Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ashamed of the US government - part two

Last night, after returning from Tegucigalpa on a failed mission to get visas for three Dulce Nombre parishioners to visit their sister parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, I wrote an impassioned blog entry, which you can read here.

There were a few things I did not mention that I had reflected on during an eight hour bus trip.

I am ashamed of my country’s policies on migration, even for short term visits. But maybe I am expecting too much.

False expectations?
A few years ago at a conference here in Honduras, I heard a US consulate official state that they treat all those seeking a visa as if they all are intending to stay in the US.

That is reflected in the form letter that my friends were given by the Consular Officer:

“While nonimmigrant visa classifications each have their own unique requirements, one requirement shard by many of the nonimmigrant visa categories is for the applicant to demonstrate that he/is has a residence in a foreign country which he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants usually meet this requirement by demonstrating that they have strong ties overseas that indicate that they will return to a foreign country after a temporary visit to the United States. Such ties include professional, work, school, family, or social links to a foreign country.

“You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Interestingly, the interviewer seems not to have read the letter from the priest at Dulce Nombre and, in the first case, only looked at the person’s bank account information and the letter of invitation from St. Thomas Aquinas.

This leads me to believe that the principal requirement of the US government is determined by money in a bank account and land. But in a country like Honduras where there is massive inequity, in terms of land and money, this is excluding probably about 75% of the population.

The three who applied are not among the poorest. They work land – sometimes owned by their father; the two forty-year olds live in a house with their family, a house owned by their spouses. The young man has a job and is studying in the university. But they have little money in a bank account.

Policies that encourage fraud

The second issue that hit me was that this policy encourages fraud.

If applicants were not sincere and truthful, they could borrow money to put into their bank account for a short period of time to “prove” that they had money.  After the interview, the money would go back to the original person.

That’s fraud; that’s sinful; that’s not right. But the way the law is interpreted it sometimes seems like the only way to get a visa.

Immigration as a spiritual problem
There is much more I’d like to write about, but one thought has stayed with me.

I believe that US immigration policy is based on fear.

But I wonder if this fear is really a spiritual problem.

Do we fear the “other,” because we really don’t place our trust in the “Ultimate Other,” God?

I think this is a serious question that is at the root of the question for people of faith.

I cannot answer for people who doubt or deny the existence of God, but I do know that some of them are all too willing to trust the other person they encounter and are a challenge to believers.

And so, the challenge is not only to change US immigration policy but to conversion to a way of living that is open to others and to the “Other.”

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