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Palaver: My green-card wife
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Dorothy Asare-Kumah (August 2, 2022)

Boredom has its own reward, one of which has been my uncovering a host of online radio stations with Ghanaian coloration that I can always listen to at the click of a button. My appreciation for new technologies such as internet radio has even been heightened by my ability to have three or four radio stations playing at the same time. It's just my own way of making a decision as to which one should be my companion for any given period.

It was during one of such 'accompaniments' that I heard a young lady asking for prayers for her husband who had traveled abroad, but was no longer picking her calls. She noted that even when her husband picked her calls, he sometimes did so with questionable speed and not-too-romantic whispers.

“Pastor, I suspect that he is married to someone. He is cheating on me, I can't believe it”, she cried 'spiritually'. As I lay in bed sympathizing with her, I wished I could just tell her, “Yes, he is married so better believe it”.

While I appreciate the concerns of the woman I am not sure I can blame the man either. When our men leave our shores for greener pastures, we are excited and are quick to broadcast to the whole world how our husbands or partners have traveled overseas and how we expect to reap the benefits of a good life soon.

I believe that these men have good intentions when they leave home. I know there are some crooked ones who will put up a lot of pretence only to get away from any responsibilities at home. In general though I believe that our men have good plans and take genuine decisions to come and seek better lives only to be faced with the reality of the situation which drives them to adopt lifestyles they never intended.

For instance, if a man comes to the United States and soon realizes that he cannot work unless he has some form of valid documentation, he has to take some hard but smart decisions as to whether to use fake documentation or marry a citizen and then take advantage of the marital benefits to become a citizen. That way, he can at least legally stay and work here. Normally, such marriages last only for as long as documents remain with immigration officials. Once they are approved and they go through the final step of getting the green card, the divorce proceedings begin.

Described as “sham marriages” in America, participants do not pretend that this is an easy task. Believe it or not it takes a lot of emotional strength for one to go through such processes knowing how risky it is and the implications thereof, if the underlying intentions are uncovered. Since this is a common practice among African immigrants, officials are always wide-eyed in dealing with marriage cases involving Africans.

In a typical green-card marriage, the couple will have to live together for a number of years and then attend an interview to answer questions from immigration officials based on which a decision is taken. If you choose to live apart you must still work out the arrangement in a way that will enable you learn enough about each other for the interview. This is because the interviews could be conducted separately and both of you would be required to provide the same answers to questions such as where your toothbrushes, towels or underwears are kept, the size of your bed, the last date of your wife's menstrual period, the kind of birth control and brands you both use, favorite sex positions and other very private questions that are extremely challenging to answer, if you've simply read some notes from a book.

Before coming to this point, one has to decide whether to pay for such services or pretend to have fallen in love and marry for such services. The marriage appears to be the cheaper option for most men. If you decide to go with the 'pay-for-nkrataa' option then be prepared to cough anything between 3,000 and 6,000 dollars in most cases plus or minus other ancillary services. These services could range from agreeing to spend nights (and all that comes with it) with your benefactor, spend money to satisfy their shopping appetite, and other services that are strictly determined by the citizen.

When a man has packed bag and baggage to come and sweat it out to make life better for himself and his family back home and is faced with such a dilemma, the last thing they can take is when they call home and are met with a barrage of questions and a litany of accusations from a wife.

These are legitimate concerns and I would probably do the same but it takes an opportunity to travel to appreciate some of these situations. While I do not pretend that it is going to be easy on any woman to know that her husband or fiancé is warming the bed of another woman in this land, you would have to appreciate that they are going through some emotional torture themselves and for them it is even worse because guilt is rebuking them from all sides. No matter all the things that we are wont to say about men, I believe in my rather young life that men have consciences and sometimes very strong ones.

Unfortunately, experiences will in no time drum home the fact that in 'abrokyire' the commandments handed down to Moses are not ten but nine, it is for readers to figure out which one is left out.

Some of life's experiences are too complicated to comprehend and that is why it will always be difficult to understand how an African friend who rose to head a theological seminary came to this country, 'forgot' about his marriage of silver, and gold anniversaries and settled down with an all-too-willing dame for green card purposes. Unfortunately in the process another family was started.

Although I will not, in any way, attempt to sanction any adulterous engagements by married men, it is important that our women particularly appreciate that these are the circumstances that our men face when they travel abroad. Note that when you sanction any such moves and feel too glad to let the whole village know that very soon you will be receiving some Uncle Sam bucks, you should know what your husband is likely to face.

I know it may be the same for men whose wives or fiancées also make such moves, but I am harping on the case of women because, as a woman, I know how easy it is for us to suddenly ascend the judgment throne and start pronouncing judgment on a man who has nothing but good intentions which unfortunately go wrong because of unanticipated developments.

To the lady who called that radio station asking for prayers, my advice is: that talk will serve no purpose; if you have any energy pray to God that your partner will sail through what could be a rather sticky situation and return to you unscathed.

To those men who decide that for some reasons they will play the home-and-abroad game, they are not the target of this piece. It is for those who put up with the moral guilt and emotional pain, defying all odds and nightmares of immigration officials closing in on them while going through green-card marriages for the ultimate purpose of getting to stay and work legally abroad to make life better for their families. I truly sympathize with you.

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