Thursday, November 10th, 2016

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Photo: R.C.O.

Today is Thursday, November 10th, 2016. My husband was at his job this morning, minding his own business.

He usually wears paint-splattered jeans and t-shirts with stains. He works with his hands over the course of his day and things gets messy. His job involves moving repeatedly between his job’s three buildings.

My husband’s skin is the color of dark cherry wood. His cheekbones sail out over his jawbone. Lately he’s been wearing a old beige and white baseball cap over his full head of wavy black hair.

He walks to get around, so he was outside, walking from one building to the other. Between projects. Between thoughts. Between plans. A caulking gun in one hand, a tube of silicone adhesive in the other.

Today, Thursday, November 10th, 2016, for the very first time after two and half years at this job, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security patrol car heads directly towards my husband and slows down to a menacing speed. Right up in his physical space. Clearly trying to threaten and intimidate. The two DHS officers in the patrol car saw my husband. His skin color and pronounced cheekbones. His paint-splattered clothes, his worn-out baseball cap.

And they made a decision about him.

The U.S. permanent residency visa that my husband received in 2013 wont protect him right just then.

Thing is, from the multiple lives that my husband’s led, this isn’t the first time in his 43 years that men in a car have come up at him like that. In uniform or otherwise. He does not challenge the DHS officers. He does not walk away quickly, pretending not to see them. He does not run.

My husband slows down his walk. His spine made of steel arcs towards the sun. He looks directly at them with neutral eyes.

Their patrol car almost comes to a full stop now. That horrible moment before the moment where shit can go down five different ways within the frame of ten seconds.

All three men are silent. Right then, my husband takes a good look at them and sees that both DHS officers are Latino. One of them types something into a laptop.

Eduardo Galeano’s open veins pool all around them.

The sound of an airplane taking off nearby permeates the space.

The DHS officer driving the patrol car suddenly guns his engine and they speed away.

My husband, due to his job and his way of being, doesn’t text me regularly during the day. But this morning? I look down at my cell phone and see that I have five texts in a row from him. And no call. I read the messages where he tells me what happened, my left hand pressed across my face to push the scream back into my mouth.

And he ends his unusual text wave with this in Spanish: Next time, I’m going to have FaceBook Live ready. Because this will continue to happen.

I’ve spent this day sobbing on and off. Remembering his sweet smile when we walked through the San Francisco International Airport in September of 2013, his new U.S. permanent residency visa in his hands. A new chapter. A new leaf.

The results of this election didn’t take me by surprise. Hell no. Too many signs for way too long.

But the fact that my husband was threatened and harassed by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers right outside of his job two days after this election? Yeah, that took me the hell by surprise.

And if I start to cry every morning that I drop off my husband at work because I’m scared that he won’t come back home at the end of the day, he’s going to start taking the bus. My husband’s a loving man, but also a practical one.

So I need to fix my literal and figurative face. Because I’m going to drive my husband to work tomorrow like I do every day, with my silver hoops on at 6:15 am, and my black puffy winter coat over jeans and a t-shirt because it’s cold at that hour.

I’ll be ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Right Fist Raised Defiantly To The Sky

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My husband’s  U.S. permanent residency, or green card arrived in the mail late Monday night.

The envelope was a white United States Postal Service priority mailing envelope, with a PO Box from Mesquite, Texas in the return address window.

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that it was a credit card promotion.

Picasso’s on a temporary gig right now in another state. I will send him the card asap. We are happy, most definitely.

But this delay also gives me the opportunity to have a minute alone with it and feel all that I need to feel.

I run my fingers over the seals and raised areas, tip it so that it catches the light and reveals other marks. The top back part of the card is mirrored and very high- tech looking.

I almost expect to push a button and watch the whole damn thing light up and start to play, “The Star Spangled Banner” like a hokey birthday card.

Picasso’s picture is prominently displayed, in black and white, giving it the feel of one of those old-school ID photos. This old-school feel stands out against all the high-techness surrounding it.

There are things that I want to say to this card.

Starting with, “What the hell took you so long?”

In the background, there’s a close up image of the Statue of Liberty’s face, with the beginning of her right arm that holds her torch.

A part of me this morning wants that background image to be replaced with a close up image of my face, my head down, my right fist raised defiantly to the sky.

I Can Bring Home The Immigration Bacon

In our specific situation, I’m responsible for all aspects of the coordination of my husband’s case. I’m of course working in partnership with our great lawyer. But at the end of the day, I’m the one making the checklists, the reservations, organizing our docs into folders, figuring out fees, etc…

Honestly? My husband is really only responsible for making sure that he’s on the other side of a bullet-proof glass window at the indicated time for his permanent residency appointment next week.

In an ironic twist, the scene is similar to the stereotypical wedding plans of a heterosexual couple, where the guy is solely responsible for renting a tux and showing up on the wedding day.

While there most definitely are U.S. citizen men with deported or undocumented wives, I can confidently say that the majority of people that I interact with who are in a similar situation and are in a heterosexual relationship are U.S. citizen women whose husbands or boyfriends are deported or are undocumented in the U.S.

In the immigration groups that I’m involved with, the majority of people who ask questions or post comments are U.S. citizen women regarding their husband or boyfriend.

