My first reaction was physical. I felt as if all the blood in my body had instantly evaporated, and my eyes refused to focus for a moment. Then, in the next instant, my mind kicked into action. I revved through a fast summation of this sudden, grave crisis. Starting long before we had met, Felipe had made his living in the United States, visiting several times a year for short stays, legally importing gemstones and jewelry from Brazil and Indonesia for sale in American markets. America has always welcomed international businessmen like him; they bring merchandise and money and commerce into the country. In return, Felipe had prospered in America. He'd put his kids (who were now adults) through the finest private schools in Australia with income that he'd made in America over the decades. America was the center of his professional life, even though he'd never lived here until very recently. But his inventory was here and all his contacts were here. If he could never come back to America again, his livelihood was effectively destroyed. Not to mention the fact that I lived here in the United States, and that Felipe wanted to be with me, and that—because of my family and my work—I would always want to remain based in America. And Felipe had become part of my family, too. He'd been fully embraced by my parents, my sister, my friends, my world. So how would we continue our life together if he were forever banned? What would we do? ("Where will you and I sleep?" go the lyrics to a mournful Wintu love song. "At the down-turned jagged rim of the sky? Where will you and I sleep?")
"On what grounds are you deporting him?" I asked the Homeland Security officer, trying to sound authoritative.
"Strictly speaking, ma'am, it's not a deportation." Unlike me, the officer didn't have to try sounding authoritative; it came naturally. "We're just refusing him entrance to the United States on the grounds that he's been visiting America too frequently in the last year. He's never overstayed his visa limits, but it does appear from all his comings and goings that he's been living with you in Philadelphia for three-month periods and then leaving the country, only to return to the United States again immediately after."
Published on January 13, 2010