Sunday, March 10, 1996
True love, red tape and the feds

The Cincinnati Enquirer

There's nothing like a little outrage to get your heart started in the morning. At least that has been my experience.

And if it involves government stupidity, a couple in love and foreign intrigue, so much the better.

Here's the story:

In 1963, a young Canadian decided he wanted to be a U.S. marine. After satisfying all the requirements to do so, he joined up for four years. His hitch included 38 months on an aircraft carrier in a war zone off the coast of Vietnam, and he got a letter of commendation from his commanding officer. Then he was sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was promoted to corporal.

Near the end of his third year of voluntary service, he started dating a Canadian woman, who was working temporarily in the United States. After they married, she became homesick and begged him to return to Canada. He still had 10 months to go on his four-year enlistment.

He went to his company commander. No problem. Papers were shuffled, and he was out the door a little early with an honorable discharge. The young couple moved to Canada in 1966 and later divorced. These things happen.

The young man is, by now, no longer young. These things happen, too, I am sorry to say. But neither is he old. In April 1992, he falls in love with an American woman he meets at a company training seminar. Both are chemical firefighters for Monsanto Co. - he in Quebec and she in Addyston.

She has a small farm in Indiana, where they decide to live. The ex-marine applies for a visa. Big problem.

An arcane sub-paragraph in the immigration laws, designed to punish draft dodgers during World War I, prohibits anyone who receives an ''alien discharge'' from becoming a citizen or permanent resident.

As you'll recall, the marine Vietnam veteran with the commendation letter was a Canadian citizen - an alien - when he was discharged.

Their names are Gerald and Sandy Carriere, and they've been waiting for three years for the right to live together. He does not have a criminal record or health problems. He is not a polygamist or a terrorist. He even has a permanent job, if he can accept it.

Right now, he's living at the farm in Sunman, Ind., working at Bayer (the former Monsanto) in Addyston. His work permit expires in October. Again. Since they married, they've been patching together a married life - visits, phone calls, some extended stays.

But, ''we're living in limbo,'' Mrs. Carriere says.

They've spent $35,000 on lawyers. They've appealed to the Department of Defense, the State Department, the attorney general and the Supreme Court and, of course, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many times.

U.S. Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, the Indiana Democrat and ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, took a whack at the bureaucracy to no avail. The buck has been passed all over Washington, and the Carrieres aren't sure where to go from here.

Maybe you have some ideas. Maybe if you wrote your congressman or your talk show host or your president or your presidential candidate.

This is nuts.

Gerald Carriere has served more time in the armed service than Bill Clinton, Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. Put together. If he had been a U.S. citizen who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam, he'd have no problem with the U.S. government. All is forgiven.

If he were Japanese and had fought in a war against us, he'd probably be building our cars. We are gracious in victory. If he were Vietnamese, we'd probably be asking for his pad thai recipe.

Instead, he is a Canadian citizen who served with some distinction in our country's armed forces, but ran afoul of government red tape. So he's cooked.

Whoa. My heart is pounding now.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 mHz) and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.