WORD COUNT: 2036
Wherever you live in the world, if you’ve turned on your television in the past few days, you know that Europe is currently being flooded by a tide of desperate immigrants. Whether drowning off the coast of Libya or just barely managing to set foot on dry land on a remote Greek island, hundreds of thousands of desperate human beings are dying just for the chance to live an ordinary life.
Ever since my awful and traumatic experience of getting kicked out of Romania last year, I have been especially attuned to the plight of migrants, refugees, and people fleeing from the ravages of war. I’ve received personal messages from people, telling me of their stories and struggles, whether in Romania, America, or elsewhere. And it is terrible. It hurts my heart in a way that no other global problem, whether war or the economy or even climate change, does.
I realize that I am, of course, incredibly fortunate. Yes, I’ve been a migrant (often an “illegal immigrant” as the politicians say) for a while, but of course my home country is still a place where people can live. The only difference between me and an Iraqi, or a Syrian, or a Bangladeshi washing up on the shores of Europe, is that many years ago, my parents gave birth to me on the “right” piece of land. Really, that is it! There is no other difference. Not one.
In Cluj, my situation was complicated. I had been living in Romania for more than 10 years, and there were personal issues involved. Immigration officials had a vendetta against me, and gigantic political forces were involved. But there was one story I never got to tell, mostly because I was ashamed of my lack of participation. Of course, you might say that I was busy with my own affairs (and I was), but there’s never an excuse not to do the right thing.
During all the hullabaloo when I was down in the Cluj immigration office, I witnessed firsthand just how cruelly the immigration officers were treating other immigrants. Me? I’m a strong, independent, tough person who speaks Romanian. I was able to defend myself with knowledge and power. But most of the people in that office were not like me. They were people of color, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East, including one man and his (very) pregnant wife, and they did not speak Romanian. I was disgusted and outraged but I never took the step of following up with the people I saw being insulted and harassed, and that is my regret.
Now, something has happened to make me realize that immigration is one of the greatest sources of evil in this world.
I’ve been living here in the Republic of Moldova for over a year now. This is far from a “perfect” country, but I have found a new home here. I haven’t had too much interaction with government officials, but mostly it has gone well. I’ve dealt with some mind-numbing bureaucracy and the like, as well as a few stupid and dumb people, but I’ve spent many years working with and for government agencies in America, so it’s the same here as always: a few dummies, a couple of assholes, and a few good people too.
Unfortunately, the one exception is the immigration department here, which I should add is officially called the Bureau of Immigration and Asylum (Ro: Azil). I’ve spent far more hours down there than I’d like in these past few weeks, and what I’ve seen has horrified me. There are clearly a gang of hardcore criminals running the Chisinau office (which, let’s be honest, is where 99% of immigrants go) and they are operating a for-profit scheme out of their headquarters down on Lev Tolstoi Street.
What am I talking about? I am talking about the direct solicitation of bribes in order to get anything done. They are down there fleecing everyone from earnest young Mormon missionaries from America to genuine asylum seekers from Eritrea and Syria. If you want anything done, even the simplest piece of paperwork, they are charging bribes. I know this because, unbelievably, they were dealing with me and still had the balls to demand a bribe.
Oh, in case you’ve never been to Moldova, every single police car, government building and office has a huge sign saying “Corruption is a crime punishable by up to 6 years in prison”, with a free telephone number to call to report bribery and abuse of office. Obviously, I speak Romanian and I can read those signs and they know I’m no meek and complacent person, but they still put me in a position to bribe them or else get thrown out of this country. Did I pay them? Of course not. I didn’t even pay the judge in my case, which would’ve let me “win” and continue to live in Romania, because bribery is wrong.
I actually went to the anti-corruption office and filed a report. The guy who is on the case told me that there’s not much of a chance of anyone getting punished, but that’s mostly about lack of evidence. How do I prove the guy is screwing me if I don’t pay him a bribe? It’s almost impossible. I would’ve had to use a marked bill or something, so I doubt he will ever get anything more than a notice of an allegation of corruption, but I still had to do the right thing and denounce him. But the immigration office will always be “right” and they can always find a reason or a loophole to deny a residency permit, and that’s exactly what they’re in the process of doing to me right now.
So, ladies and gentlemen, against all expectations and desire, I am now in the strange position of repeating last year. I will have to go through tremendous effort and paperwork and legal proceedings and lawyers and all of it just to be able to live here peacefully and quietly. Who knows how much all of this will cost, or how long it will take, or even if I will ultimately succeed. Circumstances are different this time, as there isn’t a political angle, but it is a heavy weight on my heart that once again I’m forced to prove that I’m a decent enough human being to just walk the streets of Moldova in peace.
