US$3,691.00raised of $8,790.00 goal goal
We had a plan. We had a plan to travel to the US where there was vaccine for me, and come January vaccine for my little children, ages 1 1/2 and 4, both US citizens. Where there are ICU beds aplenty, and where hospital beds abound. We raised money to do that and had a job lined up in the States. We were told when we got my wife's visa that she could leave the country every six months on her tourist visa. When we got there we were told otherwise. She was not allowed in the country. We were given Sophie's Choice - stay in relative safety during a global pandemic without the mother of two little children and hope to process green card or visa in a year's time, or return on the next flight with my wife. My children screaming for their mother for nine hours while we waited decided it- although to be fair the one-year-old was catatonic at the prospect of being away from his mother. I felt it better to die with my wife than live without her.
We had to return to the Philippines sans job, sans work, sans insurance. We were required to stay 10 days in a quarantine hotel, but the only one we could afford was for prostitutes. We were told by CBP that we wouldn't have to pay the full cost of flights returning, but we ended up paying higher than the standard rate, via promissory note, that came due at the end of September. We need money for the flights, housing, food, and insurance during the pandemic.
For those so inclined to read the whole sad, desperate story - long version follows. But for those who've heard enough - we have good news! We have both now been offered jobs in Qatar, beginning in August. Once we arrive there, we will be well set financially, and work to pay back those we've borrowed from. But getting there is the sticky wicket. One of our four flights we must pay for out-of-pocket. We must get apostilles from multiple agencies for birth certificates, marriage certificates, and education documents from Morocco, the Philippines, the US, and Qatar. We will be reimbursed to a small degree, but in the meantime are looking at an additional outlay of $2500. (For instance, just getting the required apostilles of my college documents in the US from the US Dept. of State is over $750.) But if you give now, you can contribute to a concrete way out of the hole we're in.
Please note that the way Go Get Funding works, we will not thank you if you choose to give anonymously, so as to honour your choice.
Long Desperate Story follows:
A month ago I, my wife, and my two children, ages 1 and 4, attempted to return to the US from the Philippines in order to avail ourselves of vaccinations and relative safety during the pandemic. The entire country is like Alabama, with few ICU beds and little hospital space in general. Vaccinations are very regimented here, and my number wasn't likely to come up any time soon. Pfizer was predicted to be available in the US in January for 2 and up. We had arranged to stay with my brother, and I had part-time work scheduled for that time. I and my children are US citizens; my wife is Filipina. But she had a B1/B2 tourist/business visa, and we were told when we got it four years ago in Morocco that every six months she had to leave the country for a few days, similar to the procedures in numerous other countries we've lived in. Those familiar with the US immigration policies now know where this is headed.
When we arrived in the Port of Seattle, we answered all questions truthfully, despite our near exhaustion from two days with two children and little sleep: that we were coming over because of Covid, and if we needed to stay longer than six months we would follow the rules we had been told when we got the visa. We were taken to a back room with forty other people, and zero Social Distancing. We then waited for about three hours, were repeatedly asked questions, and were repeatedly told "just to let you know", "just a few more questions", with the implication that we would be allowed to go on soon. But my one-year-old has extreme social anxiety from these years of lockdowns, and we had expected to have to endure this long, highly-exposed airflight and then get to the safety of my brother's. All of us were tired, especially the children. And so they cried.
Until my wife was called to the back room and grilled. Then the screaming for "Momma" started in earnest. And went on for many, many hours. Our cellphones had been taken, so we were unable to communicate with the outside world. After a couple hours I asked what was going on with my wife- we did not expect any issues, and we just thought this was a longer than usual procedure. I was told it was none of my business, that this was how "we" do things, she is an adult, and can answer for herself. I told them her next of kin was officially requesting her status. I was told that we, as US citizens, were welcome to leave at any time. About 15 minutes later the supervisor came out and told me he wanted to talk to me, but we had to go outside the secure area to do so. He said that the kids were making too much noise in their caterwauling and bothering everyone. Knowing I would not be allowed to return to the area where my wife was, I demurred. He then threatened to arrest me, and threatened to do it in front of my children. Arrest for doing what is just and righteous does not concern me, and again I demurred. He said that the outer area was just beyond, I could see it from where we were sitting. I asked him if on his honour he would allow me to see my wife in person, before they did anything, and he agreed. Then I agreed.
