Chapter 3 – Looking For Help
It was now June, and I knew I needed an advocate to help find out what had gone wrong. First, I located an immigration lawyer in nearby Mobile, Alabama. The lawyer gave me an hour of free consultation, then promised to look into the problem and later discuss fees for whatever legal services would be needed. He never called me back and never returned my follow-up calls.
So I turned to my elected representatives, starting with Congressman Gene Taylor’s office. His immigrations staffer was very gracious, taking down all needed information, then promised she’d check and get back to me.
Two weeks later I called back. The staffer explained she didn’t have an answer yet, but would call me when she did. I called two weeks later again, and this time she never returned my call. So I escalated my concern to Mississippi’s senior Senator and local hometown-boy-made-good, Senator Trent Lott.
His office didn’t call me back even on the first time I left a message.
By now I was beginning to feel desperate. It was going on August. I was getting no assistance anywhere and Winnie was getting nervous. She’d already seen a few friends who were married after her receive their USCIS letter, the next step of the immigration process. I did my best to reassure her and let her know I was getting help finding out what had gone wrong. But it was getting harder to convince her.
My worse fear at this point was that she would start to think I was playing games with her and had no intention of bringing her to America. In reality, all she had was my word that the papers had been filed. It was at this point, when I was feeling my lowest, that a co-worked made a comment that had to be the most callous thing any person has ever said to me.
I was now working in a four-person office with three co-workers. One day, I was venting to one co-worker about my latest frustrations with the visa. I was getting no help from the USICS, I had no status on the application, had been ignored by a lawyer and two of my elected officials who I asked for help, and my wife was getting scared she’d never be coming to her husband in America.
With all this, another co-worker in the room, a good ole’ boy originally from Arkansas, turned to me and said “[The visa process] keeps people from flying airplanes into our buildings.” Neither of my other two co-workers said a word in my defense. All I could do was leave the room until I could calm myself enough to face the little twit again.
I could never bring myself to be friendly with that co-worker again, and I never trusted either of the others for not standing up for me. Never.
I finally thought about contacting the third federal official in Mississippi, our Junior Senator Thad Cochran. He didn’t have much of a presence on the coast, probably due to Senator Trent Lott living in our town, and no one locally ever really spoke about him. But he was a senator and my last chance at gaining official help, so in late August I contacted his office.
A few days after my first call, I was contacted by Senator Cochran’s immigrations staffer, a Mr Jeremy Litton. He took my information, agreed that I’d been waiting too long, and promised to find out what he could. When he hung up, I couldn’t help but feel it was another empty promise.
Meanwhile, Winnie was getting spooked about the wait. She told me her friends were telling her I was “playing games,” but she still believed me and not them. Our daily IM chats were becoming strained, with most of the discussion around what would happen if she couldn’t get a visa. I knew she had a lot more on the line than I did; her whole life was now focused on leaving her home country to be with her husband.
It was also coming up on our one year wedding anniversary that I once thought we’d be celebrating in the US. We finally decided that since she wouldn’t be here, I’d go there. I started planning my second China trip to coincide with our first wedding anniversary. After considerable negotiations, we settled on October 8 to October 22 for my anniversary visit.
Mr Litton of Senator Cochran’s office did call me back several days after his initial contact with an update – no news but he wanted me to know he was going to continue working. It was at this point I finally felt that Winnie and I had an advocate.