He Ain't Heavy

My brother Tom was in town this weekend, and we picked him up at the airport on Saturday morning---or, should I say, we tried to pick him up at the airport on Saturday morning but, um, we couldn't, BECAUSE HE WAS BEING HELD IN THE CUSTODY OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.

Yes, no kidding, my brother was totally one of those people who get escorted by burly men away from the Immigration line and behind a very scary door, and when I got the text message half an hour after he landed that said "Holly, I'm in trouble, I'm being taken to a private room," my heart did a flip-flop and I immediately regretted ever watching that stupid film Rendition, which I only watched because of Jake Gyllenhaal anyway, because oh my lord in heaven, HAD I TIDIED MY APARTMENT FOR NOTHING?

There are some people you don't mess with, apparently, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is one of them. About an hour after Tom's text message, I got a call from a very nice Taiwanese police officer at the San Francisco International Airport who informed me that he had my brother, Thomas Burns, in his custody, and was I aware that he was trying to enter the United States? I was aware, I said, in fact I had the sleeping bag pulled out and everything! What was more, I told him, I even had a box of Milk Duds---Tom's favorite---in the kitchen, although I'd also bought a box of Junior Mints as well, because I couldn't quite remember which one he liked more, and I figured it was better to be safe (with cavities!) than sorry.

My attempts to make my brother sound like a nice unassuming young chap---the kind of boy who liked Milk Duds and would never deliberately deceive the U.S. Immigration Department, even though (and I'm sorry, I'm just going to say it) those guys can kind of be jerks sometimes at the airport---fell on deaf ears. Apparently, my brother---Green Card holder and upstanding citizen, payer of taxes in the U.S.---had been out of the country just sliiiiiightly too long (when you hold a Green Card, you have to revisit America a certain number of times in a particular period, you see), and was now---uh, yeah, sorry about that, English boy---not permitted to re-enter the country.

Unless!

Unless he surrendered his Green Card.

I'm sure you're aware---from movies like the 1990 cinematic masterpiece Green Card, for example, starring the curiously irritating Andie McDowell---that a Green Card is a notoriously difficult thing to procure. Once you've got one, you don't really surrender it---at least not if you can help it. Tom, however, didn't have much choice: it was an honest mistake, sure, but the law is the law, man, and unless he wanted to get straight back on a plane to Singapore and then reappear in (OH MY GOD) IMMIGRATION COURT in a month---seriously, just typing that gave me a minor panic attack, I think I might need to lie down---he had to hand over the goods.

But that took about an hour, you see---paperwork, paperwork, paperwork---and in that time, Sean and I didn't particularly know what to do with ourselves. We ended up finding a new Target (score!), but right before we walked through those double doors to heaven---I figured there was a pretty good chance I could distract myself with a new fabric softener or something---the very nice Taiwanese police officer called me back again (I only know he was Tawainese because he and Tom had a very long and in-depth discussion about Taiwan and the Chinese government, presumably in between the processing of the paperwork), and told me my brother was free to go.

Free to go! Like I was posting his bail!

On the way back to the airport, I worried aloud to Sean that the Green Card Shenanigans (potential band name alert!) had ruined the weekend, and oh my goodness, how would we ever forget that this awful thing had happened and just have a good time instead? And Sean just said "alcohol," and so yes, actually, that is pretty much what we did.

Say hello to Brother Tom! Green Card-less but in possession of an eight dollar stadium beer! (Also, a churro!)

1
bente
May 20, 2008

"even though (and I'm sorry, I'm just going to say it) those guys can kind of be jerks sometimes"

Um, yeah they can be jerks. When we came through LA a few years ago enroute to Canada from Australia with my 11 month old daughter they weren't going to let her though unless she signed some piece of paper. 11 months old! Eventually the guy let her through, but not without shooting her a dirty look.

So will the lack of green card be a huge problem for Tom, or is it something he'll be able to work around?

2
Camels & Chocolate
May 20, 2008

1) That more or less happened to me at Stansted once. I was connecting to a flight in London while living in Denmark (where I did hold a Visa), and the mean people at Stansted tried to deny my re-entry and threatened to send me back to the US -- and even said I'd have to pay my own way back!

2) Is said Target the one by me in San Bruno (near the airport)?

