to the bedroom and given her the pain med, even before feeding Laddie and Spot.)

But there was one other thing that told me we were at the end, and this happened during the night. Her tail. She always had it in strict control. She could pull it out of my hand if she wanted to (it was soft; I liked to touch it). She always knew where it was. When she was on the bed, it was wrapped around her. But in the last day or two, it wasn’t wrapped, it was stretched out, as if she didn’t have the energy to wrap it. I think this and the inability to walk correctly were connected. Some tumor was pressing on a nerve, perhaps. The most telling thing, the thing that made me know it was time, was that during that last night, I found her tail tangled into my arm a couple times. (I always woke up a couple times every night and felt where she was and then dropped back to sleep, knowing “all’s right.” She’d move from next to my hip to next to my pillow, and back. And she’d change the way she was facing, toward me or away from me.) But this night she stayed by my pillow—again, I think it was too hard for her to move—and she’d shift a little, but her tail had to fend for itself. It was completely limp, lying across my upper arm, or caught in the crook of my elbow. Soft, that beautiful tail, but utterly limp. That’s when I knew. That’s when I knew.

And I’m thinking of this answer now, while I’m clearer of mind, not while I am distraught and broken. When our vet asked, “What happened?” I couldn’t even rub two thoughts together as I stood there covered in cat pee, sobbing because I knew I had to let Bean go and it was the very. Last. Thing. I wanted to do. I did not want to say good-bye to my cat that day. I thought we had a little more time.

I know, also, that our vet’s shock came from a place of love for Bean. I’d watched her touch Bean and love Bean and let Bean be pissed off in a cat tower and—instead of making her move to the exam table—simply went to the cat tower to check her. Bean had a lot of personality, she was extraordinary, and people who knew cats knew that.

Giving me the stink-eye for bringing her here.

We tried so hard to keep her here with us.

17 January 2018
The vet called today, a week later, to let me know her ashes are ready. Later G said, “Do you want me to go in and get the ashes?” and I said I can do it. That I’m OK. And then I began to cry and said, “Well, I was OK until right now.” I told him I still have trouble going into the bedroom at night, to go to bed, because she would always be there, or be going with me.

I told him I’d stumbled on some photos in my phone that I hadn’t yet downloaded, taken on her last day, and I found them upsetting. She looked so sad, so worn out … And he said, “Just imagine her now, a week later,” and I began to sob. I can’t look at those pictures right now. And I can’t imagine another week of her suffering. (Though as sick as she was, her grooming, her tenacity, and her litter box etiquette were impeccable. She maintained her dignity and her personality to the end.)

But I know I made the right decision to let her go when I did. I know she isn’t suffering now, and knowing that is a lifted weight, as much as it hurts.

And even that lifted weight made me feel so awful.

• • •

A friend of mine makes a habit of rescuing greyhounds, even though, as you might imagine, they don’t always live long past the point of rescue. So she has experience with making these decisions. Waiting. Or letting them go on. And she talks with others about it. She talked with me about it. “Lots of people have regrets about waiting too long,” she told me. “No one ever thinks they let them go too soon. Not after they’ve had time to think about it.” This comforts me, Darcie. Thank you.

• • •

So we let her go. I am still sad. And the simplest facts are: I’m self-employed. I work from home. Bean followed me everywhere. So everywhere I look … she’s not there, and I’m sad about it. I could just weep for longing.

Dear Old Friend:

You saw my Facebook remarks about listening to the audiotape made surreptiously at the US/Mexico border when little children were being removed from their parents’ arms. There was shouting and weeping, and it made me cry, sitting there, hard tears. This happens to me.

But you just couldn’t resist a response. What is your solution to the immigration issue? you asked. What is your solution—I notice that now it’s an immigration issue, not an illegal immigration issue. But I see no issue. I and others like me are not deceived by this; we’ve known all along people like you would prefer no immigration at all. As if you weren’t raised just like me, with the notion of a melting-pot America. What happened to you?

(I know, I know; that question is rhetorical. You’ve been brainwashed by Limbaugh and Shapiro and Fox Not-News, and since the illegitimate election of a racist to the highest office in this country, you think it’s OK to fly your racist flag in public now. But the fact is, people like Sean Hannity are preying on your fears and your false perceptions. The border crisis is a myth. Immigration has been falling. Doesn’t hurt wages or increase crime. Isn’t in the top 100 serious challenges for our country. Read this and become informed; it will make you feel better.)

