Immigration: Nomads Need Not Apply
Mankind started out as a nomad, a person without a permanent home. He was free to wander in search of sustenance to wherever his heart fancied, with only natural boundaries to stop him. Once man decided to start a new fad called agriculture (consult Jared Diamond’s deservedly-famous Guns, Germs and Steel for more info) he decided to settle down in one place, and ever since, nomads have been suffering.
(Admittedly, this child, probably part of a Mongolian nomadic herder group, doesn’t look like s/he is suffering too much. The child may be adorable, but what is even more adorable is that furry-haired Bactrian camel smiling with all his big teeth. In any case, they might not be the best example of nomadic people in agony over the creation of a state society, but I felt the time was appropriate for a happy photo; more on that below).
Nowadays, living a nomadic hunter-gatherer-herder lifestyle is nearly impossible, and worse, it is considered inappropriate. I’m not just talking about those few remaining populations that actually take the hunter-gatherer profession to heart (who I incidentally feel should be allowed to continue their lives without interruption) but I’m also referring to those who prefer to immigrate or migrate, sometimes frequently, to new places.
Americans ‘nomads’ of today don’t really experience the troublesome boundaries put in place by governments as other ‘nomads’ do. Witness the many Americans who go galloping across the globe to teach English or volunteer, usually unhampered (unless Cuba or North Korea are their aim) in their migrating process. Then again, most of these citizens are not going to permanently live in their new territory. Who I really feel for are those ‘nomads’–read: people who want to move elsewhere–from other countries who either can’t or have a hell of a hard time doing it.
The ability to”move somewhere else” is a freedom that I hold very near and dear to my heart. After a year (this week!) of marriage and about nine months of government processing, my husband (he’s from Egypt) and I finally received the news recently that our interview date (a.k.a. the great culmination of nine months of anxious waiting) is set for January. This was the good news that resulted in the posting of a smiling camel picture. The immigration process to the United States, for those of you who don’t know, is a complicated and convoluted process designed to make even the most sane and rational of people go stark raving mad.
Now, despite my longing to ramble across this Earth to my heart’s content, I know that restrictions apply, because we are a “civilized” society and laws must be followed. Today, our boundaries are not the endless Pacific ocean nor sandy deserts devoid of oasis’ nor impossible-to-forge Hindu Kush mountain passes, but invisible boundaries marked off by governments. Despite my liberal outlook, I do look down upon illegal immigration, because when you illegally move to a country you are not trying to contribute to that country, but only to yourself. If you want to move somewhere new, it should be because you like the new country you are moving to and want to integrate yourself into it. People who immigrate illegally are in effect a stateless people as they are members of neither their old or new society. They must act within the boundaries of the law just as we all must.
A husband or wife should be allowed to join their significant other in whatever country they both choose to live in. After all, it’s not their fault that they were born in different countries! Now I understand that the United States scrutinizes all incoming immigrants for safety’s sake; that is perfectly reasonable, and I can’t argue with that. But for the love of God, can you speed up the process? No husband and wife-or parent and child, or any family member relations for that matter-should be separated for 9+ months. This is cruel and unusual punishment. It is not justice, and it is wrong to question our morality and our love.
Back in May, when I thought the immigration process would be completed much sooner, I decided to spend what I thought was the “remaining time” in Cairo with my husband. I only stayed two months before I realized that our process wouldn’t be completed sooner, and that I would need to fill out and gather more papers , some of which were back in the United States.
Nevertheless, I witnessed an extreme cultural difference between America and Egypt during my own “immigration” process over there. My husband and I drove to the Ministry of the Interior; I didn’t even have to go in (thank goodness, as the place is confusing). After an hour, my husband came out and said that they needed to stamp my passport and that it would take about a week. A week later we went back, and there on my passport was a sticker declaring my legal residency for the next five years. Imagine, all it took was one form and one week, and I was automatically granted five year residence!
The irony was not lost on me, and I had to laugh. Apparently love and the importance of family are much more valued in Egypt than in America. And really, should a person have to suffer simply because while they were off living the nomadic life, they found their true love in a foreign place? Perhaps it’s time that the USCIS recognizes my favorite of all phrases: love knows no boundaries!