My Passport & Why I Love It.

My new passport and passport card came in the mail yesterday. I didn’t realize how much I was sweating this out until I felt that wash of cold relief on opening the envelope.  I have no travel plans, but my old passport expired in 2015; I didn’t realize that until recently.

There is, of course, a story.

The Empress, Victoria BC

In 1985 I was invited to attend a small SF convention in Victoria, BC, at the Empress Hotel (now the Fairmont Empress). I believe Vonda McIntyre was also invited.  I readily accepted; I love Vancouver Island and was eager to see the place again, staying at the Empress would be a real treat, and it would be good to catch up with Vonda. So on the appropriate day I boarded a plane, flew to Vancouver, shuttled to the Island and … was met by a couple of rumpled teens, who apologetically told me that the con was cancelled except it wasn’t, depending on which side of a internecine fannish  war you talked to. The “other side” had canceled the hotel; the reservations could not be reinstated. So I was taken to the home of the parents of one of the boys, and to the couch in the den, and told that the con itself would be held in the basement of a local church.

I won’t bore you with more of that. The point is that at the end of the weekend, feeling more than a little rumpled myself, I flew back to Vancouver. The layover was a long one, so I diddled around the stores and got something to eat. My flight to Oakland was called. I presented myself and my carry-on at the appropriate gate and waited to go through customs. I was sure this would be a piece of cake. I had been in and out of Canada before with no problem.

At the head of the line an ugly, overweight, supercilious, pimply, ogerish bastard with a US Immigration badge checked my ticket, asked what I had been doing in Canada and asked where I was born. I’m compulsively honest, so I told him “Mexico City.” He looked at me with his piggy little eyes and asked if I was a citizen, to which I answered “Yes.”

The airline issued their second call for passengers. He said, “Prove it.”

I showed him my driver’s license, my credit cards, my social security card. He dismissed them all with “We have those numbers.” I told him that I was a citizen because I was born within two years of my dad’s honorable discharge from the US Army (before he was drafted, he had been a resident of Mexico for quite some time). He waved this away. By now I was in a panic.  He was going to keep me from going home! The contents of my purse was spread out over his table, I didn’t know how I was going to convince him to let me go,  and the airline issued their last boarding call. The bastard waited one more minute, then turned away and said, over his shoulder, that I could go. I shoved everything into my purse and fled down the boarding ramp just before they closed the door.

The first thing I did when I got back to Oakland, after hugging my husband and little girl, was to locate the Federal code that backed up my citizenship, get a copy of Dad’s army discharge, get a copy of my birth certificate and a copy of the registration of my birth at the US Embassy in Mexico City, get a passport application and two photos, dress in one of my Official Law Office Three-Piece Suits, and take the papers to the Immigration Office in San Francisco. They didn’t quite know what to do with me, so I sat on one of the government’s famously uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room while superiors were consulted and papers examined (periodically a head would pop up to look at me, which didn’t make me feel very confident). After what may have been half an hour but felt more like half a lifetime, they told me that everything was in order and I’d receive my passport in the mail.  Since then I have not traveled without it, even if I was only going to LA. You can’t be too sure.

When Trump was elected, I convinced myself that once they started deporting legal immigrants (which they have) they could come after me — there was some heated rhetoric going around about how “real Americans” were born in the U.S. and those who weren’t, were not “real Americans,” nor were those who held dual citizenship, as I do. I dug out my passport and, to my horror, discovered that it had lapsed in 2015.

But now I have a new one, all tidy and official, and I may staple it to my shoulder. Just to be on the safe side. I am, for better or worse, an American citizen. I was raised as an American citizen. I’m a big fan of the US Constitution and believe in its protections. Yes, I have issues with things my government has done and proposes doing, but I’m an American citizen and that is one of my rights. My dad’s people started drifting to these shores in 1610 and while that is no protection from anything, no supercilious bastard Immigration sadist is ever going to keep me from going home again.

 

Author: Marta Randall

I was born in 1948 in Mexico DF, Mexico, but have lived in the United States since infancy. I have taught in several sf writing workshops and served in Science Fiction Writers of America as vice-president 1981-1982 and president 1982-1984. My first story was published in New Worlds 5 (1973).

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