July 18, 2008
A tale of 2 immigration systems
Posted by: Andoni
How can a gay HIV positive man deported from the United States in January end up in the Netherlands with the equivalent of their “green card” in less than 6 months? The answer is that the Dutch have a fair, sane, and just immigration system -- and the US does not.
I would like to tell you the story of my friend, whom I’ll call Pedro – and you will realize why I use the pseudonym as you read on.
Pedro came to the US legally on an H1B1 visa. It was his intention to work, apply for a permanent residence visa (green card) and eventually become a US citizen.
During his stay, he discovered that he had contracted HIV. Because of the HIV ban inserted into US law by now deceased Senator Jesse Helms, Pedro was ineligible to make the natural progression from an H1B visa to a green card. (Thank God, this law is on the way to being repealed as reported by Andrew Sullivan, but it was too late for Pedro.)
Pedro was employed by a law firm and his duties required him to appear in court a lot, interact with lots of officials at the courthouse, including judges. His work product was excellent and he was well loved by all with whom he interacted. When the time on his visa ran out, he would have to leave the country because he knew he would be rejected for a green card because of his HIV status. Although he had been in a relationship, that was not a path for him to stay in the US, because the US does not recognize same sex couples for immigration (or anything for that matter). Pretty much everyone he worked with or had contact with was very upset that he was going to have to leave the US.
The heads of the law firm (lawyers) hatched a plan to arrange for Pedro to marry a female employee of the firm so he could stay. (Note this is highly illegal and people go to jail for this type of fraud.) The HIV ban allows a waiver for spouses of the heterosexual variety. Pedro’s same sex relationship with a US citizen was worth nothing in the eyes of immigration, but if he married a woman, it would not only grease the path to a green card, but also overcome the HIV barrier as well, because of an HIV waiver for opposite sex spouses.
Because the wedding was scheduled, the law firm did not make any arrangement for Pedro’s replacement. The interesting thing is that a lot of people, including those at the court house, were aware of the impending marriage and the reason for it, and voiced no fraud concerns. In fact they were supportive. This is a prime example of a double standard between those immigrants you know personally and like --- versus some unknown illegal immigrant working in a meat plant in Kansas.
In the end and to his credit, Pedro could not go through with the fraudulent marriage. He left the US on time and legally.
While Pedro was in his home country looking for employment his old law firm kept calling him to try to get him back because they were having a hard time getting along without his specialized talent. I won’t go into the details of who did what or how it happened, but after a few months, Pedro returned the US on a tourist visa in order to work for his old company, and to help find and train a replacement. Again, this is highly illegal.
During this temporary period of once again working for his old firm, Pedro met and fell in love with Peter, a Dutch citizen. They made plans for Pedro to immigrate to the Netherlands to be together as a same sex couple once Pedro finished training the new employee. Before this was able to happen however, a few weeks before he planned to leave permanently, Pedro was found out and deported (again, details left out to protect a lot of people).
So how fast can a person who could not get residency in the US either based on his same sex relationship or on his job talents (he was disqualified based on his HIV status) get a green card in Holland? Here’s how fast:
After deportation to his home country in January, Pedro studied for a Dutch language and culture exam which he took and passed in February. In April he received his entry visa to join his partner in the Netherlands. Once united with Peter in Holland, they formed a civil partnership (the Dutch can choose marriage or partnership – both yield immigration benefits) and in July he received a one year visa. After one year he gets a 5 year visa. However, after only 3 of those 5 years he can choose to become a Dutch citizen.
This is so amazing compared to how he was treated in the United States. Basically, the Dutch (as well as a lot of the EU) treat same sex couples the same as opposite sex couples.
I spoke with Pedro the other day to congratulate him on his green card. He wanted everyone to know that in the Netherlands it was illegal for them to ask about his HIV status. The only health question he had to answer was with respect to tuberculosis. And that question was simply a “we are going to test you for TB and if you test positive, you have to consent now that you agree to be treated before you can get your visa.” How sane! How rooted in real medical science!
I dream of the day that the United States starts granting its gay citizens the same rights that other Western Democracies are granting theirs.
I’m also sorry Pedro did not experience the day that the US stopped discriminating against HIV positive people for immigration. But I’m comforted that he is happy and with a wonderful partner living in the Netherlands – a country that treats his relationship better than our country treats our gay relationships.
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