Let me remind you that your people were once immigrants and no doubt arrived here illegally, too, unless they arrived after 1920 or so. Unless you are of Native American extraction. As to the rest of it, you know my feelings, so I don’t know why you bother to ask, other than to disturb my sleep (since I tend to check FB before I go to bed). So let me remind you that I have skin in this game. Remember that I have married two immigrants, and the first had let his legality lapse by the time I married him.

But long before I married the second immigrant, I developed empathy for those who are simply seeking a better life. I became a single mom; I lost a job during a recession; I worked two full-time (40 hrs/week) minimum wage jobs and freelanced in my spare time, such as it was. My son was on the Federal Free Lunch Program; I sought food stamps. To do that, I had to spend hours waiting in line, taking time off from my poorly paid work. Let me tell you, it is expensive to be poor, and it is hard to climb out of the hole once you’re in it. (I know you grew up in poverty, which is why I’m always so surprised that you … well, you know.) I lived in a 650-square-foot apartment in a complex that also housed many Mexican folks. Were some of them illegal? I’m sure they were. They were young men, often; I learned that they came and worked and lived poor and sent their money home to their wives and children. When I saw them shivering in the wind in front ot a taco truck parked in the laundromat across the street from our apartments, I was heartbroken.

As time went on, I had many conversations with “the least of these” as the Bible calls them, people I met where I lived, where I worked (often janitors, of course), where I ate (long conversations with Mexican waiters in the presence of my son). Not only did my empathy grow but I began to understand that I live in an abundant land. Seriously—have a look. I truly believe that we have enough here to go around. We have—until trump arose—one of the most desirable countries on earth and we export our culture unremittingly. It’s no wonder people want to come here from all over the world.

Do I have a “solution” for that? No. It’s not my job. Way smarter people than me … (this statement does not include trump, or Stephen Miller, or, in fact, anyone in trump’s administration, because they are subpar intellects and subpar human beings and, we are seeing demonstrated, criminals, wholly unqualified to collect garbage, much less run this country; surely you’ve seen the news so you know this, yes?) … but smarter people than I have reasonable solutions, so I don’t feel the need to spend my precious time, which must needs be spent earning a living, on this.

My second immigrant husband now has nearly ten thousand dollars invested in the immigration process, and we are nowhere near the finish line. In fact, a process (exchanging a temporary, 2-year Permanent Residency card to a permanent one) that should take a year is now approaching the one-year mark and we’ve just learned it could take up to a further 36 months. That’s the wait time. Fortunately we have the means to hire an attorney (who informed us a year ago that every step of the process from here on in must be litigated, i.e., must happen in a court of law) and we are white. But just imagine couples, families, who are separated during this process (I actually have corresponded with some). Just imagine that they are people of color. Just imagine that trump’s jackboots are checking the immigration process of every single case looking for ways to end it. Oh wait—no need to imagine it! It’s happening already. The jackboots are coming. They’re even trying to find ways to take away the naturalized US citizenship of some immigrants.

As to what’s happening on our borders right now, again, you know how I feel. The solution for this trumped-up “problem” doesn’t really matter—using children as pawns is vile, inhumane, and, in fact, illegal. It is an abomination. No matter how many times our illegitimately elected president lies about who “started” this, the data and the facts and the truth exists. The trump government set the policy, and they could stop it; however, they do not.* (Liberal tears, and all that.)

