The Gift From My Muslim Ex-Husband

Hey kids.

I’ve been watching/listening to/reading about the anti-Muslim news in the U.S. through half-closed eyes. Squinting in the hopes that eventually it would go away.

Listen, it happens. I’m not proud of that. But we all have our moments as activists where we put the pack down for someone else to pick up. Privilege plays a big role in that.

Well, my knapsack is firmly back on my shoulders.

Today’s post is written from my perspective as a New Yorker, as a cultural Jew and as a convert to Catholicism. I’m also writing it from the perspective as the former wife of a Moroccan Muslim man.

I know – news to some – but not to everyone who reads this blog.

R is my second husband. I was married to H for over three years.

There was a Quran in our house.  H usually prayed five times a day, as many Muslims do all across the U.S. He prayed in our Brooklyn apartments. In celebrations at Prospect Park. At the local mosque. At the homes of our friends and families. At the restaurant where we both worked. Later on, at his media job in the city.

Fasting during Ramadan while working as a cook in a restaurant must have been tough as nails. But H did it cheerfully. Faithfully. I would join him and fast on Fridays during Ramadan. I felt very connected to him spiritually during those moments.

I went twice to Morocco. In the working-class neighborhood where H’s family lived in Casablanca, the calls to prayer were announced over a loudspeaker, no matter the hour. I was welcomed by H’s family with open arms, this non-Muslim woman from the U.S. who spoke next-to-no Arabic.

So I don’t tell you this today to make me out to be an expert on Islam. But I am talking to you today as someone who once shared her life intimately with a Muslim man.

I’m furious about the ignorance, hatred and fear towards Muslims that I’m watching explode all over the U.S. The mosques that are being torched. The protests in New York City against the construction of the Cordoba House Community Center. And the white men who want to burn the Quran in the name of all that is holy.

I want to be rational about this, but I find that I can’t. I keep thinking that I’ll blog about this when I’m calmer. But I’m only getting angrier.

If R is able to enter the U.S. again, we always thought that it would be great to go back to New York. At this point, I want R to be able to enter the U.S. out of a deep desire for justice. While R thinks that he may never be able to enter the U.S. again, I’ve always cupped my hand around a small spark of hope, trying to keep it alive.

But you know what? On a day like today, I’m sitting here in front of my laptop with my head in my hands. The United States of today is not the U.S. that R was deported from on April 26, 2001.

H and I didn’t work out. It was my decision to go. We haven’t spoken in years. But today, I stand in solidarity with my former husband. I will always stand for his right to be a pious and practicing Muslim in the United States. I will add my voice to create safe space for him.

One of the biggest gifts that H gave me was that I learned a a great deal about Islam. I got over my ignorance and my fear. I have opinions about Islam based on knowledge and experience. From waking up on Sunday mornings to the sound of H praying towards Mecca in the next room.

H, if you are reading this today, shukran. براك الله فيك

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.

Hopelessness During Hard Times

Hello mis blog peeps.

You know, the World Cup is a lovely distraction. And I’ve been drilling into freelance work like nobody’s business. Head in the sand and all that.

But I’m overwhelmed by all of the bad and terrible news when it comes to US immigration. Right now, I’m in the moment where I can only take it in thimble-sized doses.

It happens. I get overloaded.

The funeral dirge that is the immigration situation in the US marches on, whether I click on the latest link or not.

And I learn of more and more blogs/news by and about US spouses who live and breathe my situation. US spouses  who try to do everything immigration-wise by the letter, and still have to choose between living without their partner in the US, or living with their spouse in another country.

And most of our spouses don’t get deported back to a “first-world” nation.

While on the one hand I now have a community that means the world to me, I’m also destroyed by the fact that there are so many of us out there. Our numbers grow every day.

You know the birds that are swamped with BP’s oil, like this one?

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert/May 9

That’s how I feel like right now. No matter how we US spouses fight against that literal and figurative border wall, we still get swept up in the slick.

There’s a real and deep connection between the amount of oil that continues to gush in the Gulf of Mexico, and the amount of time that comprehensive immigration reform continues to go unresolved in the United States.

These feelings of hopelessness around a realistic resolution to comprehensive immigration reform in the US weigh heavily on me.

Thick and sludge-like oil on my immigration activist wings.

Pro-Immigration Neo-Nazis

Happy Friday peeps. Have you taken my blog’s donation button for a spin yet?:)

You know, something came up recently that has come up many times before:

People simply don’t understand that I live full-time in Mexico with my husband.

