Tag Archives: Immigration

Different status, same reaction

Tired and a little freaked out by all the news coverage of America’s “crashing economy” and the “next depression” and how my Roth IRA, although fairly minimal, is probably plummeting lower and lower as I type this, Mex and I flipped, first to BBC News and then to Univision so we could find out a little bit about what is going on in the rest of the world. Immediately on Univision I saw the common picture of Police with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement?) on their back conducting raids. What I found surprising is my stomach clenched in the same way it has for almost 7 years. From the time I got to know Mex (Oct 2001) first as a friend, then falling in love (not sure exactly when that part happened), I have had a knot in my stomach at the mere mention of Immigration Raids.

There was a point in our relationship where we both had to make a conscious decision to move forward, knowing the difficulties that would be ahead due to his status (although we didn’t really understand them until a year before our marriage when we met with an attorney). I knew before our first date his situation but I refused to let that bother me since he was a nice guy, always polite and respectful with a big smile. My friend Conchie confirmed that he was a good guy, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t have lots of girls…. he broke from my stereo type of a Mexican man (which, unfortunately, was always fairly negative).

I honestly cannot say enough good things about the type of person Mex is… He is so generous with his time, loving to volunteer at Ronald McDonald house or with church. He always makes me feel loved and beautiful and never criticizes me (except the occasional complaints about my nasty habit of leaving dirty Kleenex around). He strives to succeed and worked hard at his English classes, even before he met me. He worries about my family as if they are his own. He feels a responsibility to take care of his dad and my parents as well as they age. He is honest, loving, a great cook… A hard worker, sometimes having 3 jobs and working over 100 hours a week. yes, he’s also incredibly stubborn, getting a little sassy, and a picky eater but nobody is perfect.

I suppose you are wondering what my point is with this rambling about Mex’s good qualities. Every time in the past 7 years that I have heard of an Immigration raid I panic. My stomach would clench so tight I felt nauseous and my mind would race trying to figure out where Mex was if I wasn’t with him at the time. I would cry as the news caster would interview the spouse and children of those arrested. I would get angry by the unfairness of it all. Usually people were arrested at work, trying to make money for their families, having no previous criminal history. To be fair, I completely understand the argument that “they came here illegally so they are all criminals.” I do see the point. It is true in the literal sense I suppose. However, as a spouse who knows what an incredible person her husband is, how he helps others, pays taxes, learned English… I just don’t see how we can put any group of people in a box and have a blanket way of dealing with them.

It frustrated and angered me that I knew, even though Mex’s spouse was a US citizen, even though he is an honest guy, etc., if he was ever caught in the middle of a raid it wouldn’t matter… They wouldn’t take that into consideration. They would rip him out of my life, maybe without even allowing him to call me. That fear was constant in our lives. It was especially terrible during the beginning of our relationship when I respected Mex’s wishes and didn’t divulge his status to anyone (or almost anyone). I had no one to share my fears with. The nights I laid awake after the raids at Swift and in southern MN in sheer panic, I had no one to call. Acid burned in the back of my throat as I listened to anti-immigrant people call in to radio shows and make ignorant comments about how “all” illegals abuse welfare, don’t know English, don’t pay taxes. These are the same people who would assume they knew a person’s story just by the color of their skin. That assume all Latinos are Mexican and all Mexicans are illegal.

 Mex never wanted me to tell anyone about his status because he didn’t want to be judged by it, and I knew he was right. It made my heart hurt to think people could hate Mex without even getting to know him at all… Without even caring about the type of person he is… Those people think the only thing that matters is how he got to the US. I just will never be able to agree to that. Never. I believe there is such a thing as forgiveness, and if you can show that, even though you may not have got into the US the correct way, you have done nothing but good things since you’ve been here, you deserve some. Thankfully, the government did grant forgiveness to Mex on April 17th, 2008. I hope some of those ultra-radical anti-immigrant activists can open their minds to the idea of forgiveness and close their minds to some of the hatred that they seem to emit from their pores.

