The Great Wall of America
You probably know about the Great Wall of China but did you know that there is also a Great Wall of America? It is as imposing as the one in China but even more powerful. However, unlike the wall in China, which is made of concrete, the one in America is made of stealth. If you have visited America from a poor country, you likely have seen it.
I have been lucky enough to see it so I would like to share my experience with you. As a Filipino, I went to the American Embassy in Manila and this time, as I was waiting for my turn to get my visa interview, I was asked to go to another room with a few other applicants to have our passport stamped. Apparently, we were all approved already.
The young guy who respectfully attended to me asked for my passport to apply my visa and then asked me to return in two days to pick-up my passport. ( I was staying in a guesthouse in Manila so they couldn't return it by mail.) I booked my ticket at one of the travel agencies in Malate. It was with Northwest Airlines with a few hours transit in Tokyo.
When I arrived at Narita Airport in Japan, I bought two small packets of Marlboro Lights cigarettes - one for me and one to give to my friend as a gift when I returned to the Philippines. Filipinos love imported goods so I was disappointed when I discovered that they were actually made in the Philippines. I could have just buy them in Manila for fifty times cheaper. Oh, well ...
There were a lot of "no - smoking" signs at Narita so I was glad when I saw a sign pointing to a smoking area - it was an enclosed glass room where other smokers smoking like addicts. I realized this is how we smokers looked - trying to smoke as much as we could now for there would be no more cigarettes for the next 16 hours of flight. I smoked 2 cigarettes and decided that would be my last. (And they were! No more smoking for me since then.)
After our smoke break, we had to go through another security check to board our flight to Minneapolis. The Japanese immigration told me that I didn't have to take off my belt and shoes as I had already been checked in Manila - I was only in transit. The flight from Narita to Minneapolis was pleasant and the food was good. I usually don't have appetite when I fly long distance, but this time, I ate all the meals with gusto.
We arrived in Minneapolis early Christmas morning. When it was my turn at the immigration counter, I asked the immigration officer if she could give me a 3 month stay instead of 1 month since the last time I was here I was only given a month which wasn't long enough ( I didn't know at that time that I could extend my stay or apply for a permanent stay.) Instead, she pointed me to a corner room for someone else to process it.
I went inside the room and noticed two young Asian women with all their luggage. There were two immigration officers - a woman and a man, both Caucasian. I went to the female agent but the guy summoned me to him. In a very powerful voice, he asked me the purpose of coming to America. I told him, "I'm going to see my family." He asked, "What are they doing in America? " I answered, "They are Americans." He asked again, this time in a more authoritative voice, "Are they Filipino? Is your wife Malaysian? " I said again, "They are Americans." In an even louder voice, he said "If they are Americans, why aren't you in America? "I told him that I live and work in Asia where I met my Familys and now I'm going to see them. I said this in a very low and respectful voice as I was getting scared of his interrogation. I could see that he was getting angrier with each response.
He asked me again if TwoMonkeyme is a Filipino, this time shouting at me. I answered that she is American and she is white. That made him berserk and he yelled that lying to a Federal authority will bar me from entering the United States. So I said, "I'm not lying," which made him more angry.
I don't know what his problem was, but I do know that he had the power to send me back to the Philippines or send me to jail accusing me of anything or everything. I was feeling resigned to my fate of being sent back which I didn't mind as long as they let me see my Monkeys first. I was ready to beg them to let me just make a call.
They were in front of a computer, I had a 10 - year visa on my passport and I'm sure they had access to my files. Honestly, I have never seen such a low-life human being until this point. How he became a federal agent is beyond me.
Miraculously, I was saved when this male interrogator turned his attention to the young Asian women. Then, the female agent motioned me to come to her. She was nicer and asked me if I only had one piece of luggage. I said I had two; the other one I had checked-in. She asked if someone was meeting me and I told her yes, my Monkeys knew I was coming. She stamped my passport and let me go with my intense interrogation finally over, I was so glad to see my monkeys waiting at the arrival gate.
I am an American now but the experience still makes me shudder. If immigration could do that to me, what could happen to undocumented people? We talk about democracy, we talk about family ties. We talk about how great we are but we have an inferiority complex. Our Great Wall leaves much to be desired.
Abraham Lincoln said,
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
America, we can do better. This is the real American Wall - not made of concrete but of people given power over others. People who must hate themselves so much that they have to show everyone that they are superior, not realizing that by doing so they are " deplorables" to quote a previous presidential candidate.
Most Americans are polite and kind but some of those who work at immigration seem to forget to look in the mirror and see that they are no different, no better than those they are entrusted to serve.
"God Bless the United States of America!"