Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Other End of the Leash

This is the title of a justly popular best-seller among dog people, a book that - uniquely at the time it was written - looked at peoples' behaviors from dogs' point of view.

Completely unlike dogs, Madam hastens to begin, immigrants also have points of view, needs, desires, misunderstandings and impulses that differ wildly from those parts of the immigration process that consular officers know or believe they know.  To be able to see the entire complex tapestry (sorry) of immigration is not only extremely helpful for consular officers, it can prove extremely helpful, as well, for the customers those officers serve.  In fact, consular officers' knowing how immigration works in its entirety can keep them out of embarrassing situations, and keep well-intended customers from being inadvertently led down the garden path to the PTS room.

Once upon a time, a jock-ish young man was teased by his football team mates when he was caught with a dogeared copy of "Glamour" magazine.  Undisturbed, the young man answered, "Look at it this way; it's like capturing the other team's playbook."

Gaining access to on-line forums ('fora' for us purists) that sometimes or solely address immigration issues works that way, too.  Not only is one able to see more clearly what immigrants or intending immigrants were thinking of when they did whatever they did, or tried whatever they tried - many of them believing that those actions were perfectly legal under US immigration law - but a well-run forum in which hysterics and wild accusations are not tolerated and in which skilled experts answer questions sensibly and simply can be a powerful learning tool for a consular officer.  (Can you explain the H1B cap?  Know what an EAD is?  Know that many individuals who enter the US on the VWP ARE allowed to adjust status under several different circumstances?  Well then.)

Consular officers overseas are encouraged to join such forums, both to listen for problems and to help resolve them.  Domestically, one of the best can be found among Yahoo Groups.  It is owned and run by two immigration attorneys who do not permit whining and mud-slinging, and who give their answers in quick, clear, accurate bites.  One must be a member to read the questions and answers, but signing up is easy and learning about the rest of US immigration - that is, what happens before, during and after the parts that consular officers are familiar with - is extremely useful and even eye-opening.  There is no need to feel obliged to answer forum questions; the owners do that.  And they appear to understand consular processing far better than consular officers understand domestic processing, to our detriment.  By simply following the Qs and As, consular officers can gain a broader and extremely useful understanding of the process they thought they knew well; the other team's playbook; the other end of the leash.


Melissa V said...

Thanks for the recommendation on the Yahoo! group. I'm certain that it will be very helpful as I begin my consular career.

Ken Rinzler said...

Unless it's the AILA forum known as the "InfoNetMessage Center", where consular officers are viewed as the enemy and are not even allowed to view comments, let alone contribute.

Anonymous said...

What's the PTS room?

Madam le Consul said...

PTS = animal shelter shorthand for Put To Sleep