Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Principles 0, the Law 1

Yesterday, during immigrant visa interviews, I came across a case of clear marriage fraud that I hated to refuse. The applicant, a Saudi male, wanted to go to the US to marry his sweetheart, an American woman 25 years older than he. He didn't know details about her, like what she does at work or where her children live. It was clear that he was not in a bona fide relationship with her. When I asked how he'd met her, he spoke about his friend from college, an American man, who lived next door to her and who had introduced them. I asked how frequently he goes to visit this friend, and the applicant spoke warmly and in great detail about the friend, including how frequently he goes to visit him and what they do for fun.

When I looked up the man's prior tourist visa information, notes indicated that he had gone to visit the same friend numerous times over the last two decades. It's obvious what the case is - the Saudi man's true relationship is with the male friend, not the female neighbor. Unfortunately, there's no immigration benefits for that, nor is he legally even able to marry him at the state level. I disagree with this, strongly... but what can I do? I don't condone fraud, even if I don't like the underlying law.

Rough day.

1 comment:

  1. Warning! Long-winded post follows:

    Ouch, that is tough. The laws need to change. Hopefully they’ll change sooner than later.

    One of the speakers who touched me most at the rally following the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to allow gay marriage was the (Iowa City) County Recorder. In 2005 gay couples went to county recorders all over the state to request marriage licenses although same-sex marriage was against state law. All were turned away, but in Des Moines Lambda Legal brought a court case suing that county’s recorder in his official capacity, saying that the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman violated Iowa’s constitution. At the rally, Iowa City’s Recorder spoke about how personally difficult it was for her to have to say no to those couples though she knew it was wrong. She had tears in her eyes saying how happy she would be to be able to start granting marriage licenses to gay couples.

    Officials have to follow the laws. Enforcement is what makes laws meaningful. Sometimes, maybe many times, the law is wrong. But because the law is enforced, we can change the law as a way to change the world. We can believe that new, good laws that protect the people will be enforced, too. Today, the first day that gay marriage is legal in Iowa, opponents of gay marriage are giving petitions to county recorders across the state, asking them to ignore the law and refuse marriage licenses to gay couples. Fortunately, it seems as though the state’s recorders are upholding the law regardless of their personal beliefs.

    All of that is slightly tangential – but what I’m getting at is not to be too hard on yourself for doing your job. No one would expect anything else of you. What touched me most about our county recorder’s speech at the rally had nothing to do with her official actions. It was simply knowing that as a person, she was rooting for us all along and would treat us with human dignity when we went to her office to get a marriage license, however the law might dictate she act. Asking something of a bureaucracy can make anyone feel scared and vulnerable, but that’s particularly the case for classes of people who are used to being personally disliked. Even when you have to follow laws you don’t like, just having a little empathy can be a great gift to someone even if they won’t get what they want. And, as private citizens, we can hope for and work towards a day when the laws will be better.