It’s the year 2060, and using the world “alien” is racist. I’m a non-native, temporary galaxial visitor to Earth, sent here by my government to study migration patterns amongst humans - but a “legal alien”, according to human laws.
I embarked upon my research studying one of Earth's biggest superpowers - a land of prosperity and hope. They uphold values of greatness and equality - particularly attractive to an outsider such as myself. I had hoped to accustom myself to this Earth in a land that is particularly friendly to those that don’t fit the “human” archetype, before I traversed the rest of their world.
For an outsider, especially an extra-galaxial one, migration to earth is justifiably tricky. I must demonstrate alignment in intent - that I aspire to work harmoniously alongside humans to fulfill the goals of their species - and ability - that I have the physical and mental capacity to do so.
It is fair, I understand, to be weary of a person from an interplanetary species so far away from all that is known. I understand when humans regard me with caution, apprehension, even pity, as they see my kind plodding about trying to fathom, understand, and adopt human existence. I understand that the cultural assimilation of a people is a long process, and that the benefits of my struggle will likely be reaped by some future generation - but I understand that it is worth it.
But what I don’t understand is the humans’ treatment of their own people - the officialised charade of applying for permission to move freely across borders on their planet. In this land where I find myself (the one espousing values of hope and aspiration), migration is a farce no better than a rigged game of dice; one which aspiring human migrants are bound by law to play, and governing bodies in power win every time.
Aspiring migrants must outperform the resident humans to show that they have extraordinary value to provide, at the same time satisfying the bureaucracies’ endless requests for forms named a string of numbers and letters, asking for more strings of numbers and letters. This tedious number and letter matching goes on for hours, until the questions get more complex, and the human’s brain is soup. Often, migrants don’t have the tools or knowledge they need to answer every question - so it is either a game of artful guessing or an extracurricular, stress-fueled quest to find the specialists who have trained for years in number and letter-matching.
It baffles me that, in an age of blockchain technology, encrypted portals, email, a migrant must print out the forms on paper, endorse them with a wet-ink signature, and mail their documents to the governing body via post. I have neglected to mention that the time windows within which migrants must post these documents is specific - within 90 days of expiration of this number-and-letter form, but beyond 35 days of that. Not on a Sunday. The forms must be signed in blue ink. Another delightful game of check-the-box, to be played outside of school and work.
Then, the documents are finally submitted. But the migrant can’t rest easy yet, because their fate will be decided with the role of a fair dice. A lottery to decide who gets to stay in the country for a few more years, after which the game will reset, and the migrant gets to play again.
When a human uproots from all that is familiar and travels across the planet, their context dissolves. Everything about their surroundings - the smells, colours, shapes, sensations - is different. They keep playing at life with the rules they know to be true - but it is a different game they’re playing now, and there’s no rulebook to understand the nuances of a culture. Overnight, their reality is reconstructed; so they must find a way to reconstruct identity too.
It is common knowledge across our cluster of galaxies that humans are notably interesting because of their ability to exude empathy; to care compassionately for another soul and its wellbeing, and to feel and act upon the intangible. One might think, this instinct of empathy might find its way into the laws that regulate human passage across space; that governing bodies might find it somewhat essential to provide support and consideration to humans that are leaving behind their families and reconstructing their realities as they travel across the planet to provide skills, labour and cognitive brainpower to another people’s land.
But instead, migrants get to match numbers and letters, live out their professional lives restricted to jobs that will most benefit their host foreign land, and play the paperwork game.
Migrants seldom complain - they don’t have time. They keep their head down, and do what is needed to stay. So I'm sharing a peek into their story.