Friday, August 02, 2002

The upside-down world of the INS
(Many thanks to my dear Canadian friend, the elusive Ajay Royan.)

Mark Steyn, National Post

Every so often, the name of Deena Gilbey crosses my radar screen.

Who's Deena Gilbey? Well, she's one of several hundred non-U.S. citizens widowed on September 11th. Her husband Paul was a trader with EuroBrokers on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center and that Tuesday morning he stayed behind to help evacuate people. He was a hero on a day when America sorely needed them, having been thoroughly let down by those to whom the defence of the nation was officially entrusted. Mr. Gilbey was a British subject on a long-term work visa that allowed his dependents to live in America but not to work. The Gilbeys bought a house in Chatham Township and had two children, born in New Jersey and thus U.S. citizens. All perfectly legal and valid.

But then came September 11th. And a few days afterwards Mrs. Gilbey received a form letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service informing her that, upon her husband's death, his visa had also expired and with it her right to remain in the country. She was now, they informed her, an illegal alien and liable to be "arrested and deported."

Think about that. On the morning of Wednesday, September 12th, some INS departmental head calls the staff into his office and says, "Wow, that was a wild ride yesterday. But the priority of the United States Government right now is to find out how many legally resident foreigners have been widowed and see how quickly we can traumatize them further."

And maybe someone says, "Well, you know, boss, maybe leaning on Deena Gilbey really isn't where we ought to be concentrating our energies right now. I mean, we did after all issue visas to every single one of those 19 terrorists. Given that the fellows we let in then went on to murder Mrs. Gilbey's husband, should we really be adding insult to the great injury we've done her?"

But, if anybody did say that, he was presumably put on sick leave, and the rest of the Feds went back to business as usual.

As on September 11th itself, when the FBI, INS and FAA flopped out big time, it was the local guys who came through. The Police Chief of Chatham, N.J., was outraged by the Government's harassment of Mrs. Gilbey, and the British press picked it up, and eventually it came to the attention of the President, who in late October signed special legislation for the hundreds of law-abiding widows and children in Mrs. Gilbey's position.

And then a week or so back, it all came up again. It turned out that the President's special legislation designed to cover Mrs. Gilbey's situation did not, in fact, cover it. The USA Patriot Act allows foreign-born widows and children of 9/11 to apply for permanent residency -- the famous "green card." But Mrs. Gilbey was told by the INS she didn't qualify because "her paperwork had not reached a certain level of the process." Look at that phrase. Cut it out. Enlarge it. Pin it to the wall. Suspend it from the ceiling, lie on the carpet and try to figure out what it means. It is, as they say in Mrs. Gilbey's native land, bollocks. It is bollocks forward, sideways and back-to-front. It does not address the reality of the situation -- that Mrs. Gilbey is the mother of American citizens, that her husband died saving the lives of American citizens, that he is buried in a vast mass grave on American soil, that his relict is no threat to anyone and that the sensible thing to say is, "Oh, let's just stamp the thing and give it to her. Every minute we waste on Deena Gilbey is a minute we could be devoting to the guys we should really be looking into."

The reason "the paperwork had not reached a certain level" was because, after applying for his green card way back in 1994, Paul Gilbey had then changed jobs, which meant he had to go to the back of the line and start from scratch. At the INS, having different U.S. companies competing for your services is cause for punishment. Regular folks don't change jobs every decade, they join a government agency when they're 21 and stay there till 65. So the Gilbey paperwork, having painstakingly climbed to the second level of the INS ladder, was now back down the garbage chute at the bottom.

Facing deportation yet again, Mrs. Gilbey this time lined up the support of not just the Chatham Police Chief but also New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine, Tony Blair, and even Hillary Rodham Clinton. And so last week it was announced that, barring the INS discovering further loopholes, she'll be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile, while Mrs. Gilbey has been frantically petitioning Senators and Prime Ministers, Saudi citizens have been enjoying the benefits of a service called "Visa Express," under which they can be processed for admission to the United States without having to be seen by any U.S. consular official. Instead, they are, to all intents and purposes, approved by their Saudi travel agent. Fifteen out of 19 of the September 11th terrorists were Saudis. Yet 10 months after September 11th this program was still up and running, still shovelling out pre-approved visas. Visa Express was a pilot program, unique to Saudi Arabia. But, even before September 11th, why would you pilot a fast-track admissions program in a country profoundly anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Western? What do the American people gain by it?

