Border Line Terrified

I stepped up, papers in hand.  Bramlett picked it up and felt its heft.

Leaning over to his friend, he remarked, "Have you ever seen this for a TN?"
"Lawyer work. Probably cost him a grand."
"That's legal stealing right there. We should be in that business," he quipped before turning his attention to me again.
"How much did you pay?"
"A lot," I admitted with an embarrassed smile.
"How much?" he insisted.
"Fifteen. Hundred."

He walked down the wall, still disbelieving the weight of the bullet-proof document package I had presented him with, and showed it to two others before returning to his seat to deal with me.

"Have you ever been in trouble with law enforcement? Been in jail? Arrested?" He looked at me, dead serious, with a hint of suspicion. "Don't lie to me, because I can look it up right now."
"No, sir, and I hope I never will," I replied gently. I was no criminal, but he still had me shaking.
"I hope you never go to jail either, because some big guy will be calling you Mary, loaning you out to his friends at night for a few cigarettes," he said without taking his eyes off his monitor. "I'm only telling you because I like you."  He sure had a funny way of showing affection.

"Hmm, tell me: what happened in September 2001?"

I remembered back, and my heart and mind raced (probably against each other).  And I explained how my first application for a TN was botched because of my company's HR idiot. Clearly, still a mark exists there to this day. But he seemed satisfied with the response and continued the interrogation.

"Have you ever gone by the name Gregory?"
"No, sir." I bet Gregory was in some kind of trouble, and I'm glad I wasn't him.
"How about Kemes? Kemes. Keye. Kemeskeye." He didn't seem sure.
"No, none of the above."
"Have you ... ever been black?" No smile from him.
"Not in this life, no," I said, with a slight Mona-Lisa-type smile.

Some typing, some reading, some more typing, and he looked at me with my application.

"Well, there's only one thing you need to worry about right now," he said, staring straight into my eyes. "You need to worry about having a good day. Wait, you're born in Vancouver?"
"Yes, sir, I was."
"And you're Chinese?"
"I'm of Chinese descent, yes."
"Then I have two more questions for you," he said in a conversation that rang my racial-stereotyping mental bell.

(... to be continued)

8 comments:

Van said...

that is the most bizarre line of questioning i have ever heard from an INS agent. My best experience was with a young black dude who said I brought way too much stuff and that my school's directions were too cautious and conservative. (i wanted to tell him not all the other agents are as cheerful and lax as him)

Van said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

I've had experiences that were nice and smooth, even after 9-11, but the issue is that we have to prepare for the worst. I think I've dealt with some of the most impolite CBP (Customs Border Protection) officers ever.

Anyway, the story goes on ... I'll post the rest tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

What's TN?
~ Miscmusings

Ben said...

TN is a NAFTA petitioned status for authorized employment in the USA. It is likened to a work visa status, though really isn't a visa by their rules. Each TN granted is good for one calendar year, and the intention is for a person to work at a company (sponsoring the TN petition) for only that time. The intention of the employee should not be to stay or to immigrate into the USA.

There are only certain job categories that qualify to work under TN, and only citizens of North America (Canada, USA, Mexico) can use this -- all other citizens must use H1-B or other visas. There's a detailed pamphlet showing the jobs (as defined by the OOH) that fall under this agreement.

Though people will generally say they're "renewing" their TN (for another consecutive year), this isn't right; there is no such thing as a renewal or extension (like the H1-B visas). Instead, each TN application is (theoretically) considered a brand new application, separate and distinct from all prior attempts / grants. Of course, we know that INS officers like to pull up the past before considering your future, so be careful. And unlike the H1-B, there is (theoretically) no limit to the number of applications / "renewals" you can do, but you will never become a US citizen this way (ie. not allowed to get a green card).

Hope that helps! (You learn a few things about the INS when most of your friends are under this as engineers, accountants, etc.)

Anonymous said...

sorry, i'm a dumb american -- why not just get a work visa?

Anonymous said...

oops,that was me. ~miscmusings

Ben said...

Though the TN isn't a work "visa", it still does the same thing and should be considered alike.

TN costs $50 and (potentially) 30 minutes to do, and requires minimal work of the sponsoring company. H1-B costs $1500+ (I think) and several months, and requires a lot more "due diligence" of the company.

TN was designed to ease the passage of skilled workers into the American market, as long as they didn't intend to stay long-term.