A Long and Winding Road

Post Date: November 30th, 2016

 

He wore a dark suit over a pale blue shirt with blue paisley tie, and she a sleeveless flowered dress. In heels, she came up to the top of his ear. Together they entered the United States Courthouse in Milwaukee.

It is a long way from Sydney, Australia, to College Park, Maryland. But no distance at all on the internet. They met playing World of Warcraft online – he a warlock and she a priestess healer. They began a pattern of privately messaging one another while they played. Their friendship flourished. They became more attracted when they talked by phone via Skype and viewed each other’s photo. After ten months, she flew Down Under to meet him. True love confirmed.

On the wall to the left was a portrait of President Barack Obama. On the right was one of “Grandpa Joe” Biden. Below the Vice President’s picture were the metal detectors. After clearance, they took the elevator up to the hallway outside a third floor courtroom.

She spent the next summer with him in Sydney, and moved there after she graduated college. Three years later he proposed. A wedding date was set for the following July in the gardens of her Wisconsin home.

The family members filed into the gallery to observe the proceedings. The candidates slowly funneled one by one into the front of the wood-paneled courtroom, each taking a seat on one of the black padded folding chairs.

But immigration is tricky. They had decided to move to America so she could finish her professional studies here, but the timing of his being able to obtain a fiancé’s visa was entirely unpredictable. He could come in for the wedding on a tourist’s visa but that would delay his being able to apply for permanent residency. So in short order they planned a February wedding in Sydney under a large, spreading tree in a park across the harbor from the Opera House. She wore lavender and he a tux with lavender accoutrements. The sweetness of their love was nearly palpable.

When all candidates were seated, there were fifty faces, fifty skin tones, fifty eager immigrants. The thing was, the group looked like America.

Her Australian student visa expired, so she had to come back to America after the Australian wedding. Meanwhile, he applied for a spousal visa that would allow him to immigrate to America with a “green card.” They worked hard to provide documentation that would convince immigration officials that their marriage was not an immigration scam. Among the items they submitted was an album of photographs depicting them together over the span of their courtship – her hair in different lengths – to show the longevity of their relationship.

Instructions were given by a member of the clerk’s office as the families dutifully snapped pictures. The candidates removed the card with an oath on it from their large white envelope of materials. 

Their American wedding was magical, their laughter and love filling the expansive tent. After a honeymoon, he had to return to Australia until his application for a spousal visa was processed and approved. After months of waiting, he was granted an interview at the American Consulate in Sydney. But remarkably, the final yay or nay for the visa was entrusted to the admitting immigration officer at the airport. Exhausted from a 15-hour flight, he felt a frisson of concern as he awaited the officer’s decision. After receiving the imprimatur for a “conditional” green card he happily looked for his connecting flight.

The judge entered the courtroom through a door behind the bench as the bailiff commanded everyone to stand. Once seated the judge explained that he was pleased to preside at this ceremony because, rather than one party winning and another losing, today everyone would leave the courtroom feeling happy.

Two years later, after more fingerprints and more documentation, the conditions on his green card were removed. He finally had “permanent” residency with a 10-year green card.

A member of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made a motion to admit the fifty immigrants to American citizenship, averring that all had passed the vetting process and were of good moral character. The judge granted the motion and gave welcoming remarks.

It was his avid interest in current events that fueled his desire for the right to vote, so he decided to pursue American citizenship. He started in January in order to be able to vote in the November presidential election. Again, fingerprints. And more documentation: her birth certificate, their marriage license, proof that they lived under the same roof during the past few years, copies of joint bank accounts and a mortgage held in common for their Greendale home. Another meeting with the Department of Homeland Security. Finally a test on American government and the constitution. He passed.

And so it came to be that on September 8, 2016, my son-in-law and 49 other immigrants were asked to stand and raise their right hands. Together they swiftly repeated a complicated oath by which they abjured allegiance to their home country and promised to bear arms in defense of their new country. Thus they became American citizens with the right to vote and to the pursuit of happiness.

Then, like the hard working American he is, he returned to work for the rest of the day.