For those of you who have been following the saga that is my Green Card application, (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I have an update for you. I have a temporary work permit, and an interview date to see if everything I said on paper is true, and then I may get one. That means I've been able to take on a few writing jobs, which is exciting for me.
I realized this week that I never told the story of my immigration physical. I started to write it but never finished. So here for your reading pleasure is an excerpt from my account of what is involved when you are an alien who wants to live and work in the US.
Once again I responded to a summons. This time it was to have my body examined by the branch of government whose job it is to decide whom among those “tired, poor, and huddled masses” is healthy enough and wealthy enough to be allowed to stay. A civil surgeon appointed by said branch of government performs the actual exam. I arrived early in the morning at the office of the qualified examiner closest to my home. I found myself at a neighborhood walk-in clinic packed to the ceiling with people, all of them Hispanic. We live in a very old California town and the population is at least half Mexican and we're all poor. Every chair was taken, moms, snotty nosed kids and heartbreakingly tiny babies all drinking formula out of the bottle. It’s one of those clinics that charges on a sliding scale.
I sat with my own tiny baby in my lap, nervously eying the children coughing and snotting in her general direction. At one point she was hungry so I nursed her, discreetly, and suddenly became aware of an intense buzz of interest in my child and me, even though I don’t speak Spanish I’m pretty sure they were unfamiliar with any kind of breastfeeding. Then I changed her diaper while laying her awkwardly on my lap since the germ infested bathroom didn't have a change table. (As an aside, when did it become the well educated middle class women who breast feed their babies while the poorer less educated part of the population is buying formula? How did that change?)
I watched while a lab tech came out to the waiting room and checked the bathrooms; turning on the lights and then turning them off again. On her hands she wore white gloves. I found myself hoping she would take them off and put on new ones once she was finished touching the light switches and handles and sinks of a restroom only used by sick people. Then I wondered if that’s why she was wearing the gloves in the first place. Come to think of it, I would be wearing them too. A few seconds later a little girl threw-up all over the floor right next to where I was sitting.
Finally my turn came to be examined I removed my clothing from the waste down and then lay down on an exam table with a paper sheet on. This was complicated by the fact that I had a baby to hold because there wasn’t anywhere that I was going to put her down in there, and I hadn’t thought to bring her car seat in with me. So I lay clutching my infant to my chest as the doctor, a youngish Asian woman with a giant zit on her nose, casually examined my genitalia. I guess it must have passed inspection, my labia must be up to American standards.
After that I got to pay for the privilege of allowing that same white gloved lab tech to stab me repeatedly with needles. My blood was tested for AIDS, and previous immunizations. I was given a tetanus booster, and a TB screen. Finally, arm aching from the repeated stabbings, I exited from the clinic.
I couldn’t help wondering how the average American would feel if they were traveling to a foreign country and upon disembarking from a plane were asked to please turn aside and take off their pants so that they could be properly screened before being set loose on the general population. (Maybe fewer little girls in Bangkok brothels would be infected with AIDS. But those men aren't average Americans.) Would they feel as though their basic rights had been violated? Sometimes I do.