Federal and international law prevent the government from deporting people back to danger. And it’s perfectly legal for someone to present himself for asylum at a port of entry. We know now that DHS is refusing to allow any of them enter. Which is illegal. Note the irony that it is our government who is behaving illegally, not the asylum seekers. Many asylum seekers, therefore, choose to cross between ports of entry—to cross illegally into the US—and present themselves to Border Patrol. When an asylum seeker crosses into the US illegally, he/she commits a federal misdemeanor. Under previous administrations, the Department of Homeland Security usually processed the asylum case first rather than referring him/her to the Department of Justice for federal prosecution. Even if DHS referred her for prosecution, DOJ wouldn’t usually bother to actually prosecute her before her asylum case was complete. But Jeff Sessions, in particular, is convinced that many of these asylum claims are fraudulent, brought by “dirty immigration lawyers” to gum up the system. So DOJ and DHS have stepped up their efforts to detain as many asylum seekers as possible and deport as many of them as quickly as possible. To repeat and emphasize, not everything that’s illegal—meaning against the law or violating the law—is a crime. There are civil violations, like when you get a parking ticket. “Unlawful presence” is one of these. You don’t go to jail or receive any other criminal punishment for being in the country illegally—you get deported (though not, in theory, if you have a credible asylum claim). So being here illegally does not equal a crime. In fact, 45 percent of undocumented immigrants (aka “illegal” immigrants) arrived legally. Forty-five percent.

Those fleeing persecution—most often from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; also Nicaragua is heating up—should be treated as potential victims rather than presumed criminals. That would be the empathetic, humane thing to do. Fully 76 percent of people who arrive at the border have credible asylum claims. Seventy-six percent! Yet no claims for asylum are being allowed by current DHS. However, there is no reason to take those asylum-seekers’ children away from them. There is nowhere else in the entire world that does anything like this. Trump is the first president to institute a policy to remove children from those seeking asylum. Immigration policy has been discussed and fought over for decades, and plenty of people on the left criticized Obama (and Clinton) for how they handled it, though I don’t think there’s any point in looking backward at this point. This is something new, this is something different: We are talking about seeking asylum and separating families, not border-crossing and deportation.

So, my old friend, don’t come to me like you’re some wise old sage who is going to show me the error of my progressive ways by tangling me up in how I would devise a solution. This policy of taking children is purely political, it’s shameful, and no one with a shred of humanity should support it.

Sincerely,
Your Friend Who Is Not Falling For It

* Since this writing, it has stopped, sort of. There are still no asylum claims being accepted. And ICE is searching public records for every marginal case they can find for deportation.

Dear American Airlines …

We took a trip from Nashville to Dublin. It was (ahem) not fun. You should consider these issues going forward. I know it’s only us two little old people, but we plan to travel more now, and we will think long and hard about flying American from now on.

We were at the airport with plenty of time to spare—just the way I like it. No rushing. Which meant we had plenty of time to deal with Adventures with American Airlines Part 1: AA emailed us last night to check in on the computer and get boarding passes. This was new to us (on American), and it seemed to only included the first leg of our itinerary (BNA to CLT), so we didn’t do it. (In retrospect, we should have. One lives and learns.) Thus when we were checking in at the airport—all electronic now, and for people like us not accustomed to this new way and thus find it baffling, exasperating, and inefficient (not to mention that human jobs will be eliminated by this technology)—we got a screen that told us we were in boarding group 5 but we could be in an earlier group if we each paid $26! Aha!

Now, my preference in the past has always been to board as close to last as I can get … except these days the Overhead Baggage Wars are brutal—do not get me started on the size and number of carryons, and the people who abuse this aspect of air travel—and sure enough, having declined to pay AA another $52, we were treated to an announcement that was new to us (how long has this been going on?): that only twenty-five* wheeled carryons can be accepted and rest will have to be gate checked. (*This rule is in effect the small airplanes used on regional flights; international flights have plenty of bin room.) Note: we were not traveling with wheeled carryon luggage.

Interestingly, the business-class patrons are in the first group to board, and they are inevitably big users of wheeled carryons to avoid checking luggage. Maddeningly, while we had a “bulkhead” seat, we had to put our (not-wheeled, not huge) carryons in bins about a dozen rows behind us. Why? Because there wasn’t enough room in business class for all those huge carryons, so the business-class folks came into our seating area to store them. (I plan to voice my displeasure to your management about this.) Another issue, of course, is the folks who have seats in row 30 but throw their bags into the bin over row 8—I guess because they don’t want to carry them any farther—which seems rude and also counterproductive.

