(Almost) The Worst Day Ever

Had my worst interview ever today, a young woman dying of cancer. The hard part was that she wasn’t qualified for a non-immigrant visa to the U.S., a fact that she’d already faced a few months ago when she first applied and one of my colleagues denied her. She was back, visibly sick, and under the impression that she’d overcome the aspects of her situation that had disqualified her before. Unfortunately, that was an incorrect assessment on her part.

I hated to have to deny her visa this time and I tried to express it in the most humanitarian and compassionate way possible. She broke down sobbing, pleading, begging for the visa, drawing attention to how much weight she’d lost and how her hair was falling out. It tore at my core and I don’t think anyone would really criticize me for issuing here in spite of the obvious ineligibilities because of it. This job is designed such that we don’t really have a whole lot of personal latitude in making decisions; we are mostly just arbiters of the law who seek to find out which cubbyhole applicants fit in based on various criteria.

The integrity of this job is similar to what I faced as a teacher. I was committed to being as consistent and transparent as possible and designed a grading system and mental philosophy/ approach to teaching that went as far as possible to ensure that personal biases, positive or negative, were removed from my assessments. It would have been so easy to issue the visa today but it would have violated the standards that I’ve spent the better part of a year developing and refining my mastery of. If I didn’t refuse that visa, there was no point in even having standards, at least when it came to cases like hers.

Ultimately I’ve come to terms with this and I truly believe that I made the right decision within the expectations of the job. Part of the reason that there is such a rigorous selection process, perhaps, is to increase the probability that people who can make that hard call get the job. I know that others would criticize that, and they have valid moral points. The fact that she has alternatives to treatment in the US and even alternative paths to get to the US is secondary to the decision: I would have made the same decision regardless. But it does help soothe the pain a bit knowing that she could have sought treatment in a variety of other countries.

I’m not proud that I denied a visa to a dying woman who broke down sobbing and begged for a visa but I am proud that I could uphold the expectations of my job in the face of a very difficult decision. I wouldn’t criticize someone who made the opposite call and I hope they feel the same about me.

The only spot of good news that lead to this being (almost!) the worst day is that I got notice that I will begin bidding on my second post at the end of the week. It’s going to be a very exciting and anxious time. I think it will result in knowing where I’m going before I leave on my summer R&R in a couple months.

Previous Post
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Some decisions are super hard. And it’s not always a comfort knowing you made the right decision and maintained your integrity when they’re crying at the window. But being able to look at yourself in the mirror, and sleep at night, and keep you own moral code is important.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: