I moved to the UK from America in 2004. My first sight of England filled me with joy.
Then, I faced immigration control.
It’s something that still – 12 years later – makes me sick to think about. The nightmares finally stopped, but the emotional and mental scars are still there.
I was interrogated for over two and a half hours – but it felt more like two and a half years. I was threatened with deportation and not being allowed into the country again. I was made to feel like an invader just because I wanted to be with the man I loved. I was made to feel like I was shit because I wasn’t British.
Later, when I finally made it in to my husband (then fiancé), he told me that none of that horror would’ve happened to me if I had been from an EU country.
Because, I’m no celebrity. Because, I don’t have money. Because, I don’t have desirable skills. I have nothing to give to the country other than to take away one of its citizen’s loneliness. Thus, we had two more years of living in fear of me being thrown out on any old whim of the Home Office, until I received my precious Indefinite Leave to Remain.
But, at least, I did make it in and was allowed to stay, even if the journey to get here was incredibly hard won.
I remember wishing that it was easy for me, like it was for the immigrants from the EU. But, I certainly didn’t bear those coming over from the EU any ill will. The ease of students (from anywhere) to get in made me angry, but my EU counterparts, that were just looking to settle and make a better life here, didn’t make me mad. I was jealous of them, but not angry with them. I reserved my anger for the Home Office.
This is a tough and sensitive subject. Immigration. People get worked up. But, usually they are worked up for the wrong reasons.
In Canada, Australia and NZ, you have to have enough points to get in. In the US, you need an exceptionally well paid job and financial resources out the wazoo.
It all really comes down to money. And, we all know the love of that is the root of all nastiness.
So, I have lived in the UK for over a decade now. This is my home. Even though I have not had the finances in order to pay the fees it takes to become a citizen, I feel more British than I do American. Really, I like to say that I identify as a world citizen or an international person. I don’t think there should be borders (now, let’s all sing a rousing rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’…I know it’s not realistic, but I can imagine it). But, now, Europeans, are in the same boat as I was when I first came over, if they want to live here.
Had I been allowed to vote, I would’ve voted to Remain. Because…
I think people should be allowed to choose to live where they fit, allowed to discover their heart home. I think everyone should be given that right.
When the result of the EU Referndum was made known, a friend of mine in the States expressed concern about me; he wondered if it would affect my immigration status. I informed him that it wouldn’t because I have indefinite leave, but that it had never been easy for me or anyone else from a non EU country to emigrate here (unless they were rich and/or famous).
It’s a leveller playing field now. But, I don’t feel any happiness about that. And, I am deeply saddened that bigots and racists are using the result to justify their hatred. Not everyone who voted to leave voted that way because they are bigots; many were hopeful that the money paid into the EU would be redirected to very real needs the country has. Unfortunately, it looks like the politians are going to screw us over on that one. At this point, it looks like the only ones who have won are the haters. I pray that won’t always be the case and that something good will come out of this mess, but right now there’s an open wound that needs healing.
To me, the world would be better without borders. And, the only people I would like to see kicked out are those racists.
I know it’s too simple to say, ‘Can’t we all be friends?’ But, dammit, I wish I could. I know, in a post September 11 world, it isn’t possible…but, I WISH IT WAS! I wish the world was different.