Do Not Lie to INS!

Fatma first entered the United States on a visitor’s visa late last year. She had recently gotten married in Jordan, and her husband had relocated to the United States after obtaining his “green card.”  At the time, I wondered why and how she came on a visitor’s visa. I thought that the spouse of a citizen or permanent resident must enter on a resident visa. Well, regulations change, and it was none of my business, anyway.

They settled into married life, and then she decided to travel back to Jordan to visit her family. Since her visitor’s visa was good for multiple entries for five years, she felt safe to make the trip. Her husband stayed behind because he finally got a wonderful job, after months of sending resumes, attending interviews, and consulting the employment agencies. They did not plan to be apart for more than the duration of her visit– a few months– so she went, and visited her family.

Several months later, she boarded a plane to return to the Untied States.

Upon landing, she was taken into a private room and interrogated regarding the purpose of her travels. She spoke through an interpreter, since she does not speak English. I became aware of the situation when my daughter phoned me in a panic.

“They’ve taken her into a room! They’ve been questioning her for four hours!” Fatma is my daughter’s sister-in-law.

Her husband, with my son-in-law and my grandson, had been waiting for her to emerge, but they never so much as caught a glimpse of her.

“They’re going to send her back to Jordan!” my daughter cried. “She needs a lawyer. We need to find a twenty-four lawyer. Now! They are putting her on the next plane!” They would put her on the next plane for another ten hour flight, without letting her even see her husband for a few minutes, knowing that she would not see him again for a long time? They would do that?

My daughter’s internet connection was down, so I got on my computer and discovered that such a category of lawyers does exist— immigration lawyers available twenty-four hours. I texted my daughter five phone numbers, and waited, and wondered what could have gone wrong with Fatma’s re-entry to the United States.

My daughter called me back an hour later. She had spoken to several lawyers. They couldn’t help, because Fatma is not a citizen or permanent resident, and therefore is not legally entitled to representation.

“Well, what’s the problem with Immigration? Why won’t they let her enter the country?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said my daughter.

“What did they ask her? Why did she say?”

“They asked her if she was married and she said no. They opened her suitcase and found the wedding photos.”


“That’s it,” I said, ” you do not lie to INS! Don’t they know that by now? Haven’t they learned that you cannot lie to INS?” I started shrieking.

“You cannot lie to INS!”

“Why not?” asked my daughter, “she lied to them the first time, and it worked.”

“You do not lie to INS! They can SMELL lies!”

I was flabbergasted that Fatma and her husband would even consider lying to INS, but upon reflection, I realized why they had done so.

He had just obtained his permanent residence. He won’t be eligible for citizenship for three more years. As a permanent resident, he can apply for her residence visa, but the process will take years. They have no legal path to bring her here in a timely manner, and he has just become established on a career path here, so he does not want to give that up, for fear he won’t get another chance. So now they sit, apart, he in the States, she in Jordan. He will be able to visit her once or twice a year if he is lucky, if his new position gives him more than the measly two-week vacation that Americans get at the beginning of their career paths.

They’d better not try another lie, because now she has a flag on her file, and future efforts to immigrate will be scrutinized.  This new family now hangs in limbo, this Arab family that is trying to become American, trying simply to join other family members already here, to have and raise their children in a healthier society than that from which they’ve emerged. Her husband is from Iraq.

His family was able to evacuate Baghdad because of the war. They relocated to Jordan, where they lived for several years, and then, one by one, came to the United States. I hope Fatma will be the next one to come. I almost hope they think up another lie that won’t be smelled by INS. Newlyweds should not be separated during the first years of their marriage, especially after all the hardships these families have already suffered, through no fault of their own.

Now, however, they will have to endure several more years of hardship, for the sin of having lied to INS.

INS did, indeed, put her on the next plane, and her husband went home to candles, roses, and tears.

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
This entry was posted in Family, Immigration, Life, Politics, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Do Not Lie to INS!

  1. susanne430 says:

    I still don’t understand why she lied. Is admitting you are married that bad? Sorry it turned out this way for them.

  2. juma says:

    That’s the way Visa rules work, they knew that, we all knew that. i feel bad for the separation, you are correct ,the first few years of marriage are precious, an dno one should have the power to separate them, I can’t for the life of me imagine why they cannot change the rules to let the spouse in, they let the wives of those working with a HI vis ain as a dependant, why not let thse girls in as dependents too?? anyway the law is there for a purpose and lying to INS is the dumbest thing one can do. ! case of lying causes the INS to look at 10 otehrs with suspicion, not only is she ruining it for herself she’s ruining it for a whole lot of otehr people too.
    If i were her husband i would leave this and go to her and try to go somewhere else if coming back here is hard. that’s what we did when i didn’t get a visa, money, career, means nothing if not shared with aloved one.

  3. Marahm says:

    Thanks for your comment, juma. I’m not sure what the husband will do now. He looked for a job for nearly a year, supported by his family that is already established here in the States. Finally, he got his dream job, but your comment that it “… means nothing if not shared with a loved one, ” carries a lot of weight, and he knows it.

    I hope you have been able to establish a good life in a comfortable area. Would you care to share your story?

  4. Marahm says:

    Susanne, the admission of marriage, by itself, did not go against her. The problem arises because her husband is not a citizen. The rules for bringing foreign spouses are different, according to one’s citizenship status.

    A US citizen can bring a foreign spouse without too much trouble or delay. A permanent resident (green card holder– the husband, in this case) can also bring a foreign spouse. However, waiting periods apply, waiting periods upwards of several years. Furthermore, spouses of permanent residents as well as citizens cannot enter the country on other than a resident visa. Her tourist visa, in this case, became null and void when she got married.

    They did not want to be separated for years, so they lied, thinking she’d be admitted (again) on her visitor’s visa, as a single woman. She might have passed muster with INS, if they hadn’t discovered the wedding photos in her luggage.

    The law is not necessarily condusive to helping families stay together. One of the concerns of INS is that people contract marriages of convenience for the purpose of obtaining permenant resident visas. They put obstacles in the way of married couples (when one spouse is a permanent resident, as opposed to a citizen) so that only legitimately married couples will tolerate the delays and “red tape” required for entry.

    I do not comment on the wisdom of INS and its rules, but I still say, loud and clear, “Do not lie to INS!”

  5. Jasmine says:

    I sympathize with their situation; we’ve all been in a place where we’ve tried to get around the rules. But whether you think the rules are fair or not, you have to be prepared for the consequences if you’re not willing to follow them. She shouldn’t have lied and doing so only made things worse; when she decided to lie she should have thought about that. I’m not from the US, so forgive me if I sound ignorant.. but I wouldn’t move to a country where I couldn’t handle the immigration process. I understand him coming from Iraq, but I don’t think if you come from a relatively safe country like Jordan it is justified to lie and break rules when trying to enter a new country.

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