But I'm white and educated!
April 30, 2010 6:36 AM   Subscribe

A friend from the Eastern European country I grew up in asked if I would sign and submit an invitation so she can get a tourist visa to the U.S., where I reside. She intends to look for illegal work when she gets here. My immediate reaction was "No way!" with a few expletives thrown in, but I don't want to hurt her feelings when I crush her hopes. Can you give me any legal reasons for why I shouldn't do it?

She is a dear childhood friend; we keep in touch and see each other frequently. I don't want to crush her hopes, and I certainly don't want to be the evil guy who robs her of her dreams. I need better reasons than "I disagree with this on a thousand levels" to give her when I talk to her next.

She doesn't need an invitation to get the tourist permit, but there's a chance it'd be more difficult to get a visa without it since she is a prime candidate for illegal immigration: young, no immediate family other than much older parents, no real estate, no savings. Her on/off boyfriend is an American – I guess it's currently "off" since she is asking me and not him for the invitation.

She has previously worked in the U.S. on a foreign exchange visa, but was paid cash under the table and thinks it's pretty obvious that she'd have no trouble finding another job. While she has a master's degree, her profession is not one that could land her an H-1B visa. She has a master's degree but worked 12 hours, 7 days a week for $7/hour serving fast food when she was here. She was also paying $1,000 a month in rent to her employer so she could share a room with two other women. She thinks that a permanent arrangement for that would be cool as long as she is here. I think that's insane and have told her so in the past. The fact that it took me months to find a job after graduating doesn't even phase her.

As far as I know, she intends to stay here indefinitely once she overstays here tourist visa. If she decides to leave afterwards, she'd be banned from entering the U.S. for at least a decade. I can't even begin to tell her how effed up that is in regard to screwing up her entire future (and that of the children she wants to have). A mutual friend of ours has been in the U.S. for almost five years on an expired visa, and she thinks he's doing just fine (he works and lives on a farm despite having a degree).

So, what reasons for refusing can I cite? Could I legally be held responsible for her decisions after she gets here? So far I've thought of the obvious issues, like how she'd even get an apartment ("but that won't be an issue if you co-sign"), or who would pay her hospital bills ("I won't get sick").

If she manages to get the visa anyway, how can I discourage her from flying into my city, asking to stay with me and all that? I would love to help her out, but not if she is breaking the law. She knows she is always welcome as a visitor and a guest (and she has taken advantage of the standing invitation in the past, 100% welcome), but this is a triant wreck waiting to happen and I will not be involved with it in any way.

I would also like us to stay friends.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Just decline.

As to staying friends, don't count on that. Being friends with people who want to break laws isn't a good bet.
posted by dfriedman at 6:38 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


These things do happen quite often. First off, if she was in the USA previously without any overstay or complications, then obtaining the tourist visa is a routine matter handled at her local US embassy. I am talking about countries that do not have reciprocal visa agreements, ie. non EU etc....

Tourist visas for the USA are granted in three month blocks. Getting in is no problem provided you can demonstrate your ability to stay, i.e. resources and a return ticket.

She is complicating what should be a straightforward matter by involving you. Childhood friends or not, I would suggest to tell her to visit the local embassy and get the visa sorted BEFORE travelling. If she is hesitant in any manner, and lets face it, being eastern european isn't really a disqualifer for a tourist visa, then something more is afoot.

Be polite and use the tried and true excuse that after 9/11 things are much more difficult for you to arrange as a US citizen.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 7:14 AM on April 30, 2010


It sounds like you've already made the classic blunder of presenting reasons why you can't do this (renting an apartment, medical bills). This is usually a mistake if what you're really wanting is just to say No, because it gives the other person the impression that you are open to persuasion if they can refute your reasons or come up with better reasons why you should do what they're asking. dfriedman is right: just tell her something like, "I'm not comfortable doing that," or "I can't help you with that," or "No."

As far as her staying with you, say exactly what you said here: "I'm not comfortable helping you break the law. You can't stay here if your status isn't legal. I won't be involved in illegal activity in any way."

As far as the staying friends part goes, you don't have a lot of control over that. Some people understand things like this. Some people think it's an unforgivable betrayal. Much depends on where on that spectrum she falls.
posted by not that girl at 7:16 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to stay friends, I would think you would help your friend absent a compelling reason not to. So that said, either be honest with your friend and explain your reason, or just decline. I think looking for a face-saving reason will come across as a thin excuse and won't help you much.

