Chapter 8 – Help Arrives
We spent the rest of the day touring Guangzhou. It was sometime that afternoon that I crossed a mental divide. The reality that Winnie might not receive her visa, or might not receive it for upwards of another year, was beginning to sink in. Sometime that afternoon I promised myself I would move to China if Winnie’s visa was not at least located by mid-summer.
The next morning Winnie escorted me to the airport and we said our goodbyes. I only had about $100 remaining after I bought her return train ticket to Nanning, which I left with her. We parted not knowing when we’d be together again.
Back home and the following week I contacted Mr Litton. He explained that one part of the problem was resolved. It seems that until now, there were only two people in the Department of Homeland Security to answer all congressional inquires. Mr Litton stated “You Senator was not happy.” I didn’t think I needed to ask for details.
The following week Mr Litton called again and hinted that I might have to refile my application package. I acknowledged that I’d been thinking that, but also explained I had very limited original documents, as I filed all originals with my application, instead of copies as permitted, so there would not be any delays caused by the USCIS coming back asking for originals. I explained if I needed to refile all originals, it would take several weeks to obtain some of these documents.
He called back the following Thursday and explained I’d need to refile. He instructed me to put together a package of copies of what I originally filed, and send them all directly to him. He would in turn submit them to the USCIS. I asked about how long I should expect to wait for an answer afterwards, and he stated “a matter of Days.”
I had my new package put together and mailed via overnight delivery the following Monday, November 1, the day prior to elections. I received an answer back from his office Thursday, November 4 acknowledging receipt. The postmark showed he worked my package during election day, something that deeply impressed me even though Senator Cochran was not running for re-election. So I waited some more.
On Wednesday, November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, I returned home and found a letter from the USCIS. My heart beating, I opened it and read the I-797 receipt stating that my I-129 application had been forwarded on to the Los Angeles USCIS office for processing, to “speed up the processing time,” due to “excessive backlog at the New Orleans office.” Well, I thought, that’s that. At least it was being handled. I spent Thanksgiving weekend knowing the application was at least going somewhere, but also vaguely frustrated this was the best that Mr Litton could do.
Monday morning, back at work, I received a call from Mr Litton. He explained he had attempted to contact me the previous Wednesday but no one answered the phone (I didn’t have voice mail on my office telephone, and none of my three co-workers could be bothered to answer my phone for me when I was away from my desk, even knowing what I was going through). He explained that my application had been approved by the USCIS, had been forwarded onto the State Department for further processing, and I should expect to receive a letter any day acknowledging this from the USCIS.
With the letter I had just received the previous Wednesday I felt totally confused, and I know my response showed it. I caught myself, and deeply thanked him for his assistance. When I went home that night I re-read the letter received the previous Wednesday. Sure enough, the application that a Senator’s office had spent six weeks looking for, and was told was irredeemably lost, had in fact surfaced in Los Angeles even while my re-submission was being processed in New Orleans.
My first action that night was to let Winnie know, during our evening chat, that her application was approved. My second action was to write a heartfelt thank you letter to Mr Litton, with the I-797 that I received from my original “lost” application enclosed. I thought he should know just how screwed up the USCIS actually was. My third action was to write a second letter of thanks directly to Senator Cochran’s Washington D.C. office, letting the Senator know just how helpful Mr Litton had been.
I’m not sure, but I do think the Senator personally read my letter, as I received a nice response several weeks later with what looked like his actual signature. It was the very least I could do for Mr Litton.