This is a long one because it is just that crazy. Please hang in there because it’s totally worth it to discover how Immigrations views dementia and the hoops you have to go through to stay in this country.
In early January, my brother and I took Mom to a medical appointment. While I was waiting in line to check her in, I idly viewed her Residency Card and realized that it expired in April, three months later. Mom is not a citizen and has to renew her card every ten years.
And so began the odyssey that continues as of the date of this post, nine months later.
I spoke with the Immigrations people and started Mom’s application. Due to her “disability” (dementia and a fall risk), they said they would send someone out to her assisted living facility to take her fingerprints, do her biometric interview, and go over her application so that she would not have to go to San Francisco. (That should be interesting. “What’s your name?” Mom is fairly good at knowing her first name, but that’s about as far as it goes.) Once they received and processed her application, they would call for an appointment.
My sister took the application in for Mom’s signature. My sister watered the plants, picked up laundry, and did the regular Easter egg hunt for Mom’s keys and wallet. Mom apparently just shuffled the papers around, but did not sign the form. That was before we realized she didn’t know how any more. My sister got home and realized the signature line was blank. She returned for another try, and the application eventually went off for processing.
In March, a form showed up in Mom’s mailbox. It probably sat in there for a while because Mom finally hid her keys in a place my sister could not discover. As a result, my sister was unable to pick up Mom’s mail. (To read Hide and Seek, The Dementia Game, click here.)
The letter accompanying the form notified us that Mom had an appointment in San Francisco with Immigrations for the following week. The letter required a response prior to the appointment. Immigrations required that the letter be returned with a box checked either ‘reschedule’ or ‘unable to appear’ if the appointment time and date did not work. Additionally,the letter informed us that our request for an in-home appointment must be made in writing with some supporting medical documentation.
There was no way we could get all this done in less than a week! My sister worried because the form warned that if Mom did not show up, Immigrations would consider the application abandoned. “Will they deport her?”
I called Immigrations. I was told we needed to submit a doctor’s verification of dementia and ambulatory issues. However, they assured me that as long as the letter and form were sent in, even if it was after the fact, her application would still be good. I was so irritated. When I first started this process her case worker made this sound like it would be so easy.
I’m not certain which is more annoying—Immigrations or Kaiser. You can never make a direct call with Kaiser. They take a message, and by the time it gets to your doctor’s office, it has gone through so many people and permutations, that it is like playing the game “Telephone.” You would not believe how it ends up.
I called Mom’s doctor to ask her to email a statement regarding Mom’s limitations so that Immigrations would send someone to do her biometric interview at her residence. There were three falls the previous December that prompted a visit to her doctor, so that requirement didn’t seem too hard to substantiate.
I received a call from someone at the doctor’s office asking what biometric equipment Mom needed. Uhh. Trying not to scream, again I explained. “We need a letter from her doctor explaining why Mom cannot travel to San Francisco. Then they will send someone to Mom to conduct her biometric interview. This is for Immigrations. We really don’t want her to be deported.” (Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?)
That person took my phone number and set up a call for me with the doctor the next day. I waited around the following day while the poor doctor spent almost half an hour trying to call my sister who was at work before calling me. (Don’t ask.) After I explained exactly what we needed the doctor to say, the doctor said, “Oh, I thought she needed some biometric equipment.” (Of course you did. Your staff sucks! Silent screaming again.)
The doctor wrote and faxed a letter to my sister because my sister has power of attorney. Later that day, my sister emailed me, “It’s a miracle. I actually have it in hand!” I told her she must be hallucinating.
All that went off to Immigrations.
Four months later, in July, I sent the following email to my siblings: “Just in case any of you wondered whatever happened with our efforts to renew Mom’s ten-year permission to reside in the country legally, I have the following update:
I truly figured that they had forgotten all about her, but I got a call from Immigrations today asking if Mom still wanted her green card. Instead of telling them to stuff it, I summarized where we had left off, which was that they were to send someone to her for her interview. They gave me a number to call to check on the status of the application.
And now We Veer Off into the Truly Disturbing Part.
I also fended off their efforts to get Mom to become a citizen. (This happens at every single call.) I explained that Mom has dementia and is not able to study or pass any kind of test. They informed me that she could get a medical excuse. (?) The person I spoke to then tried to wow me with the awesome benefits of Mom being a citizen. Was I aware there was a presidential election this year? (Oh, gee, no, Mister. I’ve been living in a cave on an island in the Pacific with no contact with the outside world, which is why I am talking to you people on a phone!)
Well, anyway. Get this. Mom would able to vote in the current presidential election (!!) and would further benefit by reduced fees for her next renewal (in ten years. Mom is now going on 92.) I found this somewhat disturbing as I already explained to them that Mom has dementia to the point that she cannot understand or complete citizenship, so the encouragement to vote seemed rather alarming. Maybe they figure most American citizens are cognitively challenged so no big deal. And we do have a stunner of a candidate this year, so I can’t really argue with that view. Still, I found it difficult not to yell, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?!)
