A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Archive for October, 2010

Welcome to the USA – Alien Traveller

A hat nod to Welcome Home

Posted by Guest Blogger at Monday, April 12, 2010

by Shaker bekitty, a New Zealand citizen who, until recently, was living with her partner in Knoxville, Tennessee. And she’s found that she’s not all that fond of riding around LA at night while handcuffed.

Welcome Home (the copy)

It all started with Wellington, April 15 NZPA – An occupational therapist who worked four years without a practicing certificate has been censured and fined, but secured permanent name suppression in light of her depression.

The woman, identified in the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision only as “Ms O” had been registered with the Occupational Therapy Board since 1995.

Oh the ignominy! I know in my heart of hearts that this is my own fault but really coming on top of all the troubles I have had recently, this really is the spoiled icing on the cake.

You see I am travelling to America to visit my daughter and step daughter and because of the troubles I overstayed my welcome the last time and now – this!

It all started innocently enough. Had my own practice, doing well, a bit overweight but a stable home life – children doing well but overseas – and then.  It was the competency thing. The NZ Government suddenly decided that there was too much shenanigans going on with dodgy practitioners who had not had any real training since they left their original course where they got their degrees. So they bought in this scheme where you had to submit a portfolio of all your work each year and submit it when you applied for your annual practicing certificate. This meant a whole lot of meaningless courses and seeing someone for regular supervision. Why did I need this? I have been practicing for ten years – I know what I am doing. However, I needed to do it but I became paralyzed with fear about how I was going to do all the things they wanted of me and then I had the back thing which h meant that I had to have surgery and it was urgent so I went through the private sector which sucked $22556 from my savings so I borrowed from the business and then the accountant worked out that I needed to pay back over $35000 and ——-. Well needless to say I became somewhat panicked by all of this and I must admit I made a big mistake and started to think of easy ways out and I started going to the casino and, well one thing lead to another and I started to find myself at the casino most mornings with a drink in my hand and no real knowledge of how much I had gambled or how much was now on my tab. The accountant felt duty bound to tell my business partner and she decided to sue me and then the police got involved and in the heat if all of this I had forgotten to apply for my annual practicing certificate for four years. So I’m broke, have no business, a shitty bad back which I have to take pain medication for which knocks me out and a serious gambling and drinking problem. Then Fred goes and has a heart attack and then another and then another and all of a sudden I am standing in the crematorium clutching an urn and some insincere woman is saying she is sorry for my loss and I think – I need a holiday. So I go to America and it’s so good to be away from all of this shit that I stay an extra week. Don’t think anything of it and go home but it’s not much better so I decide I will go back got see my daughter again and – well here I am at LAX and things have gone from bad to much, much worse.

I had applied for a US visa in early July of 2007, and was told that I had to submit myself for an interview with an officer of the American Consulate in Auckland, since they didn’t have an office in Dunedin, my home town. No problem – I flew up to Auckland, stayed the night with my friend and turned up for my interview the following morning.

I went in to the consulate and waited my turn to see an official. Ten minutes later, my name was called.

“How long are you planning to stay in the United States?”

“Two years.”

“You won’t be able to do that. The best we can give you is a B1/B2 visa, that will allow you to stay for six months at a time, but you will have to leave United States soil in between those times. And it will get progressively harder for you to gain re-entry into the US each time you re-apply. Who would you be staying with?”

“My daughter and granddaughter. They are dual citizens. Well she is my step daughter actually”

I have always thought of my step daughter as my daughter but have never formally adopted her. Didn’t really think it would ever be an issue.

“Your step-daughter?”

“Yes! I have never adopted.”

“Domestic partnerships of this type aren’t recognized in the US. You would be classified as an alien. You also won’t be allowed to work. I see also that you overstayed your visa last year”

“I am aware of that, yes. But I was stressed at the time and my husband had died and ——-“I trailed off because even to myself I sounded faintly pathetic.

The official looked at me over his bifocals and scowled. ”

“Where would you be staying? And you realize that this is a serious offence. Is there anything else I should know about your circumstances? Any criminal convictions? Any major health problems that might flare up in the USA?”

“Roswell, New Mexico. She has a job there and I have independent funds. I will not require any US funds. No! Nothing else”. God ! Had I dug myself another deep hole? What about the problem with the board, the embezzlement, the back, the court cases.

“Hmm. Alright. You can go home now. Leave your passport. It will be posted back to you in a few days with our decision.”

“Thank you.”

So I flew back down to Dunedin got my new flash passport (and visa!) a few days later as promised, and less than a month later, we flew to Roswell via Los Angeles

I was interviewed and searched, fingerprinted, eyes lasered on my first visit
Anyway, all went reasonably well, and I was allowed back in, a little more grudgingly each time. Until last week.

My plan was to fly from Dunedin to Wellington to Los Angeles, and then Albuquerque where my daughter would pick me up and we would drive to Roswell. I got as far as LAX.

I got sent for an interview. I’d expected it. No big problem. I’d put aside five hours in LA just in case.