2) Alcohol cures anything, though did the Sasquatch teach you nothing? ;-)

3
CharlieSue
May 20, 2008

Oh, what a weekend. Your brother visited you in San Francisco and all he got... taken... was his green card.

However, may I point two of the glaringly obvious successes of the weekend? First- the new Target. (My Target is about 20 miles away in the state of New Hampshire (Live Free or Die!) which is great in that there is NO SALES TAX, but not great in that it's a (traffic-less) drive plus a 75 cent toll each way. It is tricky, that state, let me warn you.) (See also: lack of cell phone reception in the store which leads to a larger amount of impulse buys since you can't call someone to convince you that no, you do not need 84 rolls of toilet paper. Even if it IS quilted.)

And second, you have this wonderful picture which is not only lovely of the three of you, but includes large "Am I in this picture?" smiles from your seat mates and an intruding head.

4
sgazzetti
May 20, 2008

Yeah, what is it with Andie McDowell? I'd rather drink bleach.

5
Liv
May 20, 2008

For some reason flickr will never let me comment, so can I just say - that picture of Tom and Sean on the Marin headland? I was so excited to see that Tom was actually wearing his Reebok Pumps. Even though those shoes are WAY ugly.

6
for Joke!
May 20, 2008

I haaaate immigration. I'm also a green card holder, but I travel a LOT (most of the year). I get a little nervous every time I go "home" to the USA. And let me just add that giving up my green card would be my worst nightmare!

7
Lauren
May 20, 2008

Aww... that's so sad! And scary! What a stupid way to begin his visit. I'm glad everything worked out in the end, though. Great picture!

8
jonniker
May 20, 2008

So wait, what will he do in the future? Am I being dramatic to worry?

9
CC
May 20, 2008

No wait, I'm worried too! What will he do in the future?! Your poor brother, what an unpleasant welcome to America. I hope the rest of his weekend was a success! Yay for the new Target by the way.....

10
maya
May 20, 2008

My husband is a green card holder as well. When we were having a long distance relationship (pre green card) he was detained at airport security as well when he was coming to visit me in ny. They questioned why he was in the US (granted my husband does look middle-eastern- but he's from israel our friend!) and why he had a baking pan in his suitcase (my fault- I left it in israel and asked him to bring it over). Funny story. But I totally get you waiting and waiting for you brother. That was me a few yrs back.

11
angela
May 20, 2008

I too am a bit concerned about them taking his green card. What will happen next?

Also, I was very excited to in the Flickr set that he is wearing the ugly shoes. I hope you got a close up of them.

12
Heather
May 20, 2008

Oh my gosh that sounds so scary! It is so ridiculous that there is no "grace period," or no "whoops! I like to travel," form you can fill out.

13
Tiffany
May 20, 2008

Hilarious, as usual. Gotta love Homeland Security. They make me feel so......secure. In my homeland.

14
leandra
May 20, 2008

I have several friends (and my step-mom) who have had to/are going through the residency/green card process and I am so frustrated at how impossible and confusing the guidelines seem to be. Even the attorneys have to constantly check because the rules are always changing. That being said, my step-mom misunderstood the parameters of her visa and we all wound up detained in Niagara Falls last year--with Fox News on the television--for two hours. Gah.

15
whoorl
May 20, 2008

I still cringe at the thought of Andie's horrible acting in that movie.

"Do you know what trouble you've gotten me into? Do you?" - the worst acting attempt in the history of the WORLD.

16
chirky
May 20, 2008

I love that the people behind you in the photo are smiling, too.

17
Jummy
May 20, 2008

Can he get his Green Card back or is it gone forever?

lol at chirky's comment: the woman in the top left even looks like she's deliberately bent her head so she fits in the pic!

18
Jen
May 20, 2008

Oh, I feel for your brother!

I was detained at SFO for three hours after a very long flight because the INS dude didn't figure out that, even though I got off a Virgin Atlantic flight, I was Canadian, not British, and therefore my passport didn't need the little sticky (visa). Gahh...the passports aren't even the same colour!

19
abbersnail
May 20, 2008

Gah. That is crummy. But in other news, was it the Tanforan target, where they have the little shopping cart escalator? I love that thing...