The State Department now claims to have shut the program down, but not before revealing the surreal immigration preferences of the United States government: Give them the best part of a decade and they cannot complete Paul Gilbey's green-card application, but give 'em two minutes and the word of a Saudi travel agent and they're happy to issue fast-track visas to three of Mr. Gilbey's murderers -- Salem al-Hamzi, Khalid al-Mihdar and Abdul Aziz al-Omari. Mr. Gilbey's widow needs to go through CIA clearance to stay in the country, but not the allies of his murderers -- au contraire, the State Department's Richard Armitage said on June 10th that even if the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force believes "the applicants may pose a threat to national security," that's "insufficient to permit a consular official to deny a visa."

You can fly a jet at full speed into the bureaucratic mindset but it just bounces off, barely felt. The INS has no real idea who's within America's borders. One reason they have no idea is because it takes them a decade to process a routine green-card application by a highly-employable, high-earning, law-abiding citizen of America's closest ally. That's a joke, and it brings the entire system into disrepute. But that's big, sprawling, inefficient, your-paperwork-has-not-reached-a-certain-level government for you. The INS failed to get Messrs. al-Hamzi, al-Mihdar and al-Omari, but they did get Deena Gilbey. Congratulations, guys.

We talk about government "intelligence failure" as if it's something to do with misreading satellite intercepts between Peshawar and Aden. But the "intelligence failure" of September 11th is more basic than that, a failure of intelligence in the moderately-competent grade-school sense. And nothing we've learned in the last 10 months -- from Mohammed Atta's posthumous flight-school visa to last week's belated termination of the Saudi fast-track -- suggests that Federal officialdom has changed or is even willing to change. Paul Gilbey is buried in the dust of Ground Zero. At the very least America should also bury with him the bureaucratic inertia symbolized by his decade-long green-card application.
"I still hold. . . that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth."

Chesterton. You've got to love him.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Although I do not usually read Miss Manners' advice column, I recently came across an entry that I can appreciate. In it, she admonishes those who would criticize others for using good manners under the false assumption that men do not enjoy practicing good manners or that good manners are simply habit. This is especially troubling when one is criticized in one's own house.
Let us not bend to those who would have us lower our manner of conduct in order to make them feel better about their own!

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

More on the health benefits of nursing (of the mother-child variety). Also, see previous.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Why Marriage Counseling Fails. I agree with Maggie Gallagher. It is unfortunate that the psychology profession exists. The rise of the industry is really due to the decline of the American family (extended family included) and the decline of true religion. Marriages and individuals would be better off if people would redirect the energy they focus on their profession (or avoiding work, as the case may be) into their family relationships. It boils down to a culture of narcissism versus a culture of humility.
Rod Dreher points out what separates traditionalists from conservatives (and links traditionalists to some crunchy leftists): appreciation of beauty.

Personally, I agree with his appreciation of beauty, organic food, and nature, but I can't square Birkenstocks or funky furniture with beauty.
(Special thanks to Sparky for this.)
A testament to the power of love: Older Husbands Relied Upon By Wives Outlive Peers.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Aging "Gracefully" May Be Life Extending

I look forward to growing old. I really and truly do. I look forward to sharing my 50th anniversary with my husband, having grandchildren and great-grandchildren sit on my lap, and sporting salt and pepper hair. I look forward to sharing memories, recipes, and wisdom. Although it's a long way away (I'm 23), I look forward to being old.
Life really is too short to not be happy. Love yourself (careful, not too much, narcissists out there) and love others.
The faith, love, perserverance, and goodness of mankind is amazing. Read the Philadelphia miner rescue article.
Charles Krauthammer is right on. But, I would take his argument one step further. Conservatives are often guilty of the same misconception as leftists: they think that those who are farther right than they (whether an inch more or a mile) are simply mean-spirited, crazy, and evil, while those who are to the left (even moderates) are just good-intentioned and naive.

With gentleness, conviction, and truth, conservatives need to prove to those to the left that they are wrong about the spirit of conservatism. Many leftists, unfortunately really just do not care to get know conservatives and have never talked to one in their life. (This is absolutely true. At Yale, I was told often by classmates that I was the first conservative that they knew and from whom they could hear arguments.) Many leftists are tolerant of anyone and anything, BUT with one huge ideological exception they philosophically loathe to admit.

Conservatives: be willing to hear arguments to the right and give them fair light.
Leftists: Become more liberal (classically speaking) and tolerant of conservatives.