I’ve had my own experiences with immigration and its different from the narrative currently out there but its as real and is my image of a “broken immigration system”.
My dad is bipolar and he has never lived alone. When his second wife, Pat 2 – my mum was Pat 1 – yes, dad married women with the exact same name and he should have kept with that tradition. Anyway, I was trying hard to get dad to realize that living alone wasn’t so bad and he had my little sister, Pat 2’s daughter with him, for weekends. He was calling me every morning at 5 or 6am and we would talk until I had to go to work and even after I should have let. I was, or so I thought, slowly convincing him that he could do this and finally that he needed medication. He knew he was bipolar in the abstract but he tried medication once before I was born, for less than a week and stopped. I thought I was making progress when suddenly he started traveling to Europe and eventually he admitted he was going to meet various women. That happened a couple of times and then before I knew it he was engaged and bringing his fiance to the US. I took a while for him to admit that he’d been using a dating site – it took longer for him to admit that he was using a site that was essentially a mail order bride site for Eastern European women.
When you want to marry someone from another country you are given three months to “try it out” and then you either marry them or they go home and as my dad understood it – you don’t get a second chance. It’s one 3 month visa and that is it. Imagine trying to decide if you should get married or not in 3 months. Then make the person making the decision over 60 and mentally ill.
I happened to be with dad when he was doing all of the paperwork to bring Yuliya – who ended up being his third wife – over from the Ukraine. When he was trying to figure out what year she was born and had three different options to choose from I threw up my hands and said I would have nothing to do with it. Just her having three different birth years to chose from seemed fraudulent to me. If I knew then what I know now I would have gone behind dad’s back and reported it to highlight the discrepancy. I was hoping that the INS would figure it out with all of the papers that dad submitted. I was so very wrong.
After dad decided to marry Yuliya – to quote him – things were not going well but might as well try it – she was arrested for spousal abuse. They were already married and I never even thought of contacting the INS about it. It was only after dad died and we were engaged in a futile attempt to keep Yuliya from getting virtually everything that dad owned that I found out that the INS had been aware of and asked questions about Yuliya’s arrest. I was blamed for the whole thing in a letter that was sent to the INS. Reading that letter it was very clear that dad did not write the letter. Yuliya was responsible for the content. I was never questioned about the incident, despite being blamed for it, and Yuliya was allowed to stay.
To me this is the very broken part of the immigration system. It’s not like you see in the movies – people asked about their marriage. Follow up and questions and proof that they are married for love and not just as a way for the woman to get into the country and in this case take everything that an older, mentally ill, man has. This woman was a prostitute who went out and get a john on their honeymoon. She was abusive and split him from his kids. There was no protection offered by the INS and now this woman who was abusive, who took everything from my dad, including his kids. I was old enough to not need him like my baby sister did but I didn’t want him to end his years alone, with an abusive woman, trapped so that all he could do was go to work and live the life she allowed. It’s a warning to everyone who knows anyone who is using these international dating (marriage) sites. It’s also a reminder that abuse can go either way. My dad had started out as an emotionally abusive rageaholoic and ended up the victim of both physical and emotional abuse.
My little mantra has become friends don’t let friends marry mail order brides.