And by thin excuse, I mean that what your friend is proposing to do does not seem like a world-ending event, so declining it seems to be more tied into your feelings about breaking the law, or taking money under the table, or honesty in general, or some other larger worry.

I don't know if these are the core issues here, but it's clear that something here is bigger to you than just your friend coming into the country on a pretext. And if it seems that way to me, an internet stranger, then I suspect it will seem that way to your friend too.

So, I'd say politely decline. But if it's a friend, be prepared to be honest. Know what it is about this that makes you feel uncomfortable and, if it's possible to express it without judging your friend, do so if asked.
posted by zippy at 7:18 AM on April 30, 2010


As her friend, you are obliged to tell her that this is a very bad idea. She is setting herself up for a life of exploitation and legal expense. Major political parties are gearing up to feature her legal missteps in massive, xenophobic campaigns. The disciplining of her is about to become a very big topic of political converstations in this country. Send her some stuff to read about Arizona.
If she can't see that you are looking out for her, then the burden of saving the friendship does not fall on you. I don't know about anyone else, but my friends are most my friends when they help me to not be an idiot.
posted by pickypicky at 7:19 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Definitely don't sign anything. If you sign a letter under false pretenses, because you know that she's not intending to be a tourist, but an illegal worker, that puts you at risk for being liable for making false statements to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Depending on the fine print, you may or may not be making yourself responsible for her while she's here. So, two reasons, 1) not putting yourself at risk for a federal false statements charge, and 2) not being able to be her financial guardian.

It's also not a great idea for her if she ever wants to have legal immigration status here in the future.

In terms of discouraging her from showing on your doorstep anyway, you could say that you can't aid and abet her illegal presence in the U.S. by having her stay with you. (I'm not sure there is a real risk of any harm coming to you, it's just jargon, but it's something.) There is, however, a real federal crime of knowingly transporting illegal aliens within the U.S. to further their illegal purposes of being in the U.S.

She's pretty set on pushing you and putting you both at risk, which may make it difficult to be her friend.
posted by *s at 7:23 AM on April 30, 2010


So, what reasons for refusing can I cite?

I don't want to.

I won't help you mess up your life.

[if you don't have US citizenship] I cannot be even associated with criminal activity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:24 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not say, "Friend, I can't do that, but luckily for you, you don't actually need me to." Don't explain why you can't, but do emphasize that you are not actually standing between her and her (foolish) plan. If she wants to come and break the law and try her luck, that's her call. It doesn't sound like you're going to be able to talk her out of it, so I'd focus on firmly saying no and trying to preserve the friendship by explaining that she can do it without you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:28 AM on April 30, 2010


Just say no. Tell her that you do not want to sign anything, even an invitation, that amounts to immigration fraud. Tell her that if she stays with you, if you drive her someplace, you could be held for knowingly housing and transporting an illegal alien. Tell her that if she obtains a visa the standard way, you'll be happy to help her (if you wish) while she remains on the visa, but that all help stops if she becomes illegal.

If she can obtain a tourist visa the usual way, and if she chooses to remain in the U.S. after it expires, then she makes the choice to become illegal. You have no role in it. If there is a reason that she feels she cannot obtain a tourist visa without your invitation, then she is being dishonest with you by not admitting that.
posted by justcorbly at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2010


While she has a master's degree, her profession is not one that could land her an H-1B visa.
[...]
The fact that it took me months to find a job after graduating doesn't even phase her.


There are some signs that the economy is starting to pick back up again. It would be really terrible if she overstays a tourist visa and then discovers that there are legitimate jobs available for her.

Lots of people find it easier to obtain Canadian residency and then US residency. If she is committed to getting out of Eastern Europe, that might be a better option.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:52 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lots of people find it easier to obtain Canadian residency and then US residency. If she is committed to getting out of Eastern Europe, that might be a better option.

Canada is, belatedly, getting tough on immigration fraud from Eastern Europe; I wouldn't count on it.
posted by Dasein at 8:07 AM on April 30, 2010


I agree that presenting rational arguments are not going to work, as you can see, she'll just refute them or disregard them.

