As a part of my studies in Ireland, I have had my first experience with a governmental immigration system outside of customs during international travel. It was quite an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
In Ireland, it seems to be quite bureaucratic and flawed in many ways. To start, I was given a 90-day entrance grace period to Ireland with the expectation that I would book an appointment with Irish Immigration. In order to get an appointment, each day I would have to check their website at 10:00 am and 2:30 pm to check for new appointments and there never seemed to be available ones. For three weeks straight, I logged in daily to try and book an appointment and continually had no luck. I came to find out that Internet bots had flawed the system and were taking all the appointments and were selling them to people. I ended up having to pay someone 25 euros to book an appointment as I was fed up and didn’t want to miss getting an appointment within my 90-day grace period.
This week I had my appointment and was appalled at how impersonal the experience was. It felt similar to the experience at the American DMV. I checked in with my appointment email, and they gave me a number to queue from one line to the next. At the first booth the lady checked my passport, proof of registration, housing and funds and I paid the 300 euros for the visa. The lady was talking with her colleague most of the transaction and it was clear she could care less about me or anyone else she checked in on the other side of the glass. She took my picture and I went back to the waiting area. The next step, they took me to the fingerprint scanner and placed each individual finger on the machine. The patron stood there saying, “next finger, next finger… okay done. Now you can go take a seat again, your name will be called for your passport to be picked up at booth 15.” Finally, “American National, Jacob Siegert, please proceed to booth 15” was called and I grabbed my passport and got the hell out of dodge. The whole process luckily only took about two hours for me, while many others have had to wait four hours or more.
While I was passing the time waiting for my turn, I did something that I love to do, which is observing the room. The entire room had about 200 people in it, mostly sitting on wooden chairs or standing anxiously near different booths. The demographics of people were vast: men, women, families, all types of races and different backgrounds. The Irish people behind the glass checked one person after the next and scrolled on their phones in between. The sounds of the room were a constant stream of the overhead speaker saying, “Indian National… South African National… Chinese National… Canadian National…” It was evident that not a single individual wanted to be there.
After I made it home, I looked at my passport to see what the new stamp said. The stamp, pictured as the icon of this blog, stated that I am permitted to remain in Ireland until December 31st, 2019 to pursue a course of studies. While doing this, I stumbled upon the quotes that are on the top of each page of an American passport and two of them stood out to me. The first was, “May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.” – inscribed on the Golden Spike, promontory point, 1869. This quote is from 150 years ago and yet it feels our country has regressed from those times. Our country still appears divisive in left vs. right, white vs. minority, rich vs. poor, and other contraries.
The second being, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” – Anna Julia Cooper. However, people are fleeing war-ridden places every day – life cannot feel free for them.
Through this experience and the emphasis on immigration discussions in the USA with Trump’s nationalistic approach, I’ve continued to reflect. We all come from different walks of life, yet innately are chasing the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness doesn’t happen alone and we need those around us to help us get there. It appearsto be evident that the world needs more people to practice empathy and the ‘golden rule’ now more than ever. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and treating others how you want to be treated. Encourage yourself and others to empathize and approach people with compassion in every interaction and encourage me to do the same. It’s time for people to listen to others and use their voice to reflect positivity. We can’t act in fear, we must act in love – our world needs it.