Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain

dorthy and dog

Once my husband Picasso received his U.S. permanent residency approval, I thought, “this is it.” 

In my ignorance and privilege as a U.S. citizen, I figured that it was time to cue the happy ending music.

What I’ve learned this past few weeks since returning from our home-closing trip to Mexico is that there’s so much more for me to learn.

Me, who thought incorrectly and arrogantly that I already knew a lot about issues around immigration.

Me, who confidently thought she already knew a lot about herself and her husband and our relationship.

And while it hurts like a motherfucker, I want to name here how my sadness and rage against U.S. immigration morphed and worked its way into my relationship with my husband over the years.

I want to name how sometimes I wasn’t as tough on my husband around specific issues that we tussled with, because I secretly felt bad that certain doors in this world were closed to him because of his immigration situation.

I want to name here how sometimes I treated my husband like a hothouse flower, to be tended to very carefully, because I felt that he suffered a lot already over the course of his life, immigration and otherwise. 

I want to name here that sometimes I was the cause of his suffering and reacted by tending to him even more, my guilty feelings building another addition to my hothouse.

I want to name here that I’m disappointed about having to be the main breadwinner for at least the next year here in the States, while my husband gets his GED, gets a job, builds his credit, get’s a driver’s license, works on his English, gets his footing in the States. I was excited to put that main breadwinner pack down, after 14 years. I saw how I mentally flung that pack into the creek that flows by Heather Wilhelmina and Mr. Vulcan’s house a few weeks ago.

I watched myself sheepishly fish the pack out of the creek last night.

What shocked me this morning was looking out the window and realizing that when my husband entered the U.S., I naively thought that we were going to be equals now.

That in this new chapter, he was just like me – a visible and active member of this society.

Yeah, you can laugh now. It’s O.K.

Because clearly, in my privilege disguised as naivete, I didn’t think about where we are not the same, in terms of formal education, mastery of English, class, race and access in this neck of the woods.

The simple fact of how my name Giselle Stern doesn’t scream out “Mexican” on a resume, but Picasso’s full name does. And the conclusions people draw, conclusions based on our names alone.

I’m tired and tattered. Periods of growth and change will do that to you. 

I want to be clear here – it means the world to me that my husband and I get to live together with our cats in a supportive household. The reunification of families destroyed by U.S. immigration policies will always be a priority for me. 

But I do feel that there’s a dirty little secret that’s not talked about a lot – the next chapter for immigrants who have complicated pasts and are suddenly brought to the front of the line. It’s like the U.S.-born family members are supposed to shut up and be grateful. Not talk about the challenges, because there are so many people who want to be in our shoes.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately what I was taught about the U.S. as a young child, i.e., the U.S. being the best and most powerful nation of them all.

Do you all remember that line from The Wizard of Oz?

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

I’ve been feeling a lot like Dorothy lately, when she says this:

“If you are really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises.” 

Amen, Dorothy. Amen.

You Break It, You Buy It

Origami by Won Park

My husband now has a U.S. permanent residency appointment on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 8:15 am at the American Consulate General in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

This appointment comes 12 years and 2 months after Picasso’s deportation.

While I’m happy that the appointment is finally official and scheduled against a tremendous number of odds and obstacles, I’m having a U.S. consumer moment, i.e., you get what you pay for.

What do I mean?

My husband’s U.S. permanent residency appointment fee: $404 (while I know that there are different numbers out there, this is what’s confirmed that he will pay for his specific appointment.)

My husband’s medical exam for the U.S. permanent residency appointment: $211

My husband’s vaccinations for the U.S. permanent residency appointment: anywhere from $20-$300, depending on what is needed. Let’s just say $100 in vaccinations for the sake of a number.

My husband’s flight from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez: $152

So, we’re at  $867 already, perhaps higher, depending on vaccinations.

This $867 doesn’t include my travel, or lodging and food for both of us. That total doesn’t include the previous $585 paid for the waiver, the fees for our great lawyer, which are more than fair, but fees nonetheless.

It doesn’t include emergency money to have on hand for any unexpected issues that may arrive.

It doesn’t include our regular life bills that will come tumbling in the first of August, right after Picasso’s appointment.

And what’s killing me right now is that there are no guarantees on the other end of this, i.e., my husband has a 50 percent chance of getting a yes, and a 50 percent chance of getting a no.

I know that there’s a tremendous amount of privilege in getting to this point. I personally know people who’d pay any price, financial, physical, or otherwise to switch places with us.

But that’s also my point.

My husband and I will piece this money together with help from family and friends. But not everyone has that level of support.

The privilege that pounds through my veins, even at this level of the game.

And I’m crying as I write this, because that privileged Giselle, the Giselle that was born and raised in the U.S., the pre-ten-years-in-Mexico Giselle, the Giselle that didn’t understand the depth of her issues around class, that Giselle wants her husband’s permanent residency appointment to be a guaranteed yes on the other end because of the money that’s being laid out up front.

And yet, if there’s one thing that’s for sure in all of this, it’s that U.S. immigration doesn’t offer refunds.

Your break that border, you buy it – in time, tears and cash.

Our Dandelion Fantasy Team

Hey Sunday Peeps.

Photo: Tina Phillips

So all the Colbert talk got me thinking. There’s a real vacuum in terms of a public figures coming out loud and proud in support of CIR, Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I feel that the lack of public figures is symptomatic to what’s going on in the country as a whole. I believe that there are public figures who can rock their privileges and platforms for the good of the CIR. I feel that just as with the general public, the very well-known peeps either don’t care, don’t agree and/or are afraid to make politically incorrect mistakes.

But no matter how you slice it, we’re not having much-needed and necessary dialogue. Moving past preaching to the choir or screeching at those who don’t agree. A public figure popping up and out could get things cracking.