The interview did not go well. I was interviewed by an officer who was grumpy and just wanted her lunch. He also seemed rather confused about where I had come from, a problem that is not atypical of as lot of Americans who either think that we are part of Australia and shag sheep all day.

Henry is on border patrol duty today. Henry is in his late forties and Henry is pissed. He is pissed because he hates this job and he is pissed because everything is going to hell and a handbasket. The television and the radio say that everything is fine in the U S of A. We are over the recession and we are in recovery but all around him Henry sees different.  America’s  reactions to this impasse vary. The business community, for example, shows every sign of being in a state of denial. Confidence surveys reveal a wild optimism almost entirely lacking in evidentiary justification. Most economists agree that economic recovery – where it is happening at all – is occurring at a snail’s pace, and that there is significant risk of a second downturn. When required to focus exclusively on their own firms, most business-people share the experts’ pessimism. But ask them to pronounce on the prospects for the nation as a whole and what can only be described as “magical thinking” takes over.

And don’t get Henry started on other nationalities. He has to deal with them every day. There are the Germans who arrogantly demand to be let through border control first and without any delays. Then the Israelis who think their shit don’t stink. And the bloody cheese eating surrender monkey French who hold their arrogant , aristocratic noses high and pretend that the rest of the world are just too stupid to breath the same air. And now Henry is confronted by this idiot form new Zealand. Henry has a vague idea where that country is- somewhere west of England, but he also knows they have some place that is French called Akroa or some such nonsense. They are probably just like the French, with all those Muslims running around. And this woman has the arrogance to tell him that she has lived in the U S of A for a year before. Thinks she’s practically a citizen. Well wake up and smell the grass Mister French Noo zealandy. You are going to get the Henry treatment. And there is not a thing you can do about it because Homeland security and border control can do anything they damn well like.

He accused me straightaway of living in the US, and didn’t believe me when I said that (a) I was a New Zealand citizen, and had absolutely no plans to become a US citizen, (b) that I wasn’t working, and (c) that I was planning to return to NZ for good in September when the northern summer was ending.

“Are you living in the United States?”

“I suppose so. But – ”

“This interview is over. Go and sit over there.”

My heart sank. Ohshitohshitohshit.

I sat down, and pulled out my cellphone. Katrina would be waiting for me in Albuquerque. I had to let her know what had happened.

“Katrina? I’ve just had my interview. I don’t think they’re going to let me back in.”

“WHAAAT?!?”

Then one of the Customs officials saw me and yelled “Put down the phone!”

“I’ve got to go.” And I hung up.

A few minutes later, I was told to go inside a small room. Two customs officials, both women, went with me. One of them told me to stand facing the wall, with my hands at head level, palms flat on the wall. Then she patted me down.
Then they took me to a table and searched my bag. They kept holding up various items and asking me what they were. For example, one of them held up some Panadeine tablets, still in their blisterpack. “What are these?”

“Painkillers. Paracetamol – you call it acetominaphen – and codeine. I use them for chronic back pain.”

“Do you hold a prescription for them?”

“No. They’re an over-the-counter drug in New Zealand.”

“Mam  – Codeine in low concentration with paracetemol/acetaminophen  is a Schedule V drug in the USA. As such it’s OTC in some states and not in others. “

“ What the fuck is OTC?”

“ Mamm – watch your language. We do not tolerate potty mouths in this airport.”

After my bag was searched, they told me to put it over next to the Customs counter. Then they took me to another room, where I was photographed, fingerprinted, and asked some more questions. Then they took me to another cubicle, where I was interrogated as to my intentions in the US and why I should be permitted to stay. In fact, it was more the case that they were looking for reasons to kick me out.

At the end of the interrogation, I was told that from my answers and my previous behaviour (coming in and out of the US legally? WTF?) had rendered me inadmissible to the United States, but that his boss would make the final decision. I was also told that there was some computer information that I had been involved in some illegal criminal activities in NZ and that I was on a list. I was then taken to yet another room – this one with a TV and my heart sank as I heard the key turn. I was locked in a room in the bowels of LAX in a country that now treated me as an illegal alien, a criminal, a drug dealer and an immoral person who could not organise my personal affairs and adopt my daughter who I had bought up since she was six months old.

I won’t go into the next bit because to be perfectly frank that is going to cost me a few more thousand inn therapist fees if and when I get back to New Zealand, but while a realize that I have made some mistakes in my – well- more than a few mistakes in my life, this is no way for a country to treat visitors. Sure, I could have been politely informed that I did not meet the entry criteria for a prolonged stay in the USA and they were sorry but –. But to be treated like a criminal by people like Henry who are the face of America is intolerable

A hat nod to Welcome Home

Posted by Guest Blogger at Monday, April 12, 2010

by Shaker bekitty, a New Zealand citizen who, until recently, was living with her partner in Knoxville, Tennessee. And she’s found that she’s not all that fond of riding around LA at night while handcuffed.