The US Immigration Nazis

In one of his most colorfully worded and impassioned posts, Tom of Daai Tou Laam Diary blasts US immigration officials for denying a tourist visa to his Chinese wife.

She was denied because she’s married to a US citizen! Apparently my ties to Hong Kong aren’t strong enough, which makes her an economic threat to the United States economy and job market as a potential Eye-legal Eye-mmigrant. Does this have anything to do with national security? No! Does this have anything to do with the policies of Baghdad Bush? Yes! My wife was allowed to visit the US under Clinton, but denied this time (and a previous time when she was going to visit me in Boston prior to our wedding) during this current administration. So spare me the crap about how it’s liberals at the US State Dept that are responsible for this mess. It isn’t. And spare me your crap about supporting family values, because the policies of Baghdad Bush keep families apart!

Add that’s the polite part of his post.

I completely agree, and have for a long time. I remember in China my company trying to get visas for some Chinese news reporters so we could send them to cover a PR event in New York. Our efforts failed, and dealing with the US bureacrats was almost as maddening as dealing with Chinese bureaucrats. And at least with Chinese bureacrats you can usually pay them off.

On a related note, I meant to relate a conversation I had several days ago when I went to hear John Pomfret speak about China. A woman at my dinner table was a big-shot at Arizona State University’s global studies program, and I had the temerity to ask her a few questions about a goal I’ve had for a long time: brining a friend of mine in Beijing over to the US to help him get a Master’s degree and improve his English. I explained how important this was to me, and I was in no way prepared for what happened next.

Putting on a startlingly smug and condescending look, the pompous lady looked down her nose at me and began to lecture me that all Chinese people say they want to come to America to study when in truth they want to live in America forever. Yes, I know that’s what a lot of them do, I said, but this isn’t one of those people. He comes from a poor family and he supports his parents and…. At this point, her expression got even more smug, and she interrupted me:

“That’s what every Chinese person says: They won’t stay in America because they need to go home to support their parents. And you know what? They always find a way to stay. And everyone has their one friend in China who they know so well and who they know won’t try to stay in the US. And then once they get here, that all changes….”

I was strongly tempted to throw my wine in the lady’s face. Instead, I thanked her for her insights and said goodnight. But I really felt she had no right to speak to me like that, and no right to talk about “all Chinese people” as though they’re all lying scoundrels. It also drove home to me just how infuriatingly difficult it is to get a Chinese person into America nowadays. Will this policy ever end?

The Discussion: 13 Comments

You’re right, it’s a very difficult situation for anyone, especially Chinese, to get into the US these days.

That lady sounds like another one of those “liberal academics” that everyone talks about. Hah! I think in fields like Global Studies or International Affairs, you find that most of the academics are far from liberal and don’t give a hoot about understanding. It’s really sad. You’d have been better off throwing the wine in her face.

November 19, 2004 @ 6:33 pm | Comment

Richard and Tom,
I tell you the neo cons are preparing a major conflict or even a war with China in the next four years. They provoked Koizumi Japan to take a strong stand against the Chinese.

November 19, 2004 @ 6:33 pm | Comment

Just today I got a phone call from a man I don’t even know who said that a friend of his could help me. His gf was denied entry into the US and setn back to China the next flight.

What’s one to do in a case like that, if you are the one on the other end of the receiving? I mean, what can this guy do to get more info on his gf. I certailny couldn’t help him. He only called me because I am in HK. And its doubtful his gf would even stay here. She originated in Shanghai.

At a loss of ideas.

November 19, 2004 @ 9:24 pm | Comment

Its daft isn’t it, unless your a native American. then the odds are that your anscestors were imigrants. America was built on the labors of millions of imigrants and now it is denying tourists entry.

Somebody should check the greencards of the pilgrims this thanks giving while celebrating thanks giving isn’t considered crossing the boundries of Chirch and state.

November 20, 2004 @ 4:11 am | Comment

Maybe that is why ASU’s China MBA program, is the biggest and best funded IN China… rather than in Arizona. Surprised to hear a comment like this coming from them. Well, in the least it is particularly ironic.

November 20, 2004 @ 7:09 am | Comment

Maybe you should have asked her what was wrong with coming to America and living there. Afterall, her ancestors certainly did the same and most likely didn’t even have the luxury to be graduate students, but more likely dirt poor half-starved Irish. Well in any case, American is a decent place to live, as far as first world paradises are concerned, but there are a couple places I would rather have ended up. I wish I ended up in the Netherlands instead for one and grown up tri/qua lingual, which would have been pretty beneficial. Norway and Canada are two other places I think I would prefer to America, any place cold in fact. Some people may say Canadian weather is bad, but I for one enjoy freezing my ass off.

November 20, 2004 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

And what’s wrong with staying? If I were in charge, I’d make it an *obligation* to stay at least a few years, and contribute to the society that educated you. In all likelihood, young Chinese with advanced degrees would contribute more than the pompous lady.

WRT Tom (Daai Tou Laam), an acquaintance in a similar situation was advised by his immigration lawyer to get a green card for the spouse, even if the spouse had no intention of living there. Apparently this situation is not that uncommon. And there’s nothing you can do until the law gets rewritten from scratch.

November 20, 2004 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

“And at least with Chinese bureacrats you can usually pay them off.”

Reminds me of a comment someone I know made about China: corruption is actually the only thing that allows the country to work. If you had to rely on the bureaucratic procedures, nothing would ever happen.

November 21, 2004 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

Sad but true, Li En. Money talks in China, like nowhere else. Show me an official who isn’t for sale I’ll show you a dead official.

November 21, 2004 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Asia by Blog

Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, posted on Monday and Thursday, providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region. Previous editions can be found here. This edition contains Chinese vs Western truth, troubles …

November 22, 2004 @ 12:31 am | Comment

I guess I had insanely good luck with my girlfriend’s visa. She scheduled an appointment, I wrote a letter explaining that we were just traveling to my hometown for two weeks, and she got a visa right away with no trouble. I was suprised and she was shocked. Maybe a tourist visa is easier than a student visas?
It’s true that a lot of Chinese people don’t come back to China after they go to America, I have seen the statistics, and although I can’t remember the numbers, it was not low. But I don’t think that’s a problem. What’s wrong with being more open?
Oh… and thankfully my girlfriend didn’t run away when we were going to the airport to fly back to Shanghai, hehe….

November 22, 2004 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

Filthy, that’s hilarious! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but corruption may be the only thing oiling the wheels of this train!

The INS has always been horrible and full of jerks. I’ve been struggling with them since 1999 and met one really decent agent in all that time. Of course, 9/11 made everything worse. Xiufen got her visa in about four months….nowadays it takes a year, and the Chinese are probably the MOST desirable of immigrants.

I can recommend a competent immi. lawyer with reasonable rates. I would never try to do this on my own again.

November 24, 2004 @ 2:59 am | Comment

Simon’s China and East Asia Briefing: 30th Nov 2004

The following is a digest of highlights from the past month’s Asia by Blog series over at The round-up has four key areas of focus: China, Taiwan & Hong Kong (Politics, Economy & lifestyle, History sport & culture, Information), Korea…

November 29, 2004 @ 10:53 pm | Comment

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