zoethe: (Default)
I was called in to deal with a client the other day, in a department in which I do not work. This generally happens when: 1) the issues are complex, 2) another person in the office has gotten in over is or her head, and 3) the client is pissed. There is some small consolation in knowing that I am regarded as one of the "big guns," but it doesn't amount to much when an angry client is yelling at me about someone else's mistakes.

Anyway.

I can't give too many details, of course, but client in question is white, educated, well-spoken, and wore out his USA welcome mat about 20 years and three kids ago. Through a combination of his cunning and the laziness of H.R. departments, he has been steadily employed and living comfortably. INS has taken a bead on him now, however, and the little world he built for himself is coming apart.

He does have some options, basically consisting of humanitarian appeals to the INS. His claim is legitimate, but needs substantiation. This is where we were running into trouble, and when I was brought in.

(I understand now, by the way, why it is that at the doctor's office you go through the frustration of telling the receptionist what's wrong and the nurse what's wrong, and watch them make notes, and then the doctor comes in and says, "What seems to be the problem?" That drove me crazy until I started doing this work. The simple answer? You never trust other people's notes.)

My "what seems to be the problem?" brought forth a diatribe, the gist of which was, "how dare INS ask me all these personal questions about my life? Isn't it enough that I tell them I should be allowed to stay? Why are they making this all so difficult?"

I listened for a while and then said, "You're right. INS is being extremely intrusive. It would be much easier if the rules were simple and things were black and white."

I let him nod in agreement before adding, "And you would have been deported by now."

That froze him.

People are continually complaining about the rules and how complex and unfair they are, and some of them are definitely out there, but half the reason they are there is not because immigration policy is hardhearted, but because the government is trying to take people's lives into account. People like this guy need to realize that they are basically asking for a discretionary exception to the law of the land.

You want a favor, expect to make some concessions. People don't look at it like that, but it's time more of them did.

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zoethe

September 2012

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