I’m back in range again. Now all I have to do is get into gear here. Easier said than done, perhaps. I think for the moment I will do but a brief post on something that struck me as I as coming home.
I had been in Europe. As we got on the plane to return to the US crew members handed us US Customs forms. According to the instructions, you need to fill out one form per family unit. That’s if you are travelling with “immediate” family.
Now I grant you it was a long and tiring day of travel. But this instruction seemed potentially perplexing to me. Who is part of your immediate family and what is your family unit? And why is the form using this language? What is it they really mean to be getting at? I take it that a married couple living together would need but one form. How about a couple that was not married but lived together? Or two people–not a couple–who lived together? The last would constitute a household, I think, but not fall within the meaning of “immediate family.”
I’ve wandered off my narrow topic here–if I let the blog stray into broader topics, like the ambiguity of the term “family” I’m afraid I’ll lose focus. And lots of people have written lots of interesting things about the many ways in which “family” is deployed, whether in government regulations or more commonplace settings. (The family membership at the local gym–who is that available to?)
But you can see that it does have something to do with parentage as well. If an unmarried cohabiting couple (male/female or same sex) is travelling with a child legally related to one member of the couple but not to the other, how many forms need to be filled out? If a lesbian couple produces adoption papers showing that both women are parents to the child, can they then use a single form? What if one woman is (assertedly?) a de facto parent?
You can attribute my confusion to jet-lag if you like (and it’s probably not unrelated), but it does bring me back to the question of what the customs folks mean to be getting at. I don’t suppose they really care about the intricacies of legal parentage–I cannot think of why they would. I think this is one of those places where it would be helpful to articulate what the point of having some people use separate forms while other people can combine for one form. If I understood that, I think I’d know what to do.
I promise a little more substance here tomorrow. Just getting back in the swing of things here. I’ll also try to look through comments posted (or pending) in my absence. Thanks for your patience. It is nice–very nice–to be back!