Even though I know Mex’s status is now pretty iron clad (unless he commits a felony worthy of having his green card stripped) I still feel panic when I see the ICE people on TV kicking in doors and holding guns. I still feel violated in a way. Unsafe. Like my family is in danger. I do still know many people who are in danger from those raids and maybe that is why my gut tightens. I don’t know exactly. I do know that I hugged Mex tightly last night, long after he fell asleep and thanked everyone I could think of who supported us in our trip this spring for making his forgiveness possible. Everyone who wrote letters, read our blog, sent encouraging emails, prayed, thought good thoughts, towed our PT…. All of you are blessings in our lives and I think every day how you all helped Mex and I take away some of our daily fear of forceful separation. You all showed us how much we are loved and encouraged from our family’s, friends, co-workers of family =), Trinity members…. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the pit of my stomach.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Immigration, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card, Undocumented Worker

A restaurant I will never visit

Well, I haven’t posted anything for a long time and thought I should get one more in by the end of the month. These last couple weeks have been crazy. Mex is working at his old job but he also worked at a German restaurant in NE Minneapolis for a day. While he was at work the owner asked him about his wife, if she was American, and had he married me to get his visa. He asked these questions multiple times and in front of other employees. Now let me just vent for a little while…

First of all, clearly if he had met me he would quickly realize Mex married me for my charm, humor, intelligence, good looks and all that other stuff… =) What really pisses me off is that because I am American and he is Mexican, people belittle our entire relationship and think Mex had a motive for marrying me (other than the above mentioned wonderful qualities). Never mind the fact that I was the one bringing up the marriage issue after 5 years of dating and he was content to continue our relationship as it was. His parents were together for over 20 years and had 12 kids and were never married. Marriage is for the “rich” in Mexico, Mex says. The person you love and are with is your husband/wife with or without the ceremony.

Another thing that I find completely offensive is when I say my husband/boyfriend is from Mexico 80% of people respond with the question “Is he legal?” What kind of question is that? What about “How did you meet?” “How does he treat you?” “What does he do for a living?” “How old is he?” Even complete strangers will ask me that question. Doesn’t anyone else think that is offensive? Is legality or illegality all a Mexican citizen has to offer for an identity? I feel like the people who ask me that question are waiting for an answer from me and, based on that answer, they will already have their opinions about Mex formed without even setting eyes on him or starting up a conversation. For me that question is as personal as asking to see someone’s tax returns from the previous year, or quizing them about details in their bedroom affairs.

One of my other favorites is “How did he get here?” People ask that question and it seems like they are waiting to hear of a harrowing trek through the desert dodging bullets and almost dying of thirst. It seems like such a morbid question. Why not ask him “Why he came to the US?” “When did he come?” No one asks “How.” ummm… a plane, bus, car, taxi…. really… “How” is about transportation and I wouldn’t ask someone from England or Australia to tell me “How” they got to the US.

I realize I’m ranting so I will stop at this point. I just have been very upset by that boss of Mex’s. Mex came home feeling like absolute crap. Like he was worthless. Like his 8 years of cooking skills didn’t matter. His 13 years of learning English didn’t matter. We both felt dirty, sick, sad, like our love didn’t matter. Like all the challenges we’ve overcome these past eight years and especially past six months were for nothing.

All because some jerk decided to put us in a box and judge us by our nationality. That’s the power of a “pendejo,” pardon my Spanish.

2 Comments

Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Immigration, Marital Issues, Minnesota vs. Mexico, Minnesotan/American culture, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card

How important is YOUR name?

I guess neither Mex nor I knew how hard it would be to find a job after he returned. Ironically, employment seemed to come much easier before he got his permanent residency. I guess it could be a sign of the economy. Of course I have started to get suspicious because we’ll see a new job posting online for a restaurant and it says to apply in person and he’ll go the very next day and when he walks in they say “sorry, we aren’t hiring.” I don’t know the proper term for my suspicions… it’s not pessimism… I can’t think of the word… not really skeptism either. ugh! whatever the word is it is FRUSTRATING.