So I suggest giving her an emotional response instead. Tell her you're too scared to do this.

You can explain, as far as there is an explanation for an emotion, that nationally, Homeland Security has run amok with selective enforcement; locally, cities and states are trying to pass laws that legalize racial profiling (i.e. Arizona); and "militia" groups and right-wing pundits are calling for vigilante justice. And beyond all that, you're just scared for both yourself and her if you do this, and you can't help how you feel.

Whether or not an invitation from you will help her application is unknown, and she doesn't even really need an invitation for application anyway.
posted by desuetude at 8:41 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell her your job may be transferring you elsewhere.
posted by anniecat at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2010


send her the Arizona legal resident of USA thread
posted by infini at 9:20 AM on April 30, 2010




Does she qualify for a J1 visa? I know people who have made 10's of thousands of dollars in cash on these over just a few months. Returning to Eastern Europe after wards then makes it easier to make the cash last a long time. She shouldn't rush in to breaking the law without considering all of her options.
posted by pickypicky at 9:39 AM on April 30, 2010


Her rationale for ignoring the events in Arizona will undoubtedly be your title -- she's white and educated.

But white, educated illegal immigrants land in hot water too, and it doesn't sound like she's going to be able to afford an immigration lawyer. And if she thinks she can fight DHS on her own, well, oof, that would be where you point out that "educated" apparently doesn't mean "smart."

But the point is not, obviously, that she'll run afoul of a law against "being suspiciously Latino in Arizona," the point is that this is a really fucking touchy time to be actively planning to be an illegal immigrant.
posted by desuetude at 9:42 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You already know this, but what she's planning is a very bad idea. I can say that if she is discovered to be lying at any point from her visa interview to her arrival at the point of entry, she may be permanently ineligible to enter the U.S. Everyone else has already pointed to what could happen if she is able to enter under false pretenses.

Your affidavit of support will also do very little good for her. Her application will be judged on the basis of her ability to meet the threshold set by the law. Do some reading on 214b, if you're interested. Her possession of a letter from a buddy in America saying he'll sponsor her has little bearing on it.

If she doesn't qualify for a visa, it probably won't be because she doesn't have that affidavit of support. You should feel confident in refusing to provide her with an ultimately irrelevant piece of paper. Do yourself a favor and don't get wrapped up in this.
posted by eulily at 9:46 AM on April 30, 2010


Does she know much about where you work/what the company is like? Maybe you can tell her that your company is bidding on a government contract of some sort and that your boss has already warned the employees that everyone must keep their noses clean in order to gain security clearance. You cannot risk getting involved in anything that hints at being illegal because you can't afford to lose your job.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:04 AM on April 30, 2010


I followed Oriole Adams advice mentioned above as a way to deal with similar request by exboss/old friend who wanted a sponsor letter from me on my employer's letterhead!! Lost a friend but cannot regret it. Sad that he didn't understand WHY but couldn't risk my own good standing.
posted by infini at 10:18 AM on April 30, 2010


She is a dear childhood friend; we keep in touch and see each other frequently. I don't want to crush her hopes, and I certainly don't want to be the evil guy who robs her of her dreams. I need better reasons than "I disagree with this on a thousand levels" to give her when I talk to her next.

Well, she's a grown-up and aware of the risks and still doesn't care. It's pretty obvious that the legalities of the situation aren't your primary concern. So in essence, you *are* the evil guy who will rob her of her dreams (from her perspective), even if your reasons for caring are or seem to be legitimate to you. So, the best and most honest thing to say would be, "I'm scared to do this and as your friend, I think it's an incredibly bad idea. So I won't."

Will it affect your friendship? Maybe. But I think that this way of communicating your "no" to her stands the best chance of keeping the friendship alive, short of going along with her idea.

You don't say what country she's from, but there aren't too many Eastern European countries which now require a tourist visa. So to respond to some of the other posts:

1) Being friends with people who want to break laws isn't a good bet.

I scoff at the inanity of this - any educated person with an MA who's willing to leave her country to come here and pay huge housing costs to earn minimum wage at a fast food joint . . . well, America benefits hugely from people like that. To somehow paint that sort of self-sacrifice, ambition and drive as nothing more than someone wanting to "break laws" (and I'm sure she doesn't want to break them either) is just stupid.