You know how people create fantasy football teams and the like? Well, I’m taking my dandelion and making my top two wishes for the peeps that I’d like to see pick up the CIR banner in their own style and voice:

1. Cesar Millan, aka The Dog Whisperer. This New York Times article talks about how he was undocumented in the U.S. way back in the day. I know that animals, particularly dogs, are his passion and his gift. I really love his show and respect his work. I think that he could bring his  much-needed “calm yet assertive “energy to the public conversation, as well as open up the lines of communication for groups of people who are uncomfortable dialoging on this issue.

2. Oprah Winfrey. I know that there are some DREAM Act students that are already all over that idea and are working on it. What if she at the very least promoted We Are Americans as a last hurrah in the final season of her book club? I feel that she has the potential for being a great ally for CIR.

Who would you like to see? Let’s build a Dandelion Fantasy Soccer Team! ( or fútbol – wink to Anne B:)

So we need nine more players, i.e. public figures. Who would you put and why?

And this is not a test! I’m simply curious to see who’d be your dandelion wish:)

SB1070 and Mexico

Hey peeps.

Its been weird watching the SB1070 news here in Mexico. One Mexican politician after another has come forward all swagger and bravado about the parts that were killed in the bill.

So these men in ties rumble into the microphones. But on the whole, there’s no accountability for Mexico’s economy. An economy that’s as thin and fragile as the last potato chip in the bottom of the bag.

There’s no talk of the intersectionality of the issues. There’s no talk about the correlation between the numbers of undocumented Mexican immigrants and the Mexican off-key melody that forces them to dance across danger to the U.S.

And of course, there’s no talk about the racial profiling that exists here in Mexico. That someone with darker skin like my husband gets followed by security in a department store like Sanborn’s.

So weird is the word when I watch the dirge-like progression of the events around SB1070 from here in the Global South.

Because the Mexican government’s official reaction to SB1070 feels and looks like a cheap suit.

Señores, your seams are showing.

Whistling Dixie in July

Hello kids.

The expression “too little too late” is banging around my head this morning.

It comes up when I think about President Obama’s speech last week on immigration combined with the US Justice Department suing Arizona over SB1070.

There’s this big and obvious push to make it look like Obama and the US government finally woke up.

But I truly believe that it is all about a focused and concentrated political strategy for the upcoming November elections.

Once again, undocumented immigrants and their families aren’t at the center of this issue.

As I’ve stated previously, Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) passing this year is about as likely as one of my cats standing on two legs and belting out a Lady Gaga song.

So why all of the sudden intensity?

Kids, it feels to me like an ex trying to win us back.

You know how it is. Once you’ve made the decision to walk away, the other person wakes up.

But it’s too little too late.

President Obama, you know that ring of hope that you placed on my finger on Election Night in 2008?

I just pawned it for some much-needed cash.

Radical Love from Where We Least Expect It

Hey Kids.

I’d like to post some words by Thich Nhat Hanh today. They come from his book, Peace is Every Step. Thank you to S for sharing it with me.

These words resonate for me in light of what I’m going through personally and what I’m witnessing right now from both sides of the immigration movement.

I feel that President Barack Obama is very clearly using the immigration movement as a political football. I walk around with a lot of anger and sadness about this issue, as well as other issues in my life.

But what if those of us in the immigration movement met him and the others in government with love? Radical love?

What if we all met each other with radical love?

What if we actively meditated on loving thoughts for Governor Jan Brewer?

What if we actively meditated on loving thoughts for Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

What if I send you loving thoughts and you sent them back, no matter how we feel about the immigration debate?

A Love Letter to Your Congressman

In the peace movement, there is a lot of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding. People in the peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not so skilled at writing love letters. We need to learn to write letters to the Congress and the President that they will want to read, and not just throw away. They way we speak, the kind of understanding, the kind of language we use should not turn people off. The President is a person like any of us.

Can the peace movement talk in loving speech, showing the way for peace? I think that will depend on whether the people in the pace movement can “be peace.” Because without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. If we cannot smile, we cannot help other people smile. If we are not peaceful, then we cannot contribute to the peace movement.

I hope we can offer a new dimension to the peace movement. The peace movement often is filled with anger and hatred and does not fulfill the role we expect of it. A fresh way of being peace, of making peace is needed. That is why it is so important for us to practice mindfulness, to acquire the capacity to look, to see,and to understand. It would be wonderful if we could bring to the peace movement our non-dualistic way of looking at things. That alone would diminish hatred and aggression. Peace work means, first of all, being peace. We rely on each other. Our children are relying on us in order for them to have a future.

Kids, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.


The Deportee’s Wife

When Dialogue is Pointless

What’s up peeps. Feliz Friday.

So you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.

Lordy loo, ain’t that the truth!

Let’s just have some fun today, shall we? Here are some perceptions about who I am, based solely on what people see in my show or even before my show, based on things as small as a poster. These have either been said to my face or told to someone else that I know.

1. I’m a classic Brooklyn Jew and all I care about is money.

2. I’m an angry Latina with a big bone to pick.

3. I’m a white girl and I’ve got nothing to teach the Latin@ community about immigration.

4. My show is an academic exercise and is solely intellectual.

5. My show is too emotional and over-the-top.

6. I use the show to push my Marxist agenda.

Whatever. I know that by standing onstage I’m inviting a whole load of other people’s baggage.

That’s life. That’s art.

But R isn’t onstage. He has final say in the script/visuals/sound. However, he’s not up there.

So attack me personally all you want.

But don’t touch R on a personal level.

Not because he’s perfect or that he’s beyond reproach. Not at all.

Honestly, if I have to explain the why about that to you, then you’re not going to get it anyway.

Big. Damn. Sigh.