As a writer and performer, I have my own website, complete with a super-short bio. Even have a quick FAQ section for my show, The Deportee’s Wife. (Where I reiterate that I live in Mexico with R)

And yet, I can’t tell you how many times people in the States ask things along the lines of,

“How often do you visit your husband in Mexico?”

“When did you two decide to separate?”

“Is it hard with the two of you living in different countries?”

“We need you for a show in the States in a week/two days/this afternoon…etc…” (And of course, no offer of travel expenses)

Sure, there’ll be moments when I’m in the States for extended periods of time, due to my artistic work. That information is also on my website.

But here’s what gets me heated – the majority of the time, the confusion about where I live comes from people involved in the pro-immigration movement.

They’re usually white, middle-to-upper class, and have the “best” of intentions:

They want me to come and perform my show. They supposedly want me and my show to be a space for dialogue.

But they’re not listening. Forget about listening, they’re not reading.

And what I find fascinating is the unspoken assumption: Because I have formal education, grew up in an upper-middle class environment, US-born, of mixed race yet “pass,” etc…the unspoken assumption is that there’d be no way in hell that I’d live full-time with my husband in Mexico.

No matter how great a guy he may be.

Now, let me be clear here – all of us who have an immigration situation that directly affects our lives have the right to make whatever decision we want to in regards to our living situation.

So I’m no better a spouse than my US counterparts who stay in the US when immigration hits and splits their own family’s life. We all have our reasons.

But if these supposedly pro-immigrant white and privileged US-based activists who want to hire me/interview me/photograph me asap and can’t bother to read a one-paragraph bio in English and my small FAQ section, well then, here’s my question to them:

How are you  pro-immigrant activists purporting to give their voice to the voiceless, i.e. the undocumented people in the US?

Because if me with all of my privileges is met with such a degree of ignorance/lack of all types of listening, then how are undocumented people with a lot less privilege in the US being heard?

Let me put it to you like the New Yorker I am: If you’re a white, middle-upper class, formally educated  pro-immigration activist who has no direct and personal examples of immigration decimation in your own life, then you must identify and deal with your areas of privilege BEFORE you dive head-first into pro-immigration reform.

And you must listen like you’ve never listened before. There is no other option.

If you don’t follow that rule, I’ll take dealing with an anti-immigrant neo-nazi any day over dealing with the likes of you.

At least with the neo-nazi, I know exactly where we both stand.

PS. A first-a PS on my blog! My friend directed me towards this short video, by News with Nezua. Perfect.

The Diamond-Studded Saw That Replaces Immigration Reform

Kids, happy Wednesday.

So let’s start class today, shall we?

The BP leak is gushing thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s lots of finger-pointing. Lots of political tap-dancing. Thousands of families are affected, and naturally, the land itself.

US Immigration is deporting thousands of immigrants back to countries like Mexico. There’s lots of finger pointing. Lots of political tap-dancing. Thousands of families are affected, and naturally, the land itself.

More problems ahead for BP as stated in the New York Times today: “The latest attempt to contain the gushing into the Gulf of Mexico hit a snag Wednesday when a diamond-studded saw operated by an underwater robot got stuck in the riser pipe it was intended to slice off, federal officials said.”

The US Department of State is now increasing fees for all nonimmigrant visa applications.

This includes the fiancé(es) visa, commonly known as the K visa.

There’s never time available to address immigration reforms.

But there’s apparently all the time in the world to raise immigration fees.

So kids, let’s just think of these fee increases as the US Government’s  “diamond-studded saw that got stuck in the riser pipe that it was intended to slice off.”

I’ll let you decide who the underwater robot is.

Because let me be clear here: The US Government is intending to slice off as many immigrants as it can.

What If Someone Broke into Your House of Rhetoric?

So a page out of the anti-immigration reform movement’s playbook is some form of the following:

“What is someone broke into your house and stayed there. And ate your food, and had kids in your house, etc…”

I can not and will not speak for all of Latin America.

But I will take the liberty today to speak for some of el pueblo de México.

Here are three topics that you can start to research so as to better understand why Mexicans aren’t arbitrarily, “Breaking into your house.”

I’m not going to chew them up and spit them out into small bites for you. There’s already an incredible amount of solid information out there.

I’m a big believer that if this topic means something to you, (regardless of if you’re pro-immigration reform or anti-immigration reform,) then you need to go and educate yourself. Take ownership of your personal education on this issue.

1. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – Who signed it? When was it signed? Why was it signed? Who came down from the mountains when NAFTA was signed, and why? What has happened to small farmers in Mexico since the signing of NAFTA? Has Mexico entered the “first world” as was promised upon the signing of NAFTA?