2) Tourist visas for the USA are granted in three month blocks. Getting in is no problem provided you can demonstrate your ability to stay, i.e. resources and a return ticket.

I've not been able to have any of my (young, educated, unpropertied and unmarried) cousins visit me from Bosnia - too much of a "risk." And I have three friends - all from Romania and all previously here as students (with no visa abuse) - who cannot get tourist visa for the same "risk" reason. From mym perspective, getting a tourist visa is certainly something other than "no problem" for lots of eastern Europeans.

All that aside, if you're not guaranteeing her support and if she knows the risks (being banned and whatnot), I think it's a bit wussy not to write her the letter of invitation myself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Saying "No" is actually pretty easy and simple. In this case you don't even have to feel any guilt.

You can also agree which is just as easy to do. If you choose to invite her, tell her the rules are:

1. She will not work illegally.
2. You will host her only for a week or whatever and she will not break rule #1 during that time.
3. She is free to travel anywhere else she wants as is possible in America and do whatever she wants as long as she doesn't tell you.
4. You will disclose her whereabouts if the authorities ask.

This will let you still be friends and absolve you of any guilt or assumptions of aiding in "crime".
posted by JJ86 at 10:33 AM on April 30, 2010


Can't she go to Canada? I don't know anything about Canadian immigration laws, but for some reason I have a feeling it would be easier than here.

There are other ways for her to get here that wouldn't entangle you in any way.

I had a "friend" from Hungary that really wanted me to use my credit card to rent a van (and therefore insurance) for her to travel cross-country throughout the US, and pay me in cash. I refused and she was seriously pissed, but there was no way I was going to do that insurance-wise. She eventually found a rental company that took her debit card. So it worked out. She's back to asking me for outlandish favors.

Legality and morality are completely independent concepts in many other countries. So long as it's not immoral (like killing someone), many people from other countries (especially Eastern European) won't think twice to break the law or to have someone else do it for them. But this isn't Eastern Europe, so don't be afraid to stand your ground.

PLUS, check out the thread on the blue about the Federal govt tightening up law for US citizens that break immigrations laws (French restaurant that hired undocumented workers get property seized). I'd mention that to her.
posted by Neekee at 10:39 AM on April 30, 2010


Visa Fraud

What is a visa?

The U.S. visa is a document, obtained at any U.S. embassy or consulate, granting a non-U.S. traveler permission to apply for admission into the United States at a port of entry. It is not a guarantee of entry into the United States. Department of Homeland Security inspectors determine if, and for how long, an alien is admitted. To learn more about applying for a U.S. visa, visit Destination USA.

There are two basic types of visas:

Immigrant visa (IV) -- Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the United States, as provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Nonimmigrant visa (NIV) -- Nonimmigrant visas are for people who wish to visit the United States temporarily--for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study. Some applicants intend to abuse their nonimmigrant visas by remaining in the United States illegally.

What are typical types of visa fraud?

* The sale, provision, or transfer of otherwise legitimate visas
* Misrepresentation of reasons for traveling
* Forgery or alteration of a visa

Who commits visa fraud and why?

* Unlawful immigrants for a variety of reasons, most commonly including:
-- Economic considerations

-- Flight from prosecution
-- Facilitation of narcotics and terrorist operations
* Brokers and smugglers in the furtherance of other crimes
* Federal employees, usually for monetary gain

Visa fraud and related statutes include:

* 18 USC 1546 Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents
* 18 USC 1001 False Statements or Entries Generally
* 18 USC 1028 Fraud in Connection with Identification Documents

* 18 USC 201 Bribery of Public Officials
* 18 USC 371 Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States

Penalties for Passport and Visa Fraud:

Passport and visa fraud are federal felonies. Penalties are:

* 10 years (for a first offense if not tied to terrorism or drug trafficking)
* 15 years for fraud with other criminal links
* 20 years for fraud related to drug trafficking
* 25 years for fraud related to international terrorism
posted by Pollomacho at 12:14 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't she go to Canada?

Okay, listen Americans, please stop suggesting that this girl commit immigration fraud in my country. I don't suggest that people go and rip off your government; I'd appreciate it if you didn't volunteer ours as a target for bogus economic migrants. Thank you.
posted by Dasein at 12:20 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't she go to Canada?