I hate the assumption people make about him from his appearance or voice or name. He has told me repeatedly that he wants our kids (when and if we have them… don’t get excited, I’m NOT pregnant!) to have my last name which makes me a little bit sad. We discuss it very seriously because I think his family would think that it was my fault and absolutely horrible to not take on their father’s name. I feel like we would be denying their Mexican heritage and teaching them a very bad lesson in balancing their bi-culturalness from the start. Mex’s arguement is that he doesn’t want people to judge them immediately from seeing their name on paper. That is what he has always dealt with and is feeling it rather painfully now. Of course if they have an American first name like Fred or William (FYI- neither of those are ones we’d consider) instead of Frederico or Guillermo it might balance out the Latin last name.

It makes me ponder why I decided not to change my name. I mostly did it for business reasons but also, out of sheer laziness. The thought of contacting all the places my name is and changing it just exhausted me. Plus, Mex was begging me to keep it. I still don’t fully understand why. I could have done in the “Mexican” way and become combined our names with his name first and my name last so in the US I would have the same name but in Mexico I would have his name. But again, out of laziness I did not. Contrary to what some people may think, my maintaining my last name had absolutely no feminist undertones. I didn’t do it to “maintain my identity as a woman” or anything like that. I have never been much of a traditionalist on marriage as far as dreaming of my wedding day, big family, etc. I always wanted to be married, maybe have kids, be happy, etc, but never focused much time on it. However, as we talk of children this last name thing does become and issue. Luckily we still have plenty of time to discuss it and come to a decision before any kids are on the horizon…

This issue does remind me of why I was going to start the blog in the first place, before this whole visa process turned us upside down. The title is “Minnesota & Mexico mix” and was supposed to be about cross-cultural bumps between the two of us. Names are apparently one large “tope” around our house (that’s a “speedbump” for those of you who don’t remember my irate typings from the road in Mexico).

Anyway, that’s all for the evening. Best of our thoughts and prayers go out to our friends Amber and Alberto as they start this process this upcoming week! We’re thinking of you!

1 Comment

Filed under Immigration

Flooding memories

Mex and I have some friends that are going throught the same exact process we went through. She just called last night to tell me her husband got his interview notice for July 1st. When she said that I felt sympathy knots in my stomach and the memories of that first week of February flooded back to me…

The mixture of fear and joy when we actually had the date in our hands. The intense panic because we didn’t feel prepared and had so much information to gather. The anxiety over how in the world it was possible to get everything done in a month while still working and squeeking out every last penny you can. The excitement to see Mexico with my husband and meet the family I had heard about for so long. The gut-twisting terror that things wouldn’t work out as we had planned and he may have to stay there.

Those feelings begin tossing us around like a canoe in the ocean from the minute we saw the deadline in black and white on the paper. It wouldn’t have mattered if we had every single paper in order and all of our travel plans made… Just like it didn’t matter that we had been planning to do this before we were even engaged… Over three years of knowing what was necessary to have my husband become a Permanent Legal Resident. I’ve decided that even though it is possible to prepare financially or physically for this, or any challenge in life, it is impossible to completely prepare yourself emotionally.

