Brain Dropping #47
Five weeks ago my son Eli and his partner Liina from Tallinn, Estonia bought airline tickets to the U.S.A. to visit us, Gail and me, in Fairfield, Vermont. They live in Berlin and were on a visit to Liina’s folks in the capital city of Estonia when Liina went to the Consulate to apply for a visa – she was turned down. The reasons given by the Consul had to do with a muddled incident some five years ago on the border between Vancouver, Canada and Washington State. Liina apparently did not supply the proper paper work to cross the border, and following the official paranoia, the border guards refused her entry which ‘red flagged’ her five years later.
Sadly, Liina and Eli decided that he would come on his own. As he was packing to catch his flight Liina got a call saying that the visa had been granted. They had only a few hours for her to get ready to join Eli. So the story seemed to have a happy ending. But it didn’t happen out-of-the-blue. It merits explaining how it all came about:
At this end, when Liina’s visa was denied, Gail called her brother John who is a retired consular officer. He advised us to call Bernie Sander’s office. Gail heeded her brother’s advice and was put onto an aide named Geoffrey (last name forgotten). Was this going to be the usual bureaucratic shuffle with our problem shunted from one impotent bureaucrat to another? No! Geoffrey was as good as his word and exhibited genuine compassion and interest. He faxed letters to the consul and e-mailed the Consul several times to argue Liina’s case. A St. Albans friend Leo Werner, an immigration lawyer, advised us pro bono, not to relent in our effort and volunteered to meet us at the border with Canada in the event something went wrong at the last minute. Getting a visa did not necessarily mean automatically getting across the border. There would be border guards to contend with who, in the present circumstances, could be “arbitrary and capricious” in denying entry.
We met Eli and Liina at Trudeau Airport in Montreal – a joyous meeting. We drove down to the Highgate entry point to Vermont, a scant twenty mies from our Fairfield home. As you may have guessed, here’s where we hit a snag, a boulder, a wall. It was ten at night and the border control computer system for the entire United States had crashed. So, we sat, and sat, and sat waiting for the gods of cyberspace to favor us. No dice! When we were told that the system would most likely be back on line by morning we retreated for the night to the Holiday Inn in Richelieu. Next morning, after a big consoling breakfast, we headed back to the border only to be told that the computer was still down. There were dozens of people in the border patrol waiting area, some asleep others pacing nervously, infants crying. It looked like a crossing in a war zone. Despairing, we decided that we would leave Liina to wait while Eli, Gail and I drove back to Fairfield, whereupon Eli would drive back to pick up Liina, and they would spend a few days at a nice hotel in Montreal before flying back to Berlin, the visit to our homestead out of reach for the time being. But “glorioski” as soon as we pulled into our driveway Eli’s cell phone rang. Liina was across the invisible line, latitude 45. The computer had jerked awake for a short while, and the border people eager to clear the waiting area, and anticipating another crash, practically shoved people out the door and across into Vermont.
The rest is simply lovely!