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Feigning Romance for a Visa

By Robert V. Sesay - (August 11th 2005)  

"...Stories of both men and women, who feign romance to travel to the United States at the expense of those in search of a spouse, are prevalent. In fact, such stories are widespread among European immigrants. Immediately after World War II, Irish and Italian immigrants led the way, since the largest influx of European immigrants were from these two countries. ..."

Sekou Kantie worked two jobs, six days a week for nearly two years and lived frugally in order to bring the love of his life from his native Liberia to America .

“Bob, I can’t wait to bring Megan here. I want to start a family so bad and she’s the only person, I can entrust my love with,” he told me during the fall of 2003, as he smiled at her enlarged photograph hanging on his living room wall. Having known Sekou for years, I was surprised at how he praised and complimented a woman he had never met in person. Months earlier, he was introduced to Megan over the phone by a cousin who happened to be his neighbor. Sekou had immediately claimed Megan to be his God-sent love, whom he’d longed for and dreamed about for years. Without further delay, he commenced the paper work with the INS to eventually bring Megan to him.

Before we delve deeper into Sekou and Megan’s story, let’s change gears. Nancy Freeze (not her real name), an acquaintance of mine who begged for anonymity, lived in a Chicago suburb where she works as a Licensed Practice Nurse (LPN). Nancy is also an African American who thought she had been cursed by the god of romance. At 35, with a moderate income, a ten-year-old son and several failed relationships, including two broken engagements, Nancy found solace in the wisdom of a neighbor who had told her about a brother in Liberia . The brother was nearly five years her junior, yet, she was delighted at the idea of finding love again. After hundreds of minutes of phone conversations, Nancy surprised many of us when she hopped on a plane to Liberia last year in order to bring home, as she put it amid chuckles, “my own man in this nation of worthless men.”

She spent a month in Liberia and Ghana , married her sweetheart and proceeded back to Chicago to prepare for the arrival of her love. Within six months of his arrival, Nancy started to believe that the entire romance and pageantry was just a scheme.

“He hates the grounds I walk on,” she told me in tears on the phone a fortnight ago.

Stories of both men and women, who feign romance to travel to the United States at the expense of those in search of a spouse, are prevalent. In fact, such stories are widespread among European immigrants. Immediately after World War II, Irish and Italian immigrants led the way, since the largest influx of European immigrants were from these two countries. With the successful reconstruction of Europe , which has turned it into a soaring global economy engine, the proliferation of people searching for a spouse in another country has spread to Russia and its former communist blocks in Eastern Europe , as well as to Africa with my dear Liberia leading our continent. (Lord, please don’t let us lead this statistics)

Russian women in particular are locked in a gruesome battle of tricks and turns just to enter the United States . Flourished by the increasing demand of American male taste for European woman (no longer as prolific as they were fifty years ago) many are now flooding the former communist nations in search of true love. According to a recent poll, most of these men are first or second time divorcés, hoping that meeting an Eastern European would make the third time a charm. But the same poll reported that the numbers of divorces among these second or third attempts with Eastern European women are alarmingly high.

Recently, a friend of mine enlisted in the US Navy revealed similar scenarios among men in the armed forces. He reasoned that, “To the rest of the world, America is a land of milk and honey and people are willing to do just about anything to get here.” He continued: “For those of us in the military, it’s become a familiar scenario especially for male soldiers, who don’t have the time to get to know his would-be spouse. More often than not, they end up in divorce within the first two or three years after their arrival to the States. That is, after she has gotten permanent residency status or a Green Card.”

There are no statistics with the US Census Bureau or even among private polling sources on this new wave of ubiquitous moral affliction among Africans. However, for most Africans---and Liberians in particular---the trend is new but fast becoming uncommon. Almost four in every seven Liberians know someone---a neighbor, a relative or a friend---who has either been a victim or has helped to orchestrate these arranged relationships.

With no apparent end to Africa ’s political chaos and instability in sight---a source of the increased migration of many Africans to other countries---Liberians in particular are willing to overlook many things in order to leave their home, including bigamy. It was bigamy that Megan condoned when she told Sekou she was single, when in fact she was not only engaged, but was traditionally married to the same man. Ironically, he is another Liberian who lives on the West Coast of America. He had fruitlessly tried for years to get her in this country without success. So when Megan took a connecting flight from Newark Airport to LAX and left the bewildered Sekou nearly sobbing, she didn’t only take away his ability to love the opposite sex again, but she also took away his dignity, and he had to endure insults from friends who saw him as dim-witted.