After we came to the unsecure area, he told me that they were revoking her visa. They never explained why we couldn't follow the procedure we were told when we received the visa. I was just told, “I've already answered that.” We had also told them that if the six month leaving and returning wasn't accurate then we would pursue a Green Card, if we stayed longer than the six months. The lead officer literally told me that that “other” government agency says you can do this, but you can't, and “We have the power.” They didn't care that we were coming over for safety from the pandemic. We were told repeatedly they couldn't risk her using up medical resources in the US, and she was being shipped out the next day, though we - I and my two toddlers - were welcome to stay. It was at this time, when informed that we were Quakers and therefore could not give a sworn statement, the lead officer mocked our beliefs and with a smirk claimed that no such constitutional right exists, as upheld by SCOTUS. Now that I was no longer in the unsecure area, as a US citizen I asked for my cellphone back. After an hour and repeated requests I received it. They allowed me to speak briefly with my wife after five hours of grilling and nine hours of detention.
She was detained overnight, unable to communicate with anyone without a cellphone. There was no J&J left in Washington, but I was able to get a 1st shot of Pfizer while there, and hope the Filipino government would be kind enough to give me a 2nd shot in three weeks. Because of Filipino and American laws and procedures under Covid, if I was not on that plane the next day with her, we would not be able to see her for a year. That's how long Green Cards are taking during the pandemic; only by using the Balak Bayan system can a non-Filipino easily get in to the Philippines – which means the spouse and child must be traveling with the Filipina. But we had no money left, and I had to make the decisions on our own. Fortunately, CBP had agreed they would advocate for us to have a reduced rate with the airline on the return home. Unfortunately, the next day they denied ever saying that. I had to sign a "promissory" note for $3,000 under duress. Had I not, my wife's first knowledge that she wouldn't see her children for a year would have been as the plane's engines revved up. Had I not, and were I a different sort of man, I could have kept the children from their mother and the US government would be party to human trafficking and kidnapping. Even if the airline had agreed to allow only my one-year-old to go, I would have no ticket, and it would have meant handing him to strangers or CBP to go through the airport, when he had never been around strangers, with people I had learned were not trustworthy. The screaming of my children for their mother decided it for me. To be fair, my youngest was catatonic for most of the 24 hours in the first introduction to his home country.
We were never given the document copies till we landed. Only then did we learn that CBP left out crucial information from the interrogation, that they were privy to as we had volunteered it, but they did not ask about once the questioning had officially begun. I pieced together that they were trying to paint me in a bad light by suggesting I had overstayed my Filipino visa, when in fact I had paid the penalties to officially extend it. They were repeatedly trying to catch us in errors to find ways to keep us out. They told her at the outset that she was not permitted a review or hearing, which suggests that she was expelled under Rule 42 during the pandemic, as ABC News reports that deportations allow for a hearing. This is ironic- as we expressly came to the US because of the pandemic. Upon landing we also learned that the airline in question had affixed a due date of the end of September, when none existed when I signed it.
We were given Sophie's Choice: Stay with my wife and the mother of two little children and travel back to where there was not enough medical care, or be separate from her for a year and be relatively safe during the pandemic. Ironically, my wife was the only one fully vaccinated. She had no reason to request asylum; we, the US citizens, needed asylum in our home country- but with mother and wife. For me, better to die with my wife than live without her. CBP, in their eagerness to keep people out, keep my wife from possibly using medical resources, and keep "America's borders safe", condemned three US citizens to a place without enough vaccines, and with no affordable insurance. We flew back on a nearly empty plane and did our 10-day mandatory quarantine in the only hotel we could afford - one for prostitutes. Half-way through we got a window.
Welcome to US Immigration Policy.
- Richelle Anne Caracter
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