When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you... Leviticus 19:33, 34a
Have any of you Dance Party regulars spent time as foreigners in the U.S.A.? Does the Department of Immigration in the U.S.A. make things difficult for foreigners living in the U.S.? Because Migración y el gobierno en Panamá sure make life miserable for the Lovely Mona and I. For a "Christian" nation they sure ignore that rule from Leviticus (We also ignore the rule about pork and shrimp. Oh, and stoning people for whatever reason. Oh yeah, and the one about the two different kinds of fibers in a garment. Maybe some other stuff, too)!
We have been in the República de Panamá for over eight years now, but our interactions with Migración and the government never get any easier. We are here on a Missionary Visa, and it renewed for three months and then for a year. Last year Migración decided that we had to begin the entire process over again, and they wanted all the documentation which was required when we first came to Panamá. One item is a police report from the U.S.A. I pointed out that we had been living in Panamá for seven years and we would have to return to California to get a police report from a place where we don't live. We were told that we had spent 30 days in California the year before, so we needed to get a police report (apparently we spend our time in California on state-wide crime sprees). We fought about this for a year, and our visas were renewed for three months at a time. Why does that matter? Because our driver's licenses are only good during the period of our visas. We couldn't afford to get a new license every three months, so we decided that our California licenses would have to suffice until this visa thang was resolved. Bishop Murray finally went and talked with the jeffe of Migración and our visas were renewed for a year (without the police report!), so we have been trying to get our licenses renewed.
The government of Panamá must have some nut-case free-market types in it, because they decided to privatize the process for a driver's license. It used to be a straight-forward process, but now it is, as one might expect, the process from hell. Last Friday the Lovely Mona went to the Transito office in Pedregal. I was wearing my collar as looking priestly on official documents goes a long way here. We brought books, of course, as we knew we would be standing in lines forever. While waiting, I was asked to give a birthday blessing to one of the workers there, which I was happy to do. Once we got to the desk of the official person, we were told to go to Atlapa for our licenses mañana. One little complicación was that the Lovely Mona had to take care of one issue at the PTJ office in Ancon (nothing illegal or scandalous). While she was there she was told to go to the AutoDepo in Villa Lucre to get her license. Well, Saturday morning we went to Atlapa, where we were told that the place didn't open until 2:00 p.m. We have choir rehearsal with the youth choir at 2:00 p.m., so we decided we would return to Atlapa on Monday. We were at a wedding on Sunday and many folks told us that extranjeros got to AutoDepo to get their licenses, so that's where we went Monday morning, where we were told to go to Pedregal. That didn't really make sense, so we tried Atlapa again, where we were told that the office in Atlapa was closed for good on Sunday. We decided to have someone with a better grasp of the language and the process come with us on Wednesday. However, somewhere along the line, I lost my California driver's license, my only valid license. SO NOW I gotsta apply for a new license when I'm in California in a few weeks, and can't drive here in Panamá. The Lovely Mona continued the process yesterday, and, supposedly, may actually receive her license tomorrow. We'll see.
I am considering a season of fasting when it comes to driving and any interactions with government agencies.