Saturday, February 11, 2017

Expat Interventions

I’d gone to see music earlier with my date, making talking difficult, but later we pulled up in a quieter bar to talk. Talking with my date last night, we eventually rounded around to politics. One should most likely not discuss politics in our current age, with our current politics, but politics we did discuss. My date was an Italian immigrant to the US. We had bounded over our mutual expat experiences and so had decided to meet. I miss expats and expat bars and expat pat places where expats do expat things.

That’s the thing about my privilege. I never thought of myself as an immigrant or a migrant worker in Korea. I never thought about the job I was taking that there was some Korean just as qualified to do. I never thought about how I was living with all the perks while only being tangentially a part of the system. It didn’t occur to me that I should think about these things. I was an expat. I traveler, a teacher, someone different, above it all in some way.

My Italian expat date for the night talks about his job in this age. The problem. The complexity.

“You see,” he says, “I came here to go to school. I was a soccer player so I had a scholarship. I’m not a great soccer player but in America I was like a God. I busted up both my knees, three surgeries all together. But I finished school. I had two options, get a job or get deported. You only get 90 days to get a job and this company wanted me. They are based in Italy, so it was a good fit, and I spoke Italian -which was good for them- and so I took the job. I don’t really love it, but you know, if I quit I get deported and I don’t quite want to go back to Italy yet, you know.”

“I do.”

“And so my visa was going to expire and the company asked me if they wanted me to renew and I really thought about it, I put it off for a long time but then I got angry with my boss after some things and decided I’d make them pay for it, even though I’m not sure I want to stay much longer with everything going on, you know.”

I appreciated his perspective. The thing that bothered me the most, of course, is that even with the renewal of a visa we discussed that he was fairly sure that even with the company lawyer and the investment he may still find himself getting deported in April. 

That’s our America now. It was disheartening.

In my past this was me, just an expat, holding down a job that required a specific skill that locals could not do. I loved my expat life. It hurts me to think that the current state of America would deny the expat experience to so many interesting qualified people who have the capacity to enrich the local cultural and understanding with their experiences.

We drank silently for awhile thinking about it before switching the conversation to soccer.

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