Thursday, October 04, 2007


“Why,” you may ask,“ did you not go apple picking with your family in Canada"? The answer is simple—my “green” card expired. Note the apostrophes, real ones, exactly as used by the United States Government. The “green” card is actually salmon pink, but since it was historically green, the INS had to reconcile history and fact and that’s how they did it.

Here’s the back-story. I received my green card in 1964, thanks to a letter from my chair at Southern Cal indicating he couldn’t find an American to do my job and promising I would not be a financial burden for at least a couple of years. I remember going down to Long Beach to go through the process. I also remember that at that time I had to report myself and my current address every January. After a while that was no longer necessary, but I do recall phoning the INS and asking if I should get a new card since I had changed my name. I was told that neither a new card nor a new photo was required. So life went on uneventfully until about 10 years ago when I began to hear rumblings that the green card was to become obsolete. I eventually got a new card, but what a business that was. Telephone trees that never delivered an actual person, a visit to the immigration office to be fingerprinted, less than friendly personnel and a photo with an ear prominently displayed. That last requirement was the source of much consternation to the mother of a friend who wanted to keep her ears to herself, thank you.

Fast-forward to this year when I happened to look at the card and realized it had an expiration date in September of this year. No-one had warned me this was a 10-year card, and indeed an Australian neighbor, a very well-organized person, found herself in Ireland with an expired “green” card, so I expect many of us have been caught short. Times have changed: there is now an efficient web-site. Efficient, but hardly user friendly for a permanent resident struggling with English. Then there is the cost. $290! In the post 9/11 world, I suppose that is a small price to help put together a comprehensive data base, so I am not complaining. The forms now come from the Office of Homeland Security. But since I had needed my card to cross over to Canada a couple of weeks ago, I did not have the replacement in time for our annual trip to Theissens nursery.

That should be the end of the story. I am one of the lucky ones. Every so often we hear heartbreaking stories of families being broken up as a father or mother is deported for residency violations and someone will justify the resulting tragedy by pointing to the absolute nature of law. Allow me to introduce you to Roy M. Bailey of Romulus, who was acting field office director for detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit, and who is charged with accepting bribes, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and failing to report a felony. I am not quite sure why this story was tucked away on page 3B of today’s Detroit News, or why he is on paid administrative leave.

I hate to say, “Only in Detroit”, but in this instance, I hope it is the case.

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