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Immigration rules are a mess; no wonder people enter illegally

John Connor
OPINION: The federal immigration process is so complex with bureaucratic nonsense that it's no wonder so many people decide to “jump the fence” rather than run the gauntlet. Chris Engelsma photo

An interesting thing happened to me this week, and it tells me something about the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and our politicians. About four years ago I became good friends with a coworker and his wife. His wife introduced me to her cousin who became my fiancée this past January.

We emailed and, occasionally, spoke on the phone. Last January I visited her and her family in Southeast Asia.  Everything went well, and we were engaged by a formal Buddhist ceremony (an interesting experience in itself). Little did I know about the bureaucracy that is so prevalent in our Department of Immigration, and little did I know about the arrogance and apathetic attitudes that imbue our politicians. This story gets better. Get out your scissors and Elmer’s Glue, folks, you’ll want to paste this in your scrapbook.

When I returned from Southeast Asia, I went to the immigration office here in Anchorage where I was given some voluminous paperwork to complete. Also, my fiancée completed her country’s documentation and had it translated into English for the U.S. officials.

I took the entire packet back to the immigration office here in Anchorage and asked a worker there to flip through everything to be sure we had not missed anything before I mailed it out. Everything was fine. We mailed in the application along with a $340 fee as instructed.

The immigration official that I spoke to upon my initial visit to the Anchorage office told me that if I completed the paperwork and submitted it right away I may be able to get her here by Christmas. We made plans to spend Christmas here in Anchorage. That isn’t happening now.

About three weeks later, the entire packet was sent back -- rejected. Why? I told you this story would get better. One of the forms, that the immigration worker here in the Anchorage office gave me, had expired. The form expired a year ago. I went back to the Anchorage immigration office and explained this to them. They became defensive, argumentative, and hostile.

I got a copy of the “new form.” I scanned the form and it was asking for the same information we gave on the expired form. The form itself was formatted a little differently, but the information it asked for was the same. It is bureaucratic nonsense like this that is at least one of the predisposing factors for this huge immigration problem we have today. The immigration people make the process so complicated, so difficult, so rigid, so long and frustrating, it is no wonder that so many choose to “jump the fence” rather than go through the process.

This entire scenario is ridiculous beyond words. I took all of this to Sen. Mark Begich’s office. They said they would get back to me. I received an email from his office the next day, an obvious perfunctory response with a subtext that conveyed to me that I was an imposition for dropping this matter off at their office to begin with. They apparently do not have time for something like this.

So, there are two things we should learn from all of this. One, our immigration office is staffed with apathetic and incompetent workers who could not care less about doing their jobs properly, and two, none of our politicians work for us. They just tell us they do, when in reality all they work for is furthering their own agendas. And we keep electing them and reelecting them. That should tell all of us something about ourselves as well.

If you're like I am, you're probably wondering, which is the least of the two evils -- immigration officials or politicians. Tell you what, flip a coin.

John Connor is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.