Bonding with Immigrants
By David Henderson
It was a beautiful scene in so many ways. Such diversity, such shared joy in suffering, such determination to push through and triumph over the odds. We were equal in our provisions: we all had one cot, one blanket, one tiny pillow. We got to know each other very quickly. The presumption of friendship was there even before one word was exchanged.
Imagine a California Valley Girl, my Pakistani friend, a Houston cabbie, an older widow, a surfer dude, a middle-age woman from Costa Rica, people of all races and classes, and imagine all of us having a strange slumber party, laughing and talking and telling stories. This was more fun that I could have had at the nicest hotel.
This is from Jeffrey Tucker, “Living Like a Refugee,” June 19, 2014.
It’s about his time being stranded overnight at O’Hare Airport and bonding with strangers because he had Wi-Fi and let everyone around him use it.
It’s a sweet story. Jeffrey quickly reaches the conclusion that this experience shows that we can get along without government. Now, I happen to think that, absent a foreign invasion, we probably could get along without government. I’m not sure, though, that you can generalize so far from this one pleasant incident.
But that’s not where I want to go in this post. Some time ago, Vipal Naik of Open Borders asked me to write up my experiences with immigration. I immigrated from Canada, becoming a resident alien (picture the antennae on my head) in 1977 and a U.S. citizen in 1986, the day Reagan bombed Libya. I had two bad experiences with the immigration authorities, one in 1973 and one in July 1977. I might write them up sometime.
But I want to talk about one of the most pleasant days in my life, one that I was reminded of by Jeffrey Tucker’s post.
It was in October 1977. I was teaching at the University of Rochester and I needed to immigrate by going to the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. (That’s because of the July 1977 incident mentioned above: I had tried to immigrate through the Immigration “Service” in Buffalo, but they had turned me down and informed me that they would undertake deportation proceedings against me. That’s when I had hired a young lawyer in Rochester, Jeffrey Chamberlain, who, although he had never done an immigration case in his life, handled this one beautifully.)
The week before I drove up to Toronto, I went over all the documents with Jeff, making sure I had all the right ones and that the ones that were to be sent ahead to the U.S. Consulate had been sent. Sunday night, before driving up, I went over the documents 3 or 4 times, making sure again that they were all there and knowing where in the thick stack to access any particular document when asked.
In the waiting room in the Consulate were about 15 to 20 people from all over the world, trying to immigrate to the United States, just as I was. We all looked a little nervous and we didn’t talk much to each other. But we bonded nevertheless. As each person came out of the Consulate offices and gave a positive sign, either with a smile or a look of relief or maybe a thumbs up (I’ve forgotten whether people used thumbs up in those days), we applauded. It built and built.
Then it was my turn. I entered and talked to two U.S. officials. First was a woman who had attitude. She was unpleasant and seemed almost to be looking for me to have made a mistake. I’ll never forget her asking where a particular form was and my reaction.
DRH: You have that form. It was sent to you some time ago.
Government official (aggressively and triumphantly): No, I don’t.
DRH (aggressively back, reaching in my stack and pulling out a letter): Yes, you do. Here’s the letter from you to my attorney acknowledging receipt.
Government official (rattled and nervously looking through her papers): Uh, uh, oh yes, here it is.
That one moment was worth the $600 I had paid the lawyer’s firm.
I was then sent to the second official. He was very pleasant. It was clear from his pro forma questions–do you have a criminal record, that kind of thing–that I was in. A few minutes later, I emerged into the waiting room with a huge grin on my face. I was in. People in the waiting room applauded.