October 20, 2008

Immigration Issue

This one hasn't gotten much play in the real election, but here's my two cents.

I just got fingerprinted this morning for my new non-immigrant visa. I will live in the country for two years and then go back to the US. Only took three months to get all the i's dotted and t's crossed. YIKES!

It reminded me of the issues we show skaters have faced in order to earn a mark a yen, a buck or a pound. (I know, I know, it's the euro now, but I was thinking of the Cabaret song.) A life in ice shows means packing up your suitcase and taking the show on the (foreign) road.

My first job in an ice show, for Holiday On Ice, came with explicit instructions NOT to tell immigration that I was coming into the country to work. But in 1983, an airline ticket from the midwest to Switzerland was very expensive, so wouldn't a single, 19 year-old coming in on a one-way ticket with a large, large suitcase raise eyebrows? I guess they didn't care so much at that time.

That has not been the case for the Canadian skaters who came to the states to work under the table(without a visa). They often got a grilling. One skater I knew told me he mailed his skates ahead of his flight, wore a suit on the plane, and never traveled with his address book in a carry-on. Another skater got held up in customs for a full day because she was planning to skate the summer in Japan, but rehearse in the US. Immigration officials didn't like that idea. Yet another skater said goodbye to family and friends at an early Thanksgiving dinner (Canada's thanksgiving) to drive to the states for a Christmas skating gig, only to be turned around at the border (immigration went through his address book).

As an American I'm glad I never faced that kind of scrutiny with the border to the north. But then again, I never got hired for any of the shows in Canada either.

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