Emphasizing that she did not have the mental capacity to vote and that I didn’t expect her to live another ten years to take advantage of the fabulous reduced rate (buy now, get one free) finally made the guy give up.”
Dispair and Alarm
My siblings were naturally appalled at the idea of Mom voting and who she would vote for. My brother opined, “She would actually be an enlightened voter comparatively speaking.”
I promised to keep my siblings updated as Homeland Security considered how much of a threat my 91-year-old mother was. I also advised my uncle in England not to worry. We would give him ample warning if the U.S. decided to deport her.
So, the “status” I obtained through a recording was that on June 29th a letter had been sent to Mom requesting additional evidence. Big effing help. Getting annoyed with them (yet again), I stayed on the line to talk to a human, gave him all history to date, and expressed concern that we were just going in circles.
This man had no access to specifics and could only advise me to wait for the letter to show up, but assured me that our response would keep her application open. We were now three months past the expiration of her card.
Reality check: This is all for a 91-year-old English war bride. Can you imagine what it’s like for people today???!! I find myself tempted to say many things here that could get me in trouble and probably get me deported. Use your imaginations.
The letter arrived. They now wanted within 87 calendar days from the date of the letter:
- “2 passport style color photos formatted as indicated in attached photographic guidelines.” (Nothing was attached. Why are we not surprised?)
- A medical doctor’s certification on letterhead. (I am not certain if they found what was previously submitted on the form they sent for the same purpose to be insufficient or if they just want all evidence together at one time.)
- (The kicker) Local police clearance letters from every place lived in during the past 10 years. (What the heck is this?? This is totally ridiculous. My sister responded, “She could be a felon you know. She has been known to steal napkins off the dining room table. I am sure she is using them to plot out some terrorist attack. I am thinking of writing Obama; perhaps the Queen. Maybe we could have a new ‘Yalta Conference.’ I think this is all because she is not showing up in person, albeit I don’t understand why a police check is now required. If she was in front of them would they know she had just bombed another country?? Crazy!!”)
Once Again Into the Breach!
I called Immigrations AGAIN!! because we are best buds to ask about the photo requirements and complain/ask about the police clearance letters. Mom never had to do that before. Why now? I imagined it was just a letter from them saying she had no arrest record. However, it seemed so unnecessary. Do they mean to tell us they do not have access to FBI and police data? Thank goodness Mom lived in the same town for ten years. I also asked why they provided a form that the doctor filled out months ago, but now wanted letterhead.
I was given a website address to get the photo guidelines that they did not provide. They told me that even though the doctor sent her info before, they were requiring the same info on letterhead. (Arbitrary duplication. Plus, they have no idea that dealing with Kaiser makes you want to stab yourself repeatedly in your right eye.) And, I was told that yes, we do have to get a letter of clearance from the police.
The police station in her town confirmed that this is a normal requirement now and not just because Mom wasn’t coming to them. We had to pick up a form in their lobby to fill out and have Mom sign. Once they had it, they could provide the letter in a week. Oh, and by the way, there is a 71.00 charge. What a racket! Good thing Mom only lived in Livermore in the past ten years or we would have multiple charges in multiple cities. We already paid 170.00 to start the application, plus another 450.00 when we sent the application in. Now this.
Regret, Regret, and Self-Loathing
Oh, how I wished I had never noticed her card. Why am I so stupid? Why do I read things? Damn it! What would they have done? Come looking for her three years later? Or never?
I was fantasizing about letting her application lapse, but didn’t know what would happen now that I had started the process.
Our uncle in England emailed, “I have alerted the British Gov’t that we may be swamped by GI brides deported from the USA. They have doubled the size of our Royal Navy so we now have two ships instead of one. Thanks for keeping me in touch.”
I let him know that we were praying that none of Mom’s criminal activity (stealing looks, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and stabbing lettuce) has ever attracted the attention of the police. I signed off, “Every new requirement buys the Royal Navy a little more time should we fail in our mission. Intrepid is counting on us all.” (Sometime read the book, A Man Called Intrepid.)
Still In Limbo
At the end of August, I flew up to visit Mom and my sister and brother-in-law. Three trips to the police station got the request for the clearance letter rolling. Mom had to sign it. I had to tell her how to spell her name letter by letter, so great signature. You should see it. My sister got the doctor’s letter. I will crop the photos which I took at Mom’s residence. Next week when the clearance letter is ready we can send all this to Immigrations and wait for the next set of hoops to jump through.
We have been at this for nine months. We could have had a baby by now!!!
PLEASE REMEMBER TO VOTE! (Wisely, if you can manage it.)