Aylin, my Turkish-German friend from the DSK bar who wanted to stay in the US but whose student visa was about to expire, had different concerns about her immigration status than giving up her birth citizenship. Her immediate goal was to become a permanent resident of the US so that she could stay in America. She may have wanted to become an American citizen someday, but if so, that was down the road. Only then would she have to deal with her German citizenship. Germany, I have been told by a friend who holds dual German-American citizenship, does allow for dual citizenship with the United States but does not grant it automatically. A special need must be shown for it.
Aylin’s immediate concern, however, was how her marriage might be viewed by American officials. She was getting married because she loved her husband-to-be, and he loved her. But they were also getting married sooner than they otherwise would have to allow her to become a permanent resident, which she would get by marrying an American citizen. Or she would get it if our immigration authorities did not contest her marriage. She had heard that the ICE officials often concluded that marriages between citizens and non-citizens were shams entered into, often for money, to get the desired immigration status, and if that were the determination, permanent resident status would not be granted.
I thought back to a student of mine from many years before. He was attending law school part time. He worked full time for the Immigration and Naturalization Services, as it was then called, and he was in the part of the INS that looked for sham marriages. Mostly he did this in New York’s Chinatown. The INS would surveil suspected couples to see if they lived with each other and what their daily routines were. Eventually, the couple was brought in for interrogation. The man and woman were questioned separately to see how their answers matched. The questions were from the sexually intimate to the mundane. What did you have for dinner two nights ago? What time did each of you get up last Monday? What distinguishing marks do you have on your body and does your spouse have? Although I understood the reasons for this work, the enterprise seemed demeaning and depressing, both for the couple and the investigators.
I was hoping that Aylin would not have to go through anything like that. She asked me some questions about immigration law, but this is one of the many legal areas I know little about. Aylin and her fiancé did not have much money. She was tending tables to be able to afford her college courses, and he had just obtained an entry level job after college. I contacted an academic friend experienced in immigration matters and obtained the information for an immigration attorney who, I was assured, was both affordable and good. Aylin was extremely grateful for this referral.
With a wedding planned and graduation in the offing, Aylin’s life was changing, and she left DSK. We exchanged email addresses, but of course you know how that goes–neither of us reached out to the other. However, I did see her one time after her departure. The bar was holding some sort of event—an infrequent occurrence—that had been promoted on the internet. She came. I just happened to be in the bar, but I had not seen her enter. I found myself pleased when I saw her coming over to me. We exchanged a hug, and I said, truthfully, that I thought of her often, and she replied, I think sincerely, that the same was true for her. She was now in a graduate program in experimental psychology without any immigration difficulties. She introduced me to her husband, whom I had not previously met. He was very handsome, and he beamed at her. She beamed back. A couple very much in love. And, happily, a couple without immigration problems. A happy, in-love American couple.
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