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.