The pres­i­dent cites a mem­oirist with a per­se­cu­tion com­plex.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Twit­ter: @Car­losLozadaWP

In a tweet early Fri­day morn­ing, Pres­i­dent Trump hailed Nick Adams’s new book, “Green Card War­rior,” as a “must read,” sug­gest­ing that it of­fered lessons on how to reimag­ine the U.S. im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

Well, now I’ve read it, and it is not a must read. If not for the pres­i­dent’s en­dorse­ment, the book would barely rate a must ac­knowl­edge. It is, how­ever, a must laugh, a must groan, and, if “Green Card War­rior” is in­deed where Trump is find­ing ideas for im­mi­gra­tion re­form, it is also a you must be kid­ding me.

Adams, a 33-year-old con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor whose long­time dreams have in­cluded pro­vid­ing elec­tion anal­y­sis for the Fox Busi­ness Net­work (hey, if you’re dream­ing, you may as well go big), wanted to em­i­grate from his na­tive Aus­tralia to the United States. This book de­tails his quest to gain U.S. per­ma­nent-res­i­dent sta­tus, also known as a green card, which sub­se­quently en­ables re­cip­i­ents to more eas­ily ac­quire U.S. ci­ti­zen­ship. It is a tale of meet­ings with im­mi­gra­tion lawyers and in­ter­views with con­sular of­fi­cers, of emails and doc­u­ments shoot­ing and back forth, of bu­reau­cratic de­lays and sna­fus and — spoiler! — of even­tual suc­cess, when Adams wins his visa.

But in the au­thor’s eyes, it was a saga for the ages, re­veal­ing gross mis­car­riages of jus­tice, a ded­i­cated con­spir­acy against his con­ser­va­tive pol­i­tics and the naked abuse of power by lib­eral forces seek­ing to de­prive Amer­ica of his im­ported great­ness. The ap­pli­ca­tion process left Adams feel­ing mis­un­der­stood and vic­tim­ized, full of self-gen­er­ated rage and imag­ined griev­ance. I see why Trump likes him. Adams ap­pears to sin­cerely love the United States, an af­fec­tion har­bored since child­hood. “I was raised to be­lieve Amer­ica was a force for good in the world,” he writes, “and that it should take its lead­er­ship role se­ri­ously,” be­cause Amer­ica is “the best idea the world has ever had.”

This de­vo­tion would be tested, so se­verely, in 2015. That is when Adams, af­ter be­ing ap­proved by U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices for a green card based on his ful­fill­ment of “ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity” re­quire­ments as a writer and tele­vi­sion pun­dit, en­coun­tered his neme­sis: a U.S. con­sular of­fi­cer in Syd­ney whose name is un­men­tioned but whose mon­stros­ity is laid bare when he dares re­quest proof of suf­fi­cient fi­nan­cial as­sets or in­come be­fore pro­cess­ing Adams’s visa.

Rather than blame his lawyer for not bet­ter warn­ing him of th­ese re­quire­ments, Adams con­cocts a the­ory of per­sonal op­pres­sion based on the con­sular of­fi­cer’s Face­book page, which outs him as sym­pa­thetic to Demo­cratic politi­cians and gay rights. “It is abun­dantly clear to me what has hap­pened,” Adams writes. “This man thought he knew me from the doc­u­ments that had been lodged, and didn’t like me be­cause of my pol­i­tics . . . . I be­lieve this man acted ar­ro­gantly and abused his po­si­tion be­cause he wanted to vil­ify an en­emy of the Left.”

He pro­vides no proof in the book, but th­ese days that doesn’t get in the way of a good per­se­cu­tion com­plex — one that was only height­ened when Adams re­ceived no­tice from the con­sulate two months later that his ap­pli­ca­tion was be­ing re­turned to USCIS with a rec­om­men­da­tion that its ap­proval be re­voked. This de­spite pour­ing $200,000 into his bank ac­count as proof of fi­nan­cial sol­vency, cour­tesy of a gen­er­ous fa­ther.

The out­landish metaphors Adams in­vokes for his plight are among the book’s few amus­ing mo­ments. “I’m home­less,” he writes, when first await­ing word from the con­sulate. “In a world of so­called refugees flood­ing coun­tries, I’m one that will never be dis­cussed. Please, God, in­ter­vene. Please stop the tor­ture.” (It’s like Syria, but for con­ser­va­tive Aus­tralian pun­dits with grad­u­ate de­grees and reg­u­lar cable-news hits.) Later, he goes from state­less to pugilist. “I’m out on my feet. Against the ropes. I’m ab­sorb­ing in­cred­i­ble pun­ish­ment. My body prays for the mercy of the knock­out. My mind re­fuses to com­ply.”

Adams, the au­thor of other con­ser­va­tive tracts such as “Amer­ica: The Great­est Good,” “Ex­cep­tional Amer­ica” and “Re­tak­ing Amer­ica,” de­ployed his con­nec­tions among the Amer­i­can right and on Capi­tol Hill, get­ting law­mak­ers to in­ter­cede on be­half of his ap­pli­ca­tion. (The book’s ac­knowl­edg­ments thank the of­fices of Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, John McCain, Tim Scott and Cory Gard­ner, as well as now-At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, among many oth­ers.)

