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From: Bill Price, Seattle, WA:
Kevin Grace's article concerning immigration to Canada piqued my interest for a couple of reasons.
As a Seattlite, I am somewhat alarmed by the huge transformation that Vancouver has undergone in the last fifteen years. Illegal immigration across the northern border, a phenomenon unheard of during my childhood, has become commonplace, and has included the likes of Ahmed Ressam, who planned to blow up targets in LA.
Although these developments are sufficient to raise my provincial ire, I also personally witnessed the corruption and abuses of the Canadian immigration machine while living and working in Beijing from 1997-1999.
Because the foreign community in Beijing is a tightly-bound, marginalized group of people, there are few secrets between its members. This, together with the fact that the white community in China is overwhelmingly male, led to a clubhouse atmosphere where men would speak freely about any topic they pleased.
A couple of my young, Canadian coworkers eventually obtained jobs at the Chinese embassy processing visa applications. They were naturally happy about their government jobs and the benefits that came along with unrestricted access to the embassy, but what pleased them most was the effect their positions had on young Chinese women who wanted to get out of China.
After a long day's work on a sweltering, oppressive summer day, we would relax at pubs on Sanlitun, Beijing's notorious embassy street and favorite foreigner hang-out, drinking tall glasses of cold beer. After a few beers, we'd get to talking about an interesting subject: women. Those Canadian embassy boys sure had some tales to tell!
They'd laugh and slap their thighs as they related stories about girls chasing them down with phone numbers as though they were rock stars or pro ball players.
"You can't beat 'em off with a stick," said one of the Canadians. And they ate it up. I'd see them with one woman on Saturday night, and another on Sunday morning.
Sometimes, the Canadians would tell me about the real, working part of their jobs. One told me: "95% of the visa applications we go through are blatant forgeries." When I asked him what they could rely on, he replied that a bank account of over $100,000 was a major factor, but other things were important, too.
"It's like a game," he said, explaining the mysteries of the Canadian immigration system, "they know it and we know it. If they treat us right, we help them along."
What he meant, of course, was that if Chinese women were willing to get in bed with officials, they stood a better chance of clinching a visa.
The Canadians never mentioned cash bribes to me, but we all know that's nothing to brag about over a cold beer.
November 28, 2002