Many of us who’ve been at this a while can rattle off the details of our partner’s case without a single twinge or twitch in our faces. We know USCIS application numbers like our zip codes, i.e., I-601, I-212, I-864.

Some of us women have been at this so long that we can talk about the inner workings of each other’s husband’s cases just as well if not better than we can talk about our own situations.

I’m 43. The generation of women in the U.S. that I belong to sang along to the commercial posted above. Many of us subconsciously took it as truth. At least I did.

“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man.”

What I’m trying to say here is that after my husband’s failed permanent residency appointment in 2006, I took over my husband’s case. In 2011, once the ten years had passed, and Picasso was eligible to apply for a waiver, I held onto the steering wheel of my husband’s case with a death grip.

What I’m grappling with today is that I’m pretty sure that I can’t be the only wife who is an Immigration Case Coordinator for their husband.

But today I’m also thinking about how gender roles, institutionalized and systemic racism, class, privilege, access, formal education, language levels, guilt, citizenship, nationality, socialization and expectations all factored into my death grip on the steering wheel of my husband’s case.

And I’m also reflecting on trust.

Because if there was any way that I could stand in my husband’s place on the other side of the bullet-proof glass window next week at his appointment, I would.

Sure, I can bring home the immigration bacon. But it is high time for me to let my husband fry it up in the pan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Is My Husband’s Waiver Application?

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Photo: R.C.O.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not know where my husband’s waiver application is.

I just got the news yesterday afternoon from our lawyer. She received official word from a representative at the field office that received our application.

We sent in a completed I-212 waiver application in September of last year. The field office sent our lawyer an official receipt of payment, cashed our check, and recorded the entrance of the application into their system. The entire application that we sent them was a large stack of papers, the kind that you need two arms to carry.

For those of you that don’t know, if my husband’s waiver is approved, then we can put in his permanent residency application and wait again. If the waiver’s denied, I’ll start the process to move back to Mexico to live full-time again with him.

A lot hangs in the balance for my husband and myself with this waiver application.

And USCIS does not know where my husband’s waiver application is.

A field office representative told our lawyer that they will request my husband’s A-File from the National Records Center of the USCIS. An A-File is formally called an Alien File-it contains all the records for each person that isn’t a US citizen, and has any kind of direct contact with US Immigration, be it detention, deportation, or otherwise. Each individual Alien File is identified through a set of numbers.

If the waiver application from last year is in my husband’s A-File, and there’s a decision, our lawyer will be informed within 30 days.

If the waiver application from last year is in my husband’s A-File, and there isn’t a decision, a decision will be made, and our lawyer will be informed within 30 days.

If the waiver application from last year is not in my husband’s A-File, our lawyer will be informed within 30 days. She will then have to send a new copy of the entire I-212 application to the local office. I don’t know what that will mean time-wise.

I got the news late yesterday afternoon while checking my email on my cell phone. I’m in Baltimore, visiting the Princesa Pagana and her husband.

I arrived a few days earlier to DC to attend the immigration rally for comprehensive immigration reform.

Both Princesa Pagana and her husband wrote letters for my husband’s waiver application. Princesa held my hand in the car as her husband drove. I could see his brown eyes through the rear view mirror, and they smoldered in pain and frustration.

The chant that has become the poster child for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is this:

Si se puede!

I’ve been wanting to replace that chant for a long time with this:

Wake the fuck up. 

Gird Your Loins

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Hey kids.

So the white stack of papers on the chair is my husband’s waiver application, formally known as Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission Into the United States After Deportation or Removal.

Quite the tongue twister, I know.

When I was previously blogging, both my husband and I were under the impression that R was banned for 20 years from entering the United States.

He’s actually banned for life from entering the United States, due to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, also known as the IIRIRA, signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.

I couldn’t find a link that I liked that explained the whole kit and caboodle in plain English. If you find one, let me know.

In R’s situation, he is banned for life, because he entered the US for the second time without papers, after an initial deportation. His second deportation triggers the lifetime ban that’s outlined in the dense and inaccessible language of the IIRIRA. At the moment when R was deported, we were informed by a US immigration official that R was banned for 20 years. R’s second deportation happened in 2001, five years after IIRIRA went into effect.

So the left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing.

Or the left hand doesn’t always want to know what the right hand is doing.

The beige envelopes are full of documents that we had to send to prove that our marriage was real, and that R has been in Mexico since 2001.

Those envelopes hold cold documents like bank statements, apartment leases, telephone bills full of numbers, balances and payments received.

They also hold warm documents like letters from friends and family members, full of words, feelings and the desire for justice proclaimed.

There’s no formal time limit by which US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to release a decision about R’s waiver. As some of you know, the application went out  September of last year, 2012.

An answer could come down tomorrow. Or in two months. Or September of this year, 2013.

That is, of course, if the left hand is coordinating with the right hand.

So with all the talk that’s been going on this week about “improving a broken system,” and “getting to the back of the line,” I present to you R’s I-212 waiver application.

That stack on the chair is one waiver application for one person without a formal time limit for an answer.

So if there truly is going to be a deep dive into fixing the system, then I’m taking a cue from The Devil Wears Prada: 

“Gird Your Loins.”

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.”