My partner works at a very highly regarded educational institution in the US. As he is not a US citizen, he needed to have his foreign work permit in place from customs first before we could move. We had never gone through this process with US Customs before and as such there were a lot of administrative aspects to deal with which took up a lot of time. When I think about those who go through the process of immigrating to a new country – I can appreciate how difficult this must be. So, I realize I am lucky to be a citizen of a democratic country with a stable legal/economic system and that I have never been forced to leave my country under duress like so many others.
That said, I wonder how we function sometimes, when considering how my federal government mishandled my unemployment claim for example (see earlier posts starting here). I am now questioning the abilities of the government and education system employees in the US, where we are currently residing.
Prior to starting work, no one representing human resources (HR) of the subject educational institution was familiar with my partner’s type of work visa. Luckily, since he does research for a living, he was able to explain this to HR, even though he is not an expert in immigration law.
Following this, my partner had already begun working when HR decided to mention that it was critical to obtain a social security number (SSN) card right away and that this card must be presented to HR in order for him to be paid on time.
It’s been about two months since he began work and he never got his SSN card in the mail. When he tried to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) 1-800 number to determine whether he was actually assigned a SSN, the line was busy. Then he tried another time. Busy again. Typical pattern: you pay your taxes, but no one is available to help you with your problem.
The other day my partner went to the SSA office to talk to a live person. He took a number and waited 3 (yes, THREE) hours to talk to someone. During this time, he thought it was unusual that people who came in after him were being served first. When he asked the armed SSA guard why this was, he was told that he should sit down and wait to be called. Instead, he took another number and miraculously, he was called upon 30 minutes later. When finally granted the privilege to speak to an SSA employee, he asked her to make a minor administrative change and requested she determine whether he had been assigned a SSN. She just didn’t feel like doing those things that day, so he had to ask her twice to do her job. He was obviously exasperated, but no one in their right mind would risk becoming too indignant with the employees with the presence of guards carrying conspicuous weaponry, so the employees may practice insolent idleness through intimidation (a little fun with alliteration).
Now, even though my partner has explained repeatedly to HR in person that he has not yet received his SSN card and has put this fact in writing to HR several times, he continues to receive e-mails from his employer threatening to not pay him, and now, e-mails which kindly explain that his employment will be terminated should he not present the card that he has not yet received from the SSA. Is your mind spinning in circles yet? Yep, ours too.
Accountability and competence is lacking everywhere in the public institutions of our democracies – from government employees and those employed at reputable educational institutions . I’m not even bothering to mention politicians here. How aren’t people completely fed up with this? We deserve the highest standards for respect, accessibility, accountability and customer service for the government services for which we are all legally required to pay. Anything less defrauds the public, but this is exactly how we operate.
Anyway, if he doesn’t get his SSN card it looks like we’ll just go back home. Oh well. It’s why we’re screwed.
George said it: