Maf sits on a faded sofa in the small living room of his house. The house sits back on the road away from the sounds of traffic. It is within cycling distance of the cool part of town, the latest hip street. A melodious voice is heard through the walls, it’s Tara singing. Tara, his wife of three years.
“I literally contacted ten lawyers. Ten. I sent emails telling my life story. About why I wanted to live in America, about Tara and me. They were so unresponsive. I thought, this is important, this is about my life, her life, our life together. One emailed me back, the message was one line telling me that his retainer was $5,000,” said Maf. He leans back against the sofa and rolls his eyes. “A one line email.”
Maf talks about how he and Tara met at an outside café in Miami. He was sitting at a small table with a friend when she walked by. His friend knew her from some gig. They invited her to join them, she did. He liked her laugh, her freckles, her eyes. Her a singer looking for a record deal, him a record producer from the UK working the Miami Music Conference. It seemed meant to be. Love bloomed, marriage followed. And she followed him back to Wales.
“Life was OK there. But Tara missed her family, there’s a house full of them – a sister, three brothers, nieces, nephews. It’s hard to be away from the folks you love. It can make a person lonely. I wanted to bring her back to her family.”
“I planned a long visit of three months, time for Tara to really spend time with her family, while I was in America my circumstances changed. The company where I had worked for 10 years had lost a big contract and informed me that there was no job to go back to. So we made the decision to stay in the USA.”
To Maf, picking up roots and moving to America would be OK, maybe even great. “I really like the people in America. I don’t think you can find more open minded people anywhere else. Plus it’s a creative hot bed. I thought there would be a lot of opportunity in film and music for us here.”
So they made the journey across the ocean, back to America. They left most of their possessions behind except for the music, her guitar, his movie camera, a theremin and copies of the CD they produced together.
But opportunity can fall on deaf ears when immigration is part of the act. One bad note and the whole musical score can be messed up. “I called the immigration office, to make sure I knew what I was supposed to do so we could make our lives here in America. They advised me that I could file my own paper work for my Green CardA wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrantan alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are also commonly referred to as immigrants; however, the Immigration and NationalityThe country of a person’s citizenship or country in which the person is deemed a nationalA person owing permanent allegiance to a state. Act (INAThe Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalizationThe conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth., and removalThe expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability. of aliens.) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrantAn alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children. categories (INAThe Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalizationThe conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth., and removalThe expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability. of aliens. section 101(a)(15)). An illegal alien who entered the United States without inspection, for example, would be strictly defined as an immigrant under the INAThe Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalizationThe conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth., and removalThe expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability. of aliens. but is not a permanent resident alien. Lawful permanent residents are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. They may be issued immigrant visas by the Department of State overseas or adjusted to permanent resident status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the United States.) in the United States. It is also known as a permanent resident card (PRC), an alienAny person not a citizen or nationalA person owing permanent allegiance to a state of the United States. registration receipt card and I-551Permanent residence card or alien registration receipt card or "green card.". It was formerly green in color.. I asked if I needed a lawyer, they said no, not really. So I was getting ready to do everything they said and then take a quick trip back to take care of some stuff in the UK. They made it seem like everything would be fine. I was this close to doing that.” Maf holds this thumb and index finger up. His little finger is wrapped in blue tape – an injury from playing kick ball with some mates. He shakes his head and gestures again, “this close.”
“A friend of mine said, ‘You had better check with a lawyer, just in case.’ So I started contacting immigration lawyers for some advice. That’s when I got the one line email. No one would help me; no one would give me any advice. Ten, I called ten.”
Tara passes through the room on the way to the kitchen for a glass of water. She’s been working on her album in the sound studio Maf built for her in their home. They smile at each other and he asks her how it’s going.
“It’s going,” she replies. From my ears she is too modest. I feel in concert she would blow you away.
“I could have lost it all you know, if it wasn’t for Bashyam & Spiro. They are the only ones who took the time to talk to me. They spent so much time with me on the phone when I called. They told me that if I filed that paperwork and went back to the UK I could be stopped from returning to America for many years. Can you imagine that?”
Tara decides to take a break from recording and sits next to Maf on the sofa. They sit close to each other, legs touching. She rests her hand on his knee.
“They are working with me now, with us,” he smiles at Tara. “They’re taking us through the whole process making sure it’s done right.” He turns and looks at his bride. “It won’t be long now, Luv.”
“If they hadn’t taken the time to talk to me, I would have just done what I thought I was supposed to do. Right now I would be back in the UK and it would be years before I could bring Tara home to her family.”
“We’re peas in a pod, all of us you know. We look exactly the same,” Tara says laughing. The bond is unspoken.
“That one simple act, a lawyer from Bashyam & Spiro actually picking up the phone to speak to me, just a bloke needing some advice, not even a paying client yet. That says a lot about them doesn’t it?