Interview with Andrei:
The Tale of a Romanian Immigrant
Immigrating to the United States in not a simple process. Millions immigrate to America but many millions more are denied a visa or forced to cross the border illegally because of the limited number of applicants that the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, now a department of Homeland Security, provides as well as the extremely stringent process that is imposed upon migrating applicants. Even getting a simple tourist visa can be a tiring ordeal and beyond reach of most foreign citizens who are not wealthy. This results in numbers of people who are forced to look for other means such as resorting to coyotes, people who smuggle people into America, or corporate coyotes, "executives who would sanction the smuggling of illegal immigrants" (Talton). In the last decade the attitude towards migration, especially in the Southwest, has worsened as many Americans blame illegal immigrants for causing economic hardships and fear diversification to American culture. "Immigrants, particularly so-called 'illegal' immigrants and their children, were represented as depleting both California's fiscal and natural resources" (Lindsley p. 176). The downside is that many Americans have required that fewer immigrants be admitted as well as imposing a more stringent application process and a return to a quota system based on one's national origins. The current system, after the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, created a process where visas are issued on a first come, first served basis that promotes allowing the immigration of family members (Small p. 52).
For this case study, a new immigrant to the United States from Romania, Andrei Nita (pronounced Neet-za), was interviewed regarding the difficulties he underwent in getting to the United States. In Romania, Andrei worked as a journalist after an accident forced him to resign as a professional dancer. As a good friend of mine, Andrei was chosen because of how aware this author is with the incredible complexities and difficulties both Andrei and Joy have had to overcome in order to continue to live their lives together in this land of immigrants, America. Andrei was interviewed in his studio apartment in Phoenix where he lives with his wife.
"Tell me how it all started. What made you want to come to America?"
" Well, the story is not very complicated. I was sitting at my desk, in my office, one day, visiting a chat room, checking the profiles. That is how I discovered Joy. We started chatting, getting to know each other better and a good friendship developed."
" Was that when you decided to come to America"?
"As a matter of fact, no. She was looking into coming to Romania through a student exchange program between ASU and The University of Bucharest. I was very excited hearing the news. Afterwards, she decided that it would be easier and cheaper to get me here instead."
" Was it easier?"
"Not from my point of view. I am saying this because, to leave Romania you still need a visa, even as a tourist, and to get a visa for The US is not an easy thing to do, especially after 9/11. They have very strict requirements and it also costs a lot of money, which, of course, I didn't have. It is true that I had a job, as a journalist, but the owner of the newspaper was using the publication as a front to hide his gambling and prostitution businesses and he didn't care too much for us, the reporters. We were being paid once every three or four months, and the salary was somewhere around $70. So Joy had to send me the money I needed to get it all started."
"You were talking about the requirements to get a visa. Can you describe the process?"
"Yes. As I said, it is not easy to get it. You need a very solid bank account to leave it as a guarantee that you will return to your country. You also need an invitation from your contact within the US. Joy sent me the letter that was not a problem. The problem was that I did not have a bank account. Fortunately, one of my closest friends, a soprano named Mariana Nicolesco, has very good relations with The United States. She runs a Romanian - American Foundation in New York, helping the gifted children from Romania. She is also a good friend of the US Ambassador in Romania, Michael Guest. So she, along with the director of the newspaper, the poet Mircea Micu, wrote for me some letters that I presented to the Ambassador. And I got the visa. A week later I was leaving Romania from the International Airport Otopeni, from Bucharest. My destination was the International Airport J.F.K. in New York."
"Was Joy waiting for you there?"
"No. She was waiting for me in Columbus, Ohio. I left Romania on August 3rd 2002 at 9 am. The flight was 12 hours long. In New York I had to find Port Authority in Manhattan where a bus ticket was waiting for me. It was 3 pm. The bus for Columbus was leaving at 9 pm. So I had time to wander around Manhattan."
"What was your first impression of America?