Okay, listen Americans, please stop suggesting that this girl commit immigration fraud in my country. I don't suggest that people go and rip off your government; I'd appreciate it if you didn't volunteer ours as a target for bogus economic migrants. Thank you.


I charitably interpreted these comments to mean that she may be able to legally immigrate into Canada, as the process up there is overall more fair (point system) and she has a lot going for her (young, English speaker, well educated, might be able to learn French). It's something she could look into doing legally, and would probably make her new life way better than an eternity of minimum wage.
posted by fermezporte at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Think about it from her perspective for a long time before you talk to her about this. I'm not saying that it should change your answer, but there's a power/privilege dynamic here that you have to sidestep if you want to avoid being the bad person blocking her from her dreams.
posted by salvia at 1:03 PM on April 30, 2010


Do you even want to be friends with someone who is asking you to commit a felony? I don't think she's treating you like you're her friend. She is putting you in jeopardy. I would just say, "Sorry. I can't do that" and leave it at that. If she actually cared about you, she would not put pressure on you to abet in her crime.

You can argue with her about the laws all you want, but the laws are the laws and even if both of you think they're unfair, it's not fair for her to ask you to participate in this crime.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2010


Your post tells me that you know this is a terrible idea and you want no part of it. If you're looking for validation that you're right to be sketched out about this, then yes, you are right. Tell her no, you will have no part of it and that the subject is not up for discussion.

You need not give her reasons or any ammo for argument. Do not get coerced into things you don't want to do. Plain and simple. Your friend sounds like she's completely in denial and nothing you say is going to convince her otherwise.

And yeah, please don't suggest Canada.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:05 PM on April 30, 2010


there is no right answer. still yourself and do what your heart thinks is right. and what you can live with. it will be your decision in the end.
posted by infini at 3:29 PM on April 30, 2010


I too have friends that put me in this situation often. Here's what I say:

- We're going to be buying a house in 2 years and any debt that you may accrue that I would be responsible for (medical, credit, etc.) would have a major impact on our ability to get this house.

- I may be going for a job that requires security clearance. You wouldn't want me to risk not getting a job, would you?

Good luck. I think that you're being smart in thinking hard about this. People are well intended, but you never know what may happen.
posted by k8t at 5:11 PM on April 30, 2010


If you choose to invite her, tell her the rules are:

1. She will not work illegally.
2. You will host her only for a week or whatever and she will not break rule #1 during that time.
3. She is free to travel anywhere else she wants as is possible in America and do whatever she wants as long as she doesn't tell you.
4. You will disclose her whereabouts if the authorities ask.


I would be wary of doing this conditional on "rules" that you set. What're you going to do if she breaks the rules, ground her? The only legit threat you've got would be to call DHS on her, which requires you to admit your own role in the fraud to DHS and get you both in trouble...and you arguably have more to lose than she does.
posted by desuetude at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2010


Okay, listen Americans, please stop suggesting that this girl commit immigration fraud in my country.

No one is suggesting that immigration fraud be committed in Canada. Instead, we are suggesting that it may be easier to legitimately immigrate to Canada.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:39 PM on May 1, 2010


desuetude, what I am saying is that the OP is not responsible for the fact that she may choose to break the law or not. It is her life and her decision. If the OP helps her come to the country as a tourist is one thing as long as he has made it clear that he will not help her do something illegal. @ Dasein, looking back at all the comments, including mine, nobody is suggesting committing fraud. She is an adult and if she chooses to try to come and try to work without the proper visa, it is her responsibility not her host's. He just needs to know how to absolve himself if that is the case. Read the OP.
posted by JJ86 at 6:43 AM on May 2, 2010


what I am saying is that the OP is not responsible for the fact that she may choose to break the law or not. It is her life and her decision. If the OP helps her come to the country as a tourist is one thing as long as he has made it clear that he will not help her do something illegal.

Yeah, i see where you're going, but the OP wants to stay in their friend's life. Getting dragged into the visa application process is directly involving the OP in their friend's decision.
posted by desuetude at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2010


please stop suggesting that this girl commit immigration fraud in my country

I didn't. I just suggested Canada because, back in the day, it was easier to legally immigrate there than to the US; but as others have suggested, that's no longer the case.
posted by Neekee at 2:40 PM on May 5, 2010


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