Monday, February 26, 2007

Barring Jimmy Murphy

Poor Jimmy Murphy should have known better, but he didn't. He shouldn't have returned home to visit his family while he was waiting for his green card.

I can see how this whole thing came about. He's living in Iowa, his wife's expecting a baby and they find a good deal on tickets to Shannon and they buy them. What with a baby coming who knows when they'll be able to come again.

Unfortunately for Murphy, when his visit home was over the US authorities refused him permission to reenter the country. This is the kind of story that drives me nuts. Yes the law is the law and the law should be enforced, but there are details here that just sound mean.
Returning to Shannon on January 6, the couple presented themselves at US immigration, only to be told that Mr Murphy was ineligible to return to America as he had breached the terms of his status upgrade application by leaving the US without a special written permission. His bag was removed from the plane's luggage hold and he was sent on his way.

"I couldn't even shake hands with my wife to say goodbye," he told the Limerick Leader. "She was on one side of a line on the floor in American territory; I was on the other side, still in Ireland." He had €17 in his pocket and, having paid €12 bus fare back to Newcastle West, was almost destitute, with just €5 to his name. He was taken in by his brother Joe at Oak Park while frantic attempts were made to rectify the situation through the US embassy in Dublin.
There seems little doubt that Murphy was going to get his green card and this sounds like nothing more than a slight bureaucratic inconvenience that he forgot to file the appropriate paperwork. Why can't the INS see this and say, "Look you can't reenter because of this failure to file the right papers. We'll get your wife back here and the two of you can work out what you want to do."

This wouldn't have cost the INS a thing. The law would still have been enforced, but in a way that is just more human. What really gets my goat is that these INS agents - some of whom are so decent and others who are so damn surly - are the face of the United States. This kind of story appears in the local press here all the time. I'm sure it's a story repeated across the globe.

This sort of thing breeds anti-Americanism as much as any foreign policy decision because for many people outside the US, immigration authorities - at airports and embassies - are the only personal contact that they have with the United States. I know it can be tough to be in a job that requires constant vigilance and is at the same time probably mind-numbingly dull work. Still, something should be done to ensure that the normal human reaction is not overlooked.