Stupid is as Stupid Does or When Will We Enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

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People do stupid things.   Sometimes, for no reason at all, sometimes, for reasons that are entirely understandable. That doesn’t mean you or I would do it, but…

Yesterday a couple from the Ukraine contacted me about their situation.  About nine months after “Ivan” received his green card, he married “Lena”.  They love each other, grew up together, and had spent a lot of time together.  But now Ivan lives in the US as a permanent resident and has a good job; Lena lives in the Ukraine.  US law on family immigration subjects spouses and children of green card holders to quotas.  The current wait for spouses located overseas to be unified with their loved ones in the US is nearly four years.  Because of this long wait, Lena and Ivan started to explore other options to speed up their reunification.

First, Lena tried to obtain a tourist visa from the US Embassy in Kyiv. She honestly indicated that her husband was in the United States.  The Embassy denied her.  She applied again. The Embassy denied her again.

When that didn’t work, Ivan and Lena became desperate.  Lena divorced Ivan and married a winner of the Green Card Lottery – an individual who was selected to win the Lottery but had not yet gone through his visa interview.  Lena paid money to him so that he would take her to the US and once there, she would divorce him and marry Ivan again.  When they applied at the US Embassy in Warsaw, the consular officer immediately understood that the marriage was a sham: the records of Lena’s applications at the Embassy in Kyiv were available to the consular officer and they were unable to answer simple questions about their marriage.  As a result, the consular officer permanently barred Lena from the United States for her fraud and the Green Card winner  for alien smuggling.  As it stands, Lena will need to divorce her sham husband; marry Ivan again; and apply for a hard-to-obtain waiver to be re-unified with him in the US.

Lena and Ivan understand that what they did was stupid – but they were desperate to be together. They did not want to wait the four years.  They want to know why other countries, such as Canada, allow for permanent residents to be unified with their spouses, without having to endure a four-year wait, while the US – purportedly, the most humane society on earth – does not.

In contrast to Lena and Ivan, another green card holding client is taking the straight and narrow route – he is filing an immigrant petition for his wife and is prepared to reluctantly wait the four year period.  But instead of living separately from his wife, he has decided to move back to his home country to be with her and periodically visit the US to maintain his residency.  In other words, he is putting his life in the US on hold for four years just to be with his wife.

A happier ending awaited 12-year old Tanya and 8-year old Andrey.  They were born overseas to a green card holding mother, but because she did not take the children to the US within two years of their birth, they were not able to obtain green cards automatically.  As a result, they are  subject to the four-year wait.  When their mother sought to relocate to the US, the kids could not obtain tourist visas. Fortunately for them, and with our assistance, after a rigorous application process and DNA testing, they were awarded humanitarian parole. While humanitarian parole is not a green card – even obtaining a social security number for them has been problematic – it does give the holder the opportunity to remain in the US for a year, with the possibility of extending that time.

Sometimes, people do dumb things. And sometimes they do these things to get around stupid laws.  Although I doubt that that eminent philosopher, Forest Gump’s mom, had Congress in mind, she was right in saying “stupid is as stupid does”.  Here’s hoping that the Stop the Stupidity law – otherwise, known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform – will one day pass so that future Ivans and Lenas will not feel compelled to make stupid choices when it comes to immigrating to the US.