Seriously, y’all, I used to love air travel, but in the last decade, I’ve grown to hate/dread it. American Airlines might also consider that group boarding—with one’s group determined by how early one checks in—makes sense when there are no assigned seats (as on Southwest); but when seats are reserved in advance, it seems that it would be wiser to assign groups by row numbers. I think my problem with all this is I keep wanting flying to be a civilized thing. But it’s just not any more. It’s very cutthroat, from the reduction in seat size to the carryon situation. Don’t get me started on TSA agents … but that’s not your fault, American, although it does add to the overall negative experience.

We had a very short layover in Charlotte, so I got off the plane with my purse and my laptop and started to the gate for our international flight while G, who walks considerably faster than me, waited for the rest of the plane to unload so he could go back the twelve rows to retrieve our carryon (my CPAP and his little bag). It’s a good thing we did split up because they were about to board the big plane by the time we got there.

Ah. A huge ocean-hopping airplane. Again G had paid extra to have bulkhead seats but instead we were in for Adventures with American Airlines Part 2. When we arrived at the row clearly marked on tickets we’d purchased months earlier, we were not seated in a bulkhead. We consulted with the flight attendant and learned that the plane had been reconfigured like a big ol’ Lego toy. The flight attendants were just getting used to it too. G was sent back outside to the check-in gate to make his complaint and get a refund, and over the next ten or fifteen minutes we were moved to and seated in four different places.

You read that correctly. Four.

Ultimately we were seated in a bulkhead-ish location, right under a large TV screen that was never turned off—this was a night flight—and right at a little crook in the aisle created by this reconfiguration. (American, make a note: aisles should be straight!) This guaranteed that I, sitting on the aisle, was bumped by every cart or person who walked by. No joke. A bump from the drinks cart. A bump from every flight attendant. It was a miserable experience, American Airlines.

And it wasn’t just us. The couple across the aisle from us had also paid extra for seats that no longer existed. There was also a tour group you inconvenienced with your reconfiguration, and that’s why we were late taking off. Sure, sure, the pilots made up for lost time in the air, but the fact is you pissed off not only the people who didn’t get the seats they’d paid for, but everyone around them who had to stand up to let them pass, move their overhead luggage, and on and on and on. Also, we sat on the runway for forty minutes after we arrived—not your fault, I know, but it added to the annoyance factor.

It was not a good public relations event for you, American Airlines. Just sayin’.

Racists at the Breakfast Table

My husband and I had breakfast with another couple on Saturday morning. I have long loved and respected these people—we worked together years ago—and they’d never met my husband, so I was delighted to show him off. On the way to the restaurant, though, I reminded Gerry: “No politics, honey. We just can’t talk politics.”

You see, my old friends are (let’s be frank, shall we?) crazed Trump supporters. I’d always known they were conservative (and I am not); I’d put up with my friends saying, in a mock shocked tone of voice, “You mean you want to pay more taxes?” for years.

But recently (in the last three or so years), they’d become one of that group of evangelical Christians who staunchly—no matter how awful the tweet—support and defend Trump. They’d become shrill. They’d become, even, nasty and mean in their defense of him.

I’d thought we could have breakfast and have a laugh. Yet within fifteen minutes, one of them was asking Gerry what he thought of Brexit. Harmless enough, you’d think. But Gerry’s Irish, Brexit will affect Ireland dramatically, and Gerry has followed Brexit news closely. My friend interrupted. “England is being swamped by people who have no respect for its ancient culture,” he said. Gerry snorted: “England had no respect for Irish culture for eight hundred years! And let me remind you,” he said, “England had such a labor shortage in the 1950s after the war that they encouraged emigration from elsewhere in the commonwealth, such as Jamaica.”

My friend was surprised—history isn’t his strong suit, apparently—but undaunted. He widened his cultural reflections to include Europe, which has, he said, accepted all those immigrants who “want to establish Sharia law”—yes, he actually said that—when in fact, these immigrants are often fleeing from Sharia laws. This went on and on. It covered every hot-button Trump-zealot issue you can imagine—and perhaps some you can’t. My friends were also incensed that Sikhs—if they should pass the notoriously grueling RCMP entrance process—can wear wear turbans as a Mountie.

Finally, my husband told them that they were advocating racial cleaning, and that this sounded racist to us. He kicked me under the table, we ended our meal, and left—a little shaken and relieved to be gone. We’re too old to put up with such ugliness.