Welcome to America...what is your name?!! Hmmm...I'm not so sure about that

This past January, my husband and I went to the Los Angeles District Office of the Department of Homeland Security to have our interview. As a Canadian citizen I was filing to immigrate to the United States as my husband is an American citizen. As my husband and I had dated for six years prior to our marriage, I laid out an infinite amount of photos, documents, mementoes showcasing our relationship. The officer however, never stamped any form of an approval for a green card in my passport that day, despite acknowledging that our relationship was legitimate and that all paperwork was in order for my application - because he informed us, I was being subject to a top secret “Name Check.” There was no more he could tell me only that in his experience, these name checks normally take four to six months. Eleven months later I am still waiting.

Living in complete and utter limbo is excruciatingly painful. Essentially, my life is on hold until the U.S. federal government wills it otherwise. I am extremely baffled by why this process would take so long, especially since I have already been living in this country legally for the past fifteen years. During this period of time, I have filed for two student visas (one for my undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California and one for my graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). I have also filed three work visas. All of which were approved. I have worked as an architectural/ real estate consultant in the United States for seven years now. I would assume that the proper background checks would have been completed before my visas were awarded to me.

Nevertheless, here I am trying to immigrate to this country so that my husband and I can build a home together and I am hitting a brick wall. As highlighted to me by some immigration attorneys, I am perhaps the subject of ethnic profiling. There is no other reason why my name would have warranted so much scrutiny. Prior to moving to the US, I lived in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Toronto – which provided me with an enriching and culturally enlightening childhood. I am told by immigration attorneys, that name checks these days can take years to clear. In some cases I am told, the only alternative was to finally sue the government to get some resolution to the name check.

My added frustration arises in the fact that the legality of one’s status in this country also seems to be irrelevant when considering who should be given a green card. In the past few years, I know of several illegal immigrants who married US citizens and despite their brazen disregard of the law, were granted green cards immediately. No name checks were preformed. I suppose they had more appropriate names.

According to the FBI, the purpose of the name checks is to enhance national security. I am all for enhancing security. I am concerned about the security and safety of my family and I want intelligent precautions to be taken. However, I also believe that these precautions need to be based on logic, facts and reason and not blind reactionaryism, cultural ignorance and bias. Unable to acquire reasonable answers or explanations from anyone in the government why this process would take so long, I am left to wonder whether in this country post 9/11 my ethnic sounding name is not considered suitable immigrant material. Am I being discriminated against because the name given to me by my culturally diverse parents do not fit into what is deemed safe and acceptable in America?

No comments:

Post a Comment