Mind you, I know that my situation is nothing compared to the desperation of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in Europe today. I always will have the emergency option of “tapping out” and being sent back to America, a country that I still unfortunately remain a citizen of. But I’ve been on the Mediterranean at night on a boat. I was a ticketed passenger on a ship, but yeah it is damn scary to look around at midnight and see nothing, just the moonlight and the water. I can barely sleep at night these days thinking of those poor souls out there afloat somewhere, lost and alone in the darkness.
And all of this is for what? That’s my question.
America was founded by “illegal immigrants”, who literally showed up out of the blue and started killing and murdering in order to steal the land. Australia? The same. New Zealand? The same. Three of today’s wealthiest countries were all started by illegal immigrants, who immediately locked off the borders and started shooting and turning away anyone who dared to copy their own actions.
During the entire history of humanity prior to 1900, there were no rules on immigration. You could travel Europe, America, or anywhere else, without any identification papers, passports, or visas. The only thing you needed was the money to get there. Even Romania, which was never a colonial power, is home to many different groups of “illegal immigrants” who are now full citizens, just because they were lucky enough to do their immigrating back when it was still possible. Yes, that’s right. All those Lipovans and Tatars and Macedonians should be thrown out on their ear for not having the right papers, if that’s how we’re going to play it.
This is the very definition of insanity. Money, commerce, the internet, and even my Hotbird television satellite channels all can cross borders effortlessly and without papers. It is only people who are locked behind lines, turned into pieces of garbage because they do not have a piece of paper to make them “legitimate”. A cat, a bird, a dollar, a bitcoin, a byte, a Coca-Cola, these can all be free to travel and retain their identity. It is only humans that we treat so poorly.
Really? Why? And of course, there is an extra level of guilt on myself, because I know so much of the suffering, misery, and death being inflicted on the world is being done in “my” name, or the name of my government, and my country. I wish no ill towards the people of Libya, or Iraq, or anywhere else, but it is my neighbors and taxes which pay for those wars, and so a tiny, tiny piece of that is my personal responsibility, and that is horrible. I moved to Romania the same reason everyone moves to a new land – just to have a good life for myself. Why must that be so difficult, just because some government decided paperwork is more important than a life?
And, of course, compounding the insanity is that even the rules in effect today make no sense. A person born in Cernauti can “re-aquire” Romanian citizenship if they can prove their grandfather was Romanian. I’ve helped ethnic Hungarians from Transylvania “re-aquire” Hungarian citizenship through the same process. Many Moldovans here in RM have done the same. How did they ever “lose” that citizenship? I’ll tell you how. Governments just re-drew maps and changed papers and wholesale determined the legitimacy or illegitimacy of entire populations at the stroke of a pen, that’s how!
If my own grandfather had been born in Ireland, I could “re-acquire” Irish citizenship. He was born in America, so that isn’t an option, but if he had have been born there, I would be an EU citizen how, which would give me the legal option to live in Romania but not Moldova. Does that make sense? Absolutely not. And how many of those Irish grandfathers of Americans came to the United States as immigrants 100 years ago? Millions. And not one of them had a visa in their passport. I know that, because they didn’t own passports, and there were no visas.
Frankly, there are only two options. You can pretend that all these rules make sense, that they are doing something useful or helpful to “protect” countries, and so millions of people will have to suffer, and wait, and be estranged from their families, and be forced to bribe corrupt officials, and there’s nothing to do but just sit there and suffer. Or, we can begin to realize that we are all citizens of the world, and all human beings, and that restricting the free movement of human beings across the planet is both untenable and unimaginably cruel.
So yeah, the next time you see a baby wash up on the shores of Greece (or shores of Florida, or shores of Australia, etc, etc), you can tut and waggle your finger and talk about how they should’ve “followed the rules”, or else you can realize that these idiotic and evil policies are causing death, misery and destruction to the entire human race. You might be able to convince me war is occasionally necessary, or other political actions, but I will never, ever be convinced that another human being doesn’t have the same right that my own ancestor had X-years-ago when he crossed the ocean on a crappy boat to come to America to search for a better life and (fortunately!) did not need to bribe a corrupt official or drown in the ocean for the lack of a stupid stamp in their passport.
May God truly have mercy on the human race for this wicked and unforgivable evil.
5 thoughts on “A Rising Tide of Misery”
A very interesting piece. Glad to see you’re back posting things.
You’re absolutely right Sam. I wish you’ll return to Romania and have the chance to meet you. Keep going, things will change sooner or later