He even wor­ries for a while that his high­level con­tacts may not be enough. “You can do all the right things, have all the right con­nec­tions, have the best at­tor­ney, pay all the money you have, and some­times you still get screwed.” I found this a some­what en­cour­ag­ing pas­sage, sug­gest­ing that what you spend and who you know won’t al­ways do the trick in Amer­ica.

Ex­cept they do. Adams is hang­ing out at the 2016 Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence when he learns that his ap­pli­ca­tion has been ap­proved for pro­cess­ing again. “The emails come in thick and fast,” he re­calls. “I field calls from mul­ti­ple Se­na­to­rial and Con­gres­sional Of­fices, all bear­ing the great news. I feel ela­tion.”

The vendetta with the con­sular of­fi­cer was hardly over, though, and Adams ric­o­chets be­tween ha­tred for the bu­reau­crat and self­doubt. When he is un­able to reen­ter the United States for a lead­er­ship con­fer­ence be­cause au­thor­i­ties in Aus­tralia tell him he has been flagged, he fur­ther spec­u­lates on the ve­nal­ity of the lo­cal con­sulate, which in his mind has noth­ing bet­ter to do than tor­ment him. “I be­lieve the Syd­ney Con­sulate is sore about their rec­om­men­da­tion not be­ing ac­cepted by USCIS, and that I used my trip to Amer­ica ear­lier this year to mo­bi­lize po­lit­i­cal sup­port for my ap­pli­ca­tion and fur­ther my ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity case. Once they re­al­ized what I had done, they stepped in to make sure that trav­el­ing to the US to de­fend my­self and cre­ate pub­lic aware­ness of my ap­pli­ca­tion would not be pos­si­ble.”

He later learns that the con­sulate had noth­ing to do with it — he had been la­beled an “in­tend­ing im­mi­grant” and thus was un­able to travel as a tourist while his green card was be­ing expedited — and he be­comes briefly em­bar­rassed. “It is un­like me to be con­spir­a­to­rial, but what else was I to think?” Yet, when his fa­ther, the lone sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter in the book, falls ill, Adams blames it on the stress of the ap­pli­ca­tion process and again tar­gets the anony­mous con­sular of­fi­cer.

“One man in one of­fice on one day has caused all our lives to go into a tail­spin,” he writes. “And for what? Be­cause he didn’t like my pol­i­tics?” He works him­self into a lather. “It was un­war­ranted, and evil. Ar­ro­gant and per­sonal. Abu­sive and dis­crim­i­na­tory. This was po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion, plain and sim­ple.”

In his tweet prais­ing the book, Trump ar­gues that a “merit-based sys­tem” of im­mi­gra­tion is “the way to go.” It’s not clear, of course, that the pres­i­dent has ac­tu­ally read the book, which was pub­lished a few days be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion. (The pres­i­dent was re­act­ing to Adams’s Fri­day morn­ing ap­pear­ance on “Fox & Friends.”) But Trump has shown that books — or the snip­pets he hears of them — can af­fect his pol­icy views, as when Ann Coul­ter’s 2015 book, “Adios, Amer­ica,” helped shape his cam­paign state­ments on the sup­posed crim­i­nal­ity of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants.

Aside from lament­ing a “bro­ken” im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem in Amer­ica, and com­plain­ing that le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is hard while il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is easy, “Green Card War­rior” of­fers scarce de­tails on what a re­formed, merit-based ap­proach would look like. In re­cent tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances, how­ever, Adams has ex­pounded fur­ther. “We need to re­ally el­e­vate skills and job prospects and pro­fi­ciency in English over sim­ple fam­ily ties,” he told Fox Busi­ness on Fri­day. “If this is go­ing to re­main the best coun­try in the world, we’ve got to make sure that only the best can come . . . . Amer­ica doesn’t need the B-team from any­where.”

The “ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity” con­di­tion un­der which Adams gained his green card is sup­posed to re­ward in­di­vid­ual merit, grant­ing ad­mis­sion to tal­ented peo­ple at the top of their fields in busi­ness, science, arts, ath­let­ics and other en­deav­ors. Adams be­lieves he pos­sesses such skills — “my ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity was in­dis­putable,” he boasts — and U.S. im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties ap­pear to agree.

Who knew that po­lit­i­cal pun­ditry, an in­dus­try in which the bar­ri­ers to en­try are no­to­ri­ously low, would qual­ify for such treat­ment? And judg­ing from this book, Adams’s tal­ents as a writer would seem to land him com­fort­ably on the B-team. Yet now, with the bless­ing of the pres­i­dent, this over­wrought, self-in­dul­gent and oth­er­wise for­get­table work may prove not just com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful but po­lit­i­cally in­flu­en­tial.

Now that is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Car­los Lozada is the nonfiction book critic of The Wash­ing­ton Post.


Car­los Lozada

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