Monday, March 18, 2019

A Question for US-Americans

I have a question connected to U.S. immigration, visas, etc. I’m asking this publicly because I’m really hoping for some answers. 

What is America so afraid of? 

I mean the government (and I don’t mean just the current administration) and many of the people (“I need a gun for protection” & “immigrants are going to steal our jobs”). Immigration officers are required to assume applicants are trying to sneak in and stay illegally to screw the U.S., and the legal immigration process can take years. Visitors to the US are treated as criminals at immigration, finger-printed, interrogated (even shouted at), and I can only imagine what it’s like for a person/family who isn’t white or wears a head scarf to go through that process.

Is it just the fear of terrorism, or is there something more? I was in WI on 9/11, and I was at the Shanksville Memorial a week ago. The horror of that day and the following weeks was hard to live through and it’s still hard to fathom now. 

Terrorism – foreign and domestic – happens all over the world, and it’s awful every time. But when I have flown as a foreigner to Scotland (Lockerbie), England (Westminster 2017), Germany (Berlin 2016), and Vienna (1985) I have not met with this suspicion and fear. There are armed military guards all around in all airports I’ve seen; they’re watching over us and we’re used to that. M and I had to go through a maze of regulations and piles of paperwork in order to get married in Scotland, having to prove that we would not stay and be a burden on their social system. But upon arrival we were welcomed, not greeted with paranoia, suspicion and fear.

Tower of Voices monument
Shanksville, PA USA

A friend of mine was recently denied a visa to spend 3 months on a study abroad program in the U.S. – because he is from Syria. Had he been from Saudi Arabia, like the 9/11 terrorist pilots, he might have been granted a visa for his study program. Saudi Arabia isn’t on the travel ban (EO 13769).

The sweet Schwiegertochter (daughter-in-law) of a friend of mine is facing trouble with immigration because of this general fear and suspicion. She just wants to stay, work, and live in the U.S., and contribute to her household, pay taxes, and be able to visit her family overseas. But she’s stuck in limbo while immigration officials try to figure out how evil she really is, what she’s lying about, and how she is trying to screw the U.S.. I know they can’t just look at a person and say, “Well, she looks nice & friendly, I’m sure this one is ok.” There is paperwork, there are interviews, there are documents to produce. Of course each country needs a vetting process.

I had to do all of that, too, when I immigrated to Germany. But not once was I met with a sense of suspicion or fear. I went to the necessary offices, found out what I needed to produce, brought in the mounds of paperwork, had my photo and fingerprints taken, and received my residency permit a few weeks later. Three years after that I went to the local foreigner’s office again, applied for and received my permanent residency permit. Again, no suspicion, no paranoia, no fear. Just a speck of time and some more paperwork.

Tourists entering Europe do not get finger-printed and photographed. When I enter the U.S., even I as a citizen get my mug shot taken in connection to my customs form, though I’m spared the finger-printing. When I entered the U.S. (as a U.S. citizen!!) two weeks ago, I was questioned about why I was gone ("I live in Germany"), why I live in Germany ("because I love it there"), how long I will be staying ("1 week"), where I will be staying ("Pennsylvania") and why I was visiting ("to see my kids"). When I return to Germany, they ask me nothing. When I was living in the U.S. and visiting Germany, they also rarely asked me any questions. 

America, I'm just not feelin' the love.

So that's my question: What is America so terribly afraid of, that visitors and immigrants are treated with such suspicion when they approach the U.S. whether for tourist travel, business trips, visiting family, or with the intent to immigrate, when other countries (though surely not all) manage to welcome people?

Gone are these days, I guess. (Shameless plug for a song and group I really like.)

P.S. Apparently Blogger often has issues with comments. Feel free to email me instead (click on the postcard image in the upper left on a laptop screen; don't know how it works if you're using a tablet or smartphone) and let me know whether I can publish your response! 

1 comment:

  1. J. Buslepp13/4/19 14:00

    I think it's about a sales pitch. When the Soviet Union fell the military industrial complex needed a new enemy. Terrorists filled that roll, especially after 9-11. Fear was a big part of selling this. That fear has been internalized in the security industry (in and out of government) and much of the public. It's not rational for individuals or the country, but it is very profitable for the security business. It's also a wonderful excuse for any violation of civil liberties those in government wish to perpetrate.