2. Neoliberalism – What is it? Is it good for the US? Is it good for Mexico?

3.  US Citizenship and Immigration Services Spend some time on their website here. Pretend that you are applying for permanent residency to the US, or that someone you love is applying for US permanent residency.

My recommendation would be to spend no less than 30 minutes in the site.Then look up the definition for institutionalized racism. See if you can make a connection between the two.

Once you’ve done all that, then I’d love to know if you think that undocumented Mexicans are still, “breaking into houses.”

Why Can’t Those “Illegals” Just Use the System?

So a little story hour for your Friday. Pull up a seat, because this one’s a doozy.

A good friend of mine (US citizen) is married to a Mexican man. Her husband had a US permanent residency appointment for Monday, December 28 of last year.

For those of you who don’t know, you just don’t stroll up to the US Consulate the day of your appointment. You have to arrive at least two days before, to complete a medical exam.

So if your US permanent residency appointment in Ciudad Juárez is for a Monday, you have to arrive the Thursday of the week before, to have a medical exam on Friday. Then you get to spend the weekend in Ciudad Juárez , waiting for your Monday appointment.

The most dangerous city in all of Mexico.

And, of course, the US Consulate is closed the 24th and 25th of December. So if my friend and her husband didn’t postpone the appointment, he’d have to arrive in  Juárez on Wednesday, December 23rd. That much more time to spend by himself in Juárez. Merry Christmas, indeed.

So they went through the correct and legal channels to reschedule his appointment. My friend was told that the appointment would be rescheduled in 2-3 months. It took 5 months.

The appointment finally happened this month, in May.

Now, my friend’s husband doesn’t have any deportations on his record. Never was undocumented in the US. No criminal record in Mexico or the US. He has a valid US tourist visa. My friend is a US citizen with a clean record. Her father proudly served in the US military.

This past Tuesday, my friend and her husband received notice that he was denied permanent residency to the US.

Why?

Oooh, kids-this is my favorite part of today’s story.

We have to do this high-context style, and go back in time a little. My friend was her husband’s financial sponsor for the permanent residency to the US. At his permanent residency appointment, the US government wasn’t happy with my friend as her husband’s financial sponsor, so due to the US government’s error in mathematics, my friend’s father quickly stepped in to be the financial sponsor. The father signed the correct documents, and sent over his tax records. Everything was scanned, and emailed to my friend’s husband in Ciudad Juárez.

The next morning, my friend’s husband handed in the documents at the US Consulate. A consulate worker reviewed the documents, and told my friend’s husband that everything was fine, and to wait 2-3 days for a DHL package. Cool. My friend’s husband flew back home.

Very kind people – you know who are:) – agreed to pick up his DHL package, and send it to the city where my friend and her husband live.

Because this is another lovely trick by the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez; their response time is supposedly 2-3 days after your appointment. But the US Consulate’s response is sent to the DHL store in, yep, you guessed it-Ciudad Juárez. So if you don’t have someone kind enough to pick up your package for you, you need to wait out those 2-3 days.

More time to kill in Ciudad Juárez.

OK-so my friend and her husband finally got their DHL package in their home this past Tuesday. The package had the husband’s Mexican passport, and the denial letter. The letter said that his application was denied because…

The US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez needed original signatures on the financial support documents from the father, i.e., they couldn’t be scanned.

So, when the US Consulate worker reviewed the documents in front of my friend’s husband, they couldn’t have told him that right then?

My friend’s father express mailed the same documents with the original signatures to them. My friend and her husband went to the local DHL offices, and sent the originals with them, along with the husband’s Mexican passport, back to the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez.

In the denial letter, they were told that they had an opportunity to re-send the materials. Now to send the documents and the passport from the city where they live to Juárez is approximately $300 Mexican pesos, around $23 US right now. How much does it cost for the US Consulate to send back the husband’s Mexican passport with an answer? $100 US dollars. I’m so not kidding. The $100 is of course on top of the application fees, lawyer fees that they paid up to this point, plus paying for the trip to Juárez. (flight, hotel, food)

Did it say in the denial letter from the US Consulate how long it will take for a response? No. Are my friend and her husband absolutely 100% sure that they will get a yes on the US permanent residency? No. Was her husband’s valid tourist visa shredded at the US consulate? Yes. They had travel plans coming up next week for an important family event in the States. He is almost 100% not going.

My friend openly talks about her high level of privilege in the many different areas of her life. And yet, even her husband’s case, his US permanent residency case isn’t a slam-dunk.

Big sigh.

BP should talk with the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez: I’m sure that the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez has a ton of extra papers that they could get rid of to plug the gushing oil leak. At least in that case, a person’s legal permanent residency application to the US would be put to some good use, no?