It reminds me of what another friend told me when she talked about having a child… “I don’t feel ready, but I didn’t last year either. I could keep waiting but, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready so we just decided to do it.” Now she is the proud mother of the cutest twin baby girls ever and is comfortable in her new role. I bet she can’t imagine the world without her girls now and those pre-pregnancy worries seem far away. We weren’t “ready” for my husband’s interview notice either but now we can’t believe we dragged out the process for so long. Looking back, it was easy to “wait” before we got his interview date… It was stressful and exhausting from the point of our notice until his actual second interview… But now, we can enjoy life and each other without the shadow that followed us for our entire relationship. We can tour Europe if we want to or hop on a plane to Mexico at any time… Mex can open a retirement account and I can finally make him the beneficiary on all of mine. The little things we didn’t even realize we worried about are now gone… of course we still get to have all the fun ‘discussions’ like “who left the toilet seat up?” “whose turn is it to clean the bathroom?” “you drive like a crazy person!” oh the joys of being together!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friends and we look forward to helping them prepare for this exciting (but highly stressful) time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Immigration, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card

It isn’t really green…

Well, it has been three weeks since we got home and Mexico seems like a distant memory. It makes us both sad and we are trying to figure out when the next trip will be able to happen. Part of that depends on if Northwest Airlines still allows people to use frequent flier miles and when there is a free ticket available. It has also been over two weeks since I’ve entered anything on the blog so I’m guessing I’ve lost most of my readership! =(

I must say that we are both overwhelmed by the number of people who were reading our blog and the support we have been given. We have received letters, cards, emails, and too many kind words to count. It has warmed both of our hearts so much to know there were so many people, some who had never even met us, following our story and feeling so passionate about the results.

Yesterday, Mex got his “Green Card” in the mail. Yay! It isn’t actually green at all. It is shiny and official and even has his fingerprint on it. It does have an expiration date of 2018 (which it freaks me out on a whole ‘nother level to just imagine how fast that date will come) but it doesn’t really expire. It’s like a passport where you just need to send in an application and probably more money and get a new one. Of course, by then we hope he will be a citizen!

Not much has been new for us. We both got quite drastic haircuts… of course we should have gotten them before going to keep us cool instead of now when we need to warm up a little. Just kidding! no complaints about the weather from us! Mex has been working on finishing up some loose ends in his quest for a US diploma. He’s finished two more trimesters of work in this last week (he needs 36 total to graduate) so he’s got about seven done. He’s hoping the long hours he’s been putting in will catch him up from the two months he missed.

Mex is still looking for a job. He would like to continue working in food service so he can get more experience in order to run his own restaurant one day. Let us know if you know of anyone who is hiring! We haven’t tried very hard yet but need to get in gear as the end of the month nears because we were hoping he’d have a job by June.

Anyway, thank you all again for your overwhelming kindness and support. We feel so cared for it makes us smile every day!

1 Comment

Filed under Immigration, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card

El Paso again

Finally at 4:45 we met up with mom and dad in the Barnes and Noble parking lot in El Paso. Mex got back to the hotel in Juarez about 11:30. So the 2 1/2 hours at the Consulate this morning was his shortest visit yet! In order to get his official visa we had to go to the border station about 12 miles west of Juarez in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. It was about an hour drive and we got there at 1:30. It was nice because there were very few cars. The officer didn’t search us at all. I had to wait in the car outside the fence at the border station until 2:55 when I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to go inside to check on him. I saw he was at the counter turning in his big pile of papers so I went back outside to wait. At exactly 3pm we hopped in the car!

Line at Santa Teresa border crossing west of Juarez

I just can’t resist sharing this one detail…. At the Consulate they gave Mex a huge stack of papers (all our 100 pages plus some more) in a manila envelope with just the corner cut off so you could barely see what was inside. There were instructions that it was to be opened only by the border agent, similar to his medical documents. On the outside there was a summary page stapled with his name and case number, etc. I was happily reading through it as we were driving towards our exit. I got to the occupation part and burst out laughing… It read “house husband.” I just about burst a gut and Mex was not very amused. I guess since he had to quit his job before leaving because of the length of time he is technically a “house husband.” He will be off like a shot once we get back to Minnesota to find a job for sure now!

On the "Right" side of the fence!

2 Comments

Filed under Immigration, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card

Waiting with the car packed!

