The Immigration Officer
The Immigration Officer: Mr. My Yo Yo graduated near the top of his class from Pyonghyun University in the center of Hong Kong.
Before he left his home in Hong Kong, he had obtained a U.S. visa and had carried the proper certificates and vital documents. The immigration authorities in San Francisco noticed Mr. My approach the counter. He was conspicuous. They couldn’t help notice how the enormous burden of baggage bent the immigrant’s back, nearly to the breaking point.
Mr. My set his mountainous baggage down and presented his passport, the visa, health records, education certificates, and financial statements to the inspector.
“Do you speak English?” the man in uniform asked. “Yes, but rather poorly,” Mr. My whispered.
“Where in the U.S. will you be living?” the officer asked. Mr. My became nervous. He worried that these questions would quickly become difficult. Sweat beaded his forehead. He felt hot. “I will live in Hong Kong,” he sputtered. The officer scribbled a few notes on his tablet, then continued the examination.
“When were you born?” The question stunned Mr. My like a bullet from a rifle. “In 1968, in July,” he responded weakly. The smartly dressed officer’s yellow pencil scratched the paper again. “And since when do you plan to live in America?” the officer asked. “Since I was in high school – maybe even when I was in elementary school,” the quivering voice, now merely half a whisper, responded.
The timid, uncertain responses gave the tall American more force. His thumb flew to his mouth as he wet his page-turning finger, then flipped the paper to the next page. He immediately prepared to pounce on the immigrant like a cat on a rodent. He inhaled deeply, straightened his back like an I-beam, and opened his mouth to deliver the next injury.
Suddenly a breath of compassion fell upon the impeccable officer. He saw Mr. My’s thin arms, the threads on his sleeves, and his frayed collar. He had seen the boxes and bags of luggage piled on the floor. The whole panorama tugged at the conscience of the man asking the questions and taking notes.
At that moment, he said to the traveler, “You must be very weary. Please come over here and rest a moment.” Then the officer sank into deep thought and profound reflection. He remembered some mistreatment he had received at the hand of older, bigger boys. He re-lived momentarily, the anger and his feeling of helplessness. He thought of his wanting to cry, to shout, to call for help. Thank God, these memories stirred a feeling of kinship for the man who newly arrived from Hong Kong.
“We’ll have your papers ready in just a little while.”