Alrighty folks, I know I left you on a cliffhanger last time, so let’s just jump right back in.
(Confused? Go here. Then come back.)
How I Escaped The Slammer
After my initial horror at being told I would be deported to freaking Iceland, I got into Marian-mode. I waited too long to come to England, my boyfriend and I had been through too much. Hell. No. To give you a better idea of what charges were made against me, here’s a list:
- I hadn’t purchased a ticket home and was unsure about the length of my stay. While I knew I wouldn’t be in the UK for more than 6 months, my trip could have been a few weeks or it could have been until November. My “unsureness” was suspicious and the immigration officer was convinced I was lying.
- I had $4 in my wallet, which apparently is proof I have no other funds available. There is no ATM between the airplane and customs, by the way.
- I had no proof of my intention to travel to New Zealand. While I told the officer about my plans to live there, I hadn’t applied for a working visa yet (5 months in advance), which apparently means I am “not acceptable there.” (Her words, not mine.)
- I was unable to provide confirmation of employment. Okay, this is a tricky one. I said I was a freelance consultant, but don’t usually carry pay stubs or Pay Pal receipts with me. My website wasn’t enough, either.
In order to have a fighting chance at being let in, Boyfriend Sam bought me a ticket home (£600, one-way), my parents provided bank statements, family friends (UK citizens) acted as my guarantors, Sam’s parents wrote a letter confirming I would be in New Zealand come December, and the officers did a thorough sweep of my website.
And found this.
Defending my choice of blog topics will be a follow up to this post, so I won’t address it now. That said, I think the immigration officer read the headline, assumed I would never leave the UK and responded to my appeal with a prompt “No.”
Then my mom called. No fancy family friend or guarantor or £600 airplane ticket could do what my mom did in a 20 minute phone call. That woman is a force to be reckoned with, and while I didn’t hear the conversation, I assume she argued that officer into submission. That, or my family and friend’s consistent check-ins annoyed the whole office into releasing me.
Beyond My Story
At 2pm on Friday I was granted freedom. And let me tell you something, it felt damn good.
Except I left behind a group of detainees, all of whom would be deported. Many of whom couldn’t reach their families. A good portion of whom spoke no English whatsoever.
A Nigerian woman who rode next to me in the transport van leaned over every few minutes and ask, “Prison?” “No. Not prison,” I responded. “Detention facility.” She definitely had no idea what I was talking about and no one took the time to explain. The officers and escorts didn’t speak her language, and they operated under the school of thought that speaking louder equals understanding.
Just think about this for a second: You’re traveling to another country and for no reason you can understand you’re taken by uniformed men and locked in a room. No one tells you why and all you hear is shouting. After hours of sitting in this locked room you’re thrown into the back of a van and driven 3 hours in the middle of the damn night to the middle of damn nowhere. Then you’re poked and prodded by a doctor you didn’t authorize to poke and prod you, you’re interrogated more in a language you don’t understand. You’re locked in another room for the night.
Who knows where she is. Who knows what will happen to her. Another woman I was transported with has been in and out of facilities for a week. A WEEK. With no idea why!
Do you know what I’m sick of though? People telling me it would have been worse in the States. You know what? I don’t freaking care. You don’t treat people like that, period. And immigration officers? Don’t punish me for being American. I know our policies suck, but I didn’t make the rules! So stop telling me that I wouldn’t have even gotten a phone call back home, because I’m not home. I’m here. And while the officers were nice(ish), they also treated me like a terrorist.
Where I Go From Here…
I’m writing this from my new bed in the UK and have been granted temporary residence until the 18th of November. Yes, I realize how incredibly incredibly lucky I am, but I’m also furious and a little traumatized and a lot tired. This blog focuses on stuff not at all related to immigration, but regular posts will be suspended this week so I can air out my drama. Check back tomorrow for the details on how my blog almost got me deported and why I’m still refusing to censor myself.