Another day of waiting for me but the stress is removed so I really don´t mind. I just got the car rearranged with our souvenirs shifted around and a whole bag of shoes (of which we only wore three pairs) packed up in the backseat. We just need to throw in the suitcases and figure out how to get out of this town.

Those of you who know my husband will appreciate how sneaky he was yesterday… At about 12:40 there was a knock on the hotel room door and I opened it and Mex was standing there with his envelope and a COMPLETELY straight face. The maid was behind him with her cart. He looked at me and said ´the maid wants to know what time you want the room cleaned´still not smiling in the least. I grabbed his shoulders and said ¨I don´t care what time she cleans the room WHAT DID THEY SAY?¨ Still completely straight-faced he said “oh, it´s approved.” It took about three seconds for it to register since he wasn´t smiling… Then I literally screamed (really loud I´m afraid) and pulled him into the room where we all gave him hugs and after a few seconds he finally smiled. When he  opened the door to tell the maid we just needed some clean towels and that was it she said congratulations for whatever you are celebrating.

I don´t think the two of us stopped smiling all night. We did discuss how we were both wondering what would happen if they said no but we were too afraid to say it out loud to each other. Our attorney´s office had emailed us with the news that people had been given 6 to 8 month waits lately but she did also say that people were still getting answers the same day. We agreed that when my parents showed up it was a relief on many levels. Our initial reaction was that everything had to turn out all right because they were here to drive home with us. Then we did let the thought creep in our minds that if he had to wait, at least I wouldn´t have to drive back alone. We decided it was ok to have doubts as long as you keep talking in the positive. We never stopped talking about all the things we wanted to see in the US on the way home and never made any arrangements or looked into any prices for him to fly back to his town. I think, most importantly for me, my parents showing up finally made Mex realize how much they love HIM as well as me, and that he is TRULY a part of our family. That is as  important than his “yes”.

Because we have been married for more than two years, Mex is now a PERMANENT LEGAL RESIDENT. That means he does not have to renew any visa for 10 years! No more paperwork and no more fees (of which we paid more than $7000 in the past two years, not including the last two months of hotel stays, travel, and time off work). If we had been married less than two years at this time he would have gotten a TEMPORARY LEGAL RESIDENT visa which would need to be renewed either after two years or at our two year wedding anniversary, I´m not sure about that. In just three years he can become a US CITIZEN! That is assuming he passes the test and after another $1000+ in fees.

This is far from a cheap process. We sought a consultation with an attorney a full year before our wedding and 9 months before we were even engaged so we knew what we were up against from the beginning. Actually, at our initial consultation in January 2005, the attorney said he would need to be in Mexico for 9 to 18 months awaiting a decision. We saved money for more than three years in order to do this. It gives us both an understanding for how hard and incapacitating the process is for most people who try to change their status. It is a large sum of money and requires a serious change in lifestyle and is very difficult for those who come to the US with the sole intent of sending as much money home as they can and just keeping enough in the US to survive. Especially because the average wage is below $10 an hour.

My heart is open to the people of Mexico, more so than before, because we have seen some truly terrible living conditions in many different parts of the country… Horrible dry, hot weather… water shortages… lack of jobs… poor sanitation and piles of trash in places that could be so beautiful. It is heart-breaking to see the poverty but it has helped me understand the motivation of millions and millions of people who come to the US and all those people in line at the US Consulate day in and day out.

I will take pictures as we cross the border! My parents brought their computer so I can actually update my pictures soon. I´ve been dying to do it since the places we saw on the last half of the trip are so different from the first half. We did take notes on hotels and restaurants and roads and anything we could think of for all the towns we went to so if you ever want some travelling advice let us know. And DO NOT be afraid to drive in Mexico! It´s really not that bad. Just be defensive and look out for anyone with Distrito Federal (Mexico City) license plates because they truly are insane drivers!!

More photos soon! HAPPY DAY!

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Immigration, Mexican culture, Mexico, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card