Noga Sklar and her two husbands

noga dois alansHow can you tell a lawyer is lying?
His lips are moving.

Popular American joke

 

My father used to love lawyers. I mean, he was really fond of a specific lawyer, the famous Dr. Raul, whom he considered to be not only an adviser, but also a dear friend. In fact, this was the only “discordant tone” concerning my total and definitive admiration for him — I still believe he knew everything, the kind of admiration that has never decreased, never unmasked because there was no time for that.

My father died in a car accident along with one of his best friends — alas, poor Moses used to say he “would follow little Abraão until the end of his life.” They were travelling to Rio, my father was driving and Moses was sitting behind him. It was their last trip, as I’ve already told you, many times, during my career as an autobiographical columnist. Dr. Raul, very dedicated and efficient, lost a suit for damages for reasons not yet fully understood, considering that the driver who killed Abraão Lubicz, father of two, 42 years old, was drunk and driving a truck in the wrong direction on Highway BR-3. The left side of the green Beetle was completely destroyed. Life’s little tricks.

As the will was being probated — and all the remaining members of the family were in a state of shock, keeping close as they tried to overcome their loss —, any and all tiny advice and action performed by Dr. Raul, current and previous, ended up being a disaster, with no exception. Among them, a malpractice that had affected me even more deeply, as the stupid jerk missed the deadline for handing in documents related to my nationality option, before the age of majority. Actually, I don’t feel ready enough to tell you how this fact has disturbed me for long and insecure years.

So, be patient and let me tell you that story. First, let’s fast forward around 36 years in time. Alan and I are at the Federal Police building in Rio de Janeiro, presenting the documents related to our wedding — that should take place in less than 30 days; otherwise, Alan would be “invited” to leave the country. Yep, everything in our lives is intense as that, as we consider a born procrastinator husband and a card-carrying complicated wife. There, I found out that without a Brazilian Birth Certificate — for which I would need the nationality option term, “abandoned” by the efficient and outstanding Dr. Raul after my father’s death —, the wedding wouldn’t take place. Neither of the other documents was of any worth, nor my voter ID, passport, ID, social security number… Nothing would do.

Dear friends, I must confess I freaked out. Due to a little detail from my “past”, every occasion I’d needed any kind of official document, during my entire life, I would have to face severe anxiety. Not to mention all the threats from the Border Police, making me feel as a stateless person in my own country, trying to force the notorious yellow passport down my throat.

I’ve counted on a bit of luck. As everything always changes in Brazil, so it happened that the law granting the right of option had also changed in a given year, and the irreparably missed deadline, by the time I was 18, had also expired. I was finally able to request my nationality whenever I wanted. But, due to Alan’s urgency, and the tangled meanderings of the Brazilian bureaucracy, I would surely need a lawyer.

I can’t complain about that one, who was recommended by one of my brother’s clients. He was really fast and efficient. In less than ten days, I was requested to go to the Notary Office in Ilha do Governador to pick up my precious Birth Certificate, brand new and completely lawful. I was, at the time, 54 years old, a newborn for the Brazilian annals. I had even written an essay to attach to the proceeding, explaining the urgency of my necessity to opt. Actually, it was my debut as a “confessional self-writer,” and I still remember every word I wrote, something that, nowadays, due to so many cases of immoral corruption being unmasked in Brazil, I’m not quite sure I could repeat: “My soul is Brazilian.”[1]

Alan and I got married, and I don’t think I need to tell you what happened between our wedding and the events of this Friday, in which I’m writing — as my life is, not only one, but (up to now) ten open books, available to whoever feels like reading them.

Now the situation was inverted, and to avoid becoming the next in line to be invited to leave, I’d have to apply for my Green Card in the terrifying U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), a process that, for sure, would require a legal practitioner. Fine!

Alan had travelled to Charleston to visit our son, and, being by myself, I decided to google the topic. When he returned, three days later, I had already filled out all the detailed forms, and had also decided to take a “solo flight.” But Alan couldn’t accept it. Let’s face it: his insecurity concerning the absence of a lawyer was as big as mine as I considered the possibility of putting my fate in the hands of one. And being here, his homeland, I concluded he was allowed to be “the boss.” We started to search.

The first person we talked to was a well-recommended and “smart” Brazilian paralegal, who, unfortunately, spoke as an illiterate person (I was about to say “maid,” but managed to control myself). On the phone, she told me she would need “all possible documents” (without naming them), and, in addition, affirmed that Alan and I would have to get married again. I’ve tried to picture the surrealistic situation, both of us  in front of the justice of peace:

“Name?”

“Noga Lubicz Sklar.”

“Groom’s name?”

“Alan Sklar.”

“How interesting, you both have the same family name. And what’s your marital status?”

“Married.”

“And how, pray tell, do you intend to get married again?”

As one Alan Sklar wasn’t enough for a lifetime, I was about to become Noga Sklar Sklar. It sounded too weird to be true, too twisted to be the rule. And, let’s face it, a quick search online made it clear that the US not only, obviously, accepts a legal marriage, but only rejects it if the country in which the marriage was performed practices polygamy, almost the same civil crime to which the “paralawyer” intended to lead me.

And, as you probably know, it’s not yet the case in Brazil. We haven’t gone that low in the eyes of the international community.

In addition to her inability to communicate, the woman shamelessly told me the case of one of her clients, who had been “trying” to get a Green Card… for five years! Making things even worse, I found out, online — yes, internet is amazing —, that the so-called paralegal had been formally accused of a fraudulent marriage for the purpose of immigration. Very well!

We tried to contact two or three other lawyers, the fees going higher and higher, but I won’t share with you the dull details of such boring events, which, in fact, only took place because Alan insisted, to the point of involving, without my approval, a friend of ours, to whom I feel in debt, embarrassed for dismissing his lawyer recommendation. Go figure.

Only to illustrate, I’ll quickly summarize: there’s all kinds of shady schemes in the immigration “industry” in the US, people trying to charge for forms which are free to download on the official immigration site — what kind of country is this? —, websites offering to fill out the forms — for a fee, of course — using a domain name so similar to the real one, that anyone can be an easy prey, it would a shame to find that out after giving them your credit card.

I narrowly escaped them — concerning the payment, but not the registration; and now I have to put up with the endless harassment, by e-mail, by phone, you name it, alerting me against “missing the deadline due to incomplete forms.” The way things are going, I’m even considering hiring an attorney to defend my consumer rights. Oh well, live and learn.

What can I say. Living in the United States, my aversion to the practitioners of law may not last, since they are crucial to the local modus operandi. Is it possible to escape them? Fortunately, we’ll soon have a lawyer in the family, who is also a good  writer, lucky me.

After mailing my package to the USCIS earlier this morning, signed, sealed, express, with a tracking number, I must confess I feel relieved: my lifetime dealings with nationality issues are about to find closure. Or, at least, this is my hope.

Dubium lex, sed lex (from Latin, “The law is doubtful, but it is the law”). 

Have a great Sunday, folks.

 

 

[1] This text is part of my first book of essays published by KBR, A Kindle to call mine, available as a free ebook in the Brazilian Amazon.

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