20
Sheila
May 20, 2008

Am I the only one who thinks it was THE SHOES that caused all the trouble? Yes, I realize that he probably got them from you AFTER he was sprung from Homeland Security, but I just bet they somehow KNEW about the shoes, and were trying to keep Tom from those Reeboks. Homeland Security, or Fashion Police? You decide.

21
Sophie
May 20, 2008

Oh no! As a fellow green card holder this really scares me. Or it would, if I could actually afford to travel. (The way things are going I will be a US citizen before I next get to leave the country, but anyway...)
I too am on the edge of my seat. What happens next?

22
Gretchen
May 20, 2008

You can't imagine what a huge relief it is to know that Homeland Security is busy shaking down your brother while terrorists are off hatching plots to blow up Americans. Bastards.

Andie McDowell IS annoying. But not as annoying as airport security personnel, who actually searched through my infant daughter's diaper before a domestic flight, looking for, I don't know, explosive poop? (Which she could readily have produced for them.)

23
cristen
May 20, 2008

yes, our immigration system SUX. i have an english husband, and he almost got sent straight back to Australia (we went for a friend's wedding--we were living in the states) upon arrival back in LA. ugh. scarey times.

24
Lily
May 20, 2008

That is the first photo I've seen that shows a teeth baring smile on Sean's face. Very sweet.
Glad your brother made it through okay w/o the assistance of the rubber gloves...or did you leave that part out to spare his dignity?

25
edj
May 20, 2008

Um, am I allowed to make snarky comments about the Dept of Homeland Security or will they hunt me down and make my next travel experience even more "delightful" than the last one? I'm a little nervous here. Glad things worked out. Thank goodness for alcohol!

26
Annd & May
May 20, 2008

Ahhhhhhh You mentioned Green Card! I thought I was the only one who saw that movie. I swear, Gerard Depardieu is a French plague. He will not ever, ever go away.

Poor Tom, who we will all fall in love with. Perhaps if he mentions that he likes churros and kettle corn at immigration court they'll realize he's American enough to have a green card.

27
Moose
May 20, 2008

My friend Nora's brother almost wasn't allowed into England for HER WEDDING. They made him show his wedding invitation.

28
Diane
May 20, 2008

Hello Brother Tom! I hope you had a nice, albeit lighter due to loss of green card weekend with Holly and Sean!

What a crazy thing to have happen? So many questions - can Brother Tom get his green card back or is it lost forever? Was he able to leave the country easily? Were they just concerned because he bought the Pumps and they were all jealous?

29
Janet
May 20, 2008

How funny is the woman in the upper corner of the photograph?! Cheese!

30

Holly - you left this bit out and I think THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW that when Tom was permitted to make his one phone call from immigration jail, he was foolish enough to elect his father as recipient.

It was 1a.m. here in Singapore. The phone rang at the side of the bed, Tom's caring dad could hear only static, so he muttered "Tom", SWITCHED OFF THE PHONE, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

This is dads for you, behavior they can maybe get away with most of the time, but which amounts to slightly self-destructive so close to Father's Day.

Fortunately mother instincts being much stronger, I managed to find Tom's number (it should have been easy but for some reason it wasn't) and say my fond goodbyes before the line went dead.

Lesson to all those dads out there who might be envisaging nice presents this Father's Day... phone calls from your children on the other side of the world in the middle of the night should generally be treated with a modicum of concern.

And to all those readers who love Holly's dad with a passion and worse..... I trust the scales have now fallen from your eyes.

31
Suebob
May 20, 2008

Well, it is obviously criminals like your brother who are ruining this country! Must be stopped! I mean, look at him! He LOOKS friendly and innocent, but those are precisely the people you cannot trust. Are you SURE he is really your brother? He may be an impostor!

32
Shelly
May 21, 2008

Holly, your mom is AWESOME. There is no question you get your wit honestly. Glad things (kinda) worked out for Tom!

33
Adaora
May 21, 2008

Can't help but laugh at the fact that Sean is wearing a sweater which names his city. Jokes!

34
barbie2be
May 27, 2008

dear god, not only is the whole family gorgeous but witty too. i think i am in love with not only your father, holly but your mother and sibs as well. please ask them to adopt me. :)

oh yeah, ballpark beer and churros will solve a multitude of ills.