"Well, I was very scared. I was confused. Everything was moving too fast; it was all too crowded, loud and tall. I was dazed and disoriented. Anyway, I took the bus for Columbus at 9 pm. I hade to change the bus once in Philadelphia, at 11 pm and once in Pittsburgh, at 1 am, so, I got to see a little bit of America. I liked what I saw. At 10 am the next day I was in Columbus and there was Joy. We then had to go to the airport as the flight to Phoenix was at 4 pm. We then flew from Columbus to Nashville and then Nashville - Phoenix. It was very exhausting."
"What happened next?"
"Next? Joy and I got closer and closer and we decided to get married. It was unexpected. I was scared because my visa was expiring. We got married on December 22nd in Las Vegas. It was wonderful. I felt like I was in a movie or something like it. After we got married we had to take the next step and start working with the INS."
"Can you describe the process of working with the INS?"
"We called the INS Office here, in Phoenix, and they told us we could find all the forms we needed online. Both my wife and I had to fill a lot of forms: an extension visa form, medical form, work permit form, financial support form, etc. It cost a lot of money, around $500 I guess. We mailed the papers to the INS Office in Phoenix. They said it would take a lot of time till I get an answer and I am still waiting for one. I don't have a job and I am not yet a permanent resident. But we have patience."
"Do you have any regrets about leaving your homeland?"
"Yes I can't say I have no regrets as I miss my family and friends. And Romania is a beautiful country. But I am happily married now and excited about all the opportunities my new homeland has to offer for me."
Were you ever afraid of being deported?
"Because after 9/11 the INS was very strict regarding the visitors. And my visa expired after 6 months. I didn't want to leave the U.S. and I was afraid that they would arrest me and deport me. Even after getting married I was still afraid. You know they can deny my change of status visa and we still have up to 3 years before we will know for sure if we are approved".
It is very common for new immigrants, even those who have followed all of the requirements of the law to be afraid of any official from the American government. I have seen it on Andrei's face. Once the fraternal order for the Phoenix Police Department called raising money and Andrei thought they were on the way to arrest and deport him. Immigrants in Phoenix have reason to be weary of government officials, as well. "Chandler got a big black eye in 1997 for an ill-fated joint operation with federal agents to arrest illegal immigrants that resulted in some legal residents being taken into police custody" (Jensen). The example that Chandler set was that if you look like an immigrant you will possibly be harassed. From the immigrants perspective, "the officers stepped out of bounds of their jurisdiction and made many... U.S. citizens feel unwelcome in their own country" (Schaus p. 14).
Immigrants have made up the soul of America. They bring with them all of the good aspects of their culture and traditions. They are often the hardest working citizens and help to transform their new homeland into a better place, not only for their children, but also for the nation as a whole. From food to music to dance, immigrants are enriching the national fabric of our society. Unfortunately, too many Americans fear change of any sort and this often leads some to resent the 'new and different' that immigrants continually bring. Because of my friendship with Andrei over the last year, I have listened to beautiful gypsy music, eaten beef tongue and celebrated Easter in a Romanian Orthodox church. These are just a few examples that have helped expand my knowledge and enriched my life experiences. The after-effects of 9/11 has only increased fear amongst many Americans and led some politicians to call for greater restrictions against immigration. Those attacks fail to understand the difficulties required in acquiring a visa and ignore the essential benefits that such a wonderful resource as new immigrants intrinsically provide. Americans need to embrace their heritage of immigration and restructure the bureaucracy that often discriminates against poorer applicants.
Jensen, Edythe. "Hispanics see new Chandler" The Arizona Republic 18 March
Lindsley, Syd. Policing The National Body: Sex, Race and Criminalization. Ed.
Jael Silliman and Anannya Bhattacharjee. Cambridge: South End Press,
Schaus, Noel. Latinos Claiming Space and Rights: The Chandler Coalition for
Civil and Human Rights
Small, Cathy A. Voyages: From Tongan Villages To American Suburbs. London:
Cornell University Press, 1997.
Talton, John. "Will the 'pinstriped coyotes' get away with it?" The Arizona
Republic 18 March 2003
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