Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Dream Deferred? How we've gotten here

We haven't posted it on here, but I think it's time to explain some things, like:

  • Why we left the US last summer
  • Why I had to return alone to Chicago for Christmas
  • Why we came to Mexico after the Barcelona adventure
  • Why we seem to be wandering with no country home
  • Why Canada has been thrown around as an option
Some of you know some details, others not much. So here goes.

When Carlos was a fresh middle school graduate, he was pretty happy in Monterrey. He was getting top grades at his technology school, dreaming of a future involving electronics, adventure, and travel to Japan. Like many middle- and upper-class families in Monterrey, his family frequently made trips over the Mexico-US border to shop, and those were the extent of his intentions in the US. But then, family strife caused his mother to decide take Carlos and his siblings to Chicago and live with a relative. Despite their anger and protests, Carlos and his siblings spent several months in Chicago and then the suburbs. Carlos did his best to adjust, but longed for his life back in Mexico. A complicated flurry of events happened after this, and by the time the dust had settled, Carlos' entire future had been permanently scarred by the way he was brought into the country.

You see, contrary to popular belief (blog post on THAT coming soon), people brought into the US illegally can't simply fix their status by returning to their home countries and asking for a visa. Nor can they fix it automatically by marrying a US citizen. And while generally, crimes committed as a minor are viewed differently than those committed as an adult, in the immigration world, age doesn't matter: you can be held to the same penalties whether you entered illegally at age 8 or 58.

Carlos' immigration story just happens to cross not one, but TWO grey areas of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996. It happens that while the law forgot to specifically address minors in certain areas of the Act, the US consulate in Mexico has recently decided to apply its own rules and treat minors identically to adults. In Carlos' case that means there is a high likelihood he will be permanently banned from ever entering the US again, for something he had no say in whatsoever.

While we were aware of this possibility when we left the US, we weren't willing to sit around and wait our lives out, hoping for immigration reform or a new interpretation of the laws. Meanwhile, Carlos slowly saw all his possibilities slipping as his illegal status began to chip away at his adult life. Finishing college, building a career, even renewing his driver's license: suddenly all of this was being blocked from his reach. These major obstacles were the main reason we decided to leave the country. We weren't willing to spend the rest of our lives watching Carlos struggle as a half-citizen of a country who didn't want him despite his talents, education, great hopes, and complete lack of control over the country he was raised in.

Spain was our first choice, simply because it was a place we both had dreamed of living, and it seemed as far as can be from all the immigration turmoil of the US. Unfortunately, spending time there as a couple showed us it wasn't exactly the place for us to build a future. Immigration, affordable housing: these are prime topics there, as well. It could have been done, but it was a game we weren't willing to play.

So one day, while walking through the old center of Barcelona, we sat down next to an ancient Roman Wall for a long time and made the decision to move to Mexico. I had no idea what would be in store, and