I know I should write about the presidential visit. I was at the airport almost the entire day, by the way, handling the press for the airport. It was actually pretty fun, though exhausting.
But I wanted to write about something else. I don't usually write about my work, but this one moved me to write. Now to edit this in such a way as to protect myself...
I'm in the immigrant visa unit, you know. Recently, we had an American petitioning for his Filipina fiancee. The INS report shows no criminal hits on the Filipina, but a hit on the American. In 1996, he was convicted of child molestation on a teenage Korean girl, with two probation violations. These little notes are nice window dressing, but there's little we can do about them, unless they're extremely egregious. Seriously, I could show a Filipina video clips of her fiancee murdering his last three Filipina fiancees, and she will reply, "But I love him!"
He also can't hold a job.. he gives us a line of crap about missionary work, so we refuse him for the possibility that she will need public assistance. This can be overcome if he shows that he is starting to make more, or a host of other possibilities, but it's also somewhat arbitrary. I can say that future legal bills and alimony makes it unlikely he will be able to support his wife.
But then he writes us a letter, stating that he thinks we're really refusing because of his criminal record. At that point, he was only partially right.
The letter begins by lamenting that anyone convicted of a molestation is treated with malice, no matter how small the offense. (The tiniest violins play only for him.) He then explains what he says his situation is: A few years ago, he is married with a 12-year-old girl. He is asleep on his bed, and the girl is next to him. He says he decides to "check to see if she is reaching puberty," without elaboration.
She awakes, and runs to her mother. He said this happened 5 years before it was reported, as he and the wife are breaking up. He then relates how his ex-wife and a counselor are out to get him, engineering the two probation violations.
Now there are already questions. The wife isn't Korean, so where did the "16-year-old Korean" come from? We're already skeptical, because it was in the midwest, so the person isn't necessarily Korean. The cops could have taken a wild stab at "Asian" and got Korean. But his wife _ and therefore we presume his daughter _ are not Korean. Nevertheless, his story goes from difficult-to-believe to absolutely reprehensible.
And what can we do with this? Not much, although I'm getting creative. To remove the discussion from this case, because if I went further I _would_ get in trouble, there is very little that American diplomats can do to stop criminals from petitioning for foreign spouses. It doesn't matter whether the criminal was convicted of child abuse of a five-year-old, and they're petitioning for a new wife and her five-year-old daughter. The law does not provide us recourse, so we get creative.
There is a bill, introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats from Washington state, that would require international marriage brokers to ask clients about any criminal record, including protective orders issued because of domestic violence allegations. That information would be provided to the potential spouses.
This already happens, but much later in the process. The INS (now Bureau of Immigration and Citizenship Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security) does criminal checks on all petitioners and beneficiaries of all visas, no matter the category. They're really searching for any crimes the foreigners may have committed in the States, but they're nice enough to provide all results to the Embassy (after approving the petition, of course.) By the time we get it, we tell the beneficiary. (A crime is public information, and there are no privacy laws attached.)
This bill wouldn't do much more. It would inform the foreigner earlier in the process, and would also tell them about restraining orders, which are protected by the petitioner's privacy rights. I don't know if it would help, but it's something.
The federal bill is inspired by Anastasia King, a 20-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, who was killed by her convict husband in 2000.
I have a clipping above my desk of a story about Lorelei Loseo, a Cebuano Filipina, who was killed in New Jersey by her American fiance. She was in the States all of two months _ they hadn't even gotten married before he stabbed her to death. He also beat her, and made her work in a strip club.