introduction
Encounters
The
wait at the immigration o≈ce has already eaten up half of my
day. I arrived at the o≈ce before 7 am to join the lengthening queue
of women and men. At that hour of the morning, our eyelids are heavy and
our voices thick with sleep. Once inside the waiting area, the sharp questions
at every turn and the blink of ticket numbers leave no room for torpor. As I
wait, I scan the faces of the immigration o≈cials behind the glass partition,
hoping to get someone reasonable. All I need is a temporary permit to allow
me, as an ‘‘F-1’’ international graduate student, to work twenty hours o√-
campus in order to support myself. As a foreign national, admitted to the
United States as a non-immigrant alien, I am legally restricted from being
employed outside the university I attend.
Low grumbles reach my ear. A family—a couple and their preschool
child—was just turned away because they needed one more piece of docu-
mentation, which, of course, they did not have with them. A white woman
sponsoring her Middle Eastern spouse loudly demands to know what is
delaying the paperwork for her husband. The o≈cer first tries to ignore her.
But the woman insists that she has a right to know, and the o≈cer is forced
to answer her question. Emboldened by this exchange, a few of us sitting in
the third row who are also waiting to hear our fate turn to each other with a
flurry of ins harassment stories. Things then quiet down, and I wait.
An o≈cer’s bark breaks through the low hum of the waiting area.
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