Nancy experienced similar frustrations from friends and co-workers who couldn’t understand why her new husband began complaining about her.

“The SOB thinks I’m fat and I’m now this and I’m now that. When did he realize that?” she asked me on the phone, choking up. I gave her a moment to regain her composure.

“He told me in Africa that I was the love of his life,” she continued, this time without holding back her screams. She cried out louder and sniffled for nearly a minute. After seconds of quietude, Nancy woofed on, “Dear God what have I done to men?” It was a moment that nearly drew tears from my eyes.

“And now I have suddenly become fat and overweight, even though I have lost twenty pounds since I came from Africa ?” Nancy asked still baffled over her husband’s sudden loss of attraction to her.

While it is not my intention to generalize the entire practice of bringing one’s spouse into this country as a wasted effort, it would be wise to know the pros and cons of such a Herculean financial investment. For there is no doubt a large numbers of these cases have turned out to be rewarding and worthwhile. But when that larger number starts to dwindle, it becomes worrisome. Needless to say that the two scenarios used in this article are very atypical, because, a large number of people who have been left by a spouse did meet their significant other in person and have even lived together prior to their marriage.

Nancy and Sekou’s romantic misfortunes have sparked up a renewed debate among Liberians and others who might consider bringing their spouse to the States.

“It happens too often. When people come into this country, their sense of reasoning and morality suddenly ebbs into a myopic pattern,” a Liberian community leader complained to me. He himself brought his wife here a few years ago but with his marriage now on the rocks, he is also blaming the same conundrum for his pending divorce.

“Whatever happened to ‘till death do us apart’?” he asked, his hands in the air. “Or what happened to the good old fashioned value of keeping our word?” he continued.

I wanted to know if he thought the sudden financial freedom and independence most new immigrants enjoy upon their arrival were mitigating factors.

“Yes. Money is of course the extenuating factor that gives them a false sense of security and hope, which is inflamed by their glamorous surroundings. But if it’s any consolation, usually, they realize what a mistake they have made when the reality of the false promise out there sets in.”

A reality check will be a familiar term to Megan. Once the dust and the fanfare about her arrival settle, she was able to separate facts from fiction. Soon, she was faced with the hard reality of her decision to leave a broken-hearted Sekou for her husband on the West Coast. As if the god of retribution stepped in to punish her for her transgression, she soon found that her cherished husband was not only having an affair, but that he was also living with another woman prior to her arrival. And he had in fact also proposed marriage to this live-in girlfriend. However, in his effort to make room for Megan’s arrival, he had picked a fight with the girlfriend, which eventually drove her out of the house, just days before Megan’s arrival. Weeks later, when the ex-lover learned about the real reasons surrounding her departure---Megan’s arrival---she returned home to challenge Megan and eventually drove Megan out of the house. Furious and dejected, Megan had no choice but to turn to Sekou again.

“Bob, I hate this girl so much, that months ago, I would have strangled her to death with glee. But now, after careful consideration, there is a part of me that still wants her back, not for any romantic undertone, but just to treat her like my maid,” he said chuckling. I was relieved to see Sekou discussing Megan again with such cavalier flair. I was relieved because it was a sign that he is finally getting over her. Just months earlier, he had almost gone into a social coma, alienating his friends and family. Even his co-workers complained about his moody behavior.

As Sekou mulls over the idea of taking back Megan, he is now seeking comments and advice from readers through the email address below, in order to help him make his decision. Should he take Megan back?

As for Nancy , her relationship is currently in limbo. The furious Nancy is now pointing the finger at her former neighbor for not only orchestrating a scheme to fleece her money, but also for abusing her American citizenship as a means to have their sibling brought here.

“They’re not going to get away with this, Bob. I promise, you,” she vowed to me and hung up.  

About the Author

Robert V. Sesay is a Liberian journalist and Writer who now lives in Levittown, Pennsylvania.  His debut novel “Stolen Justice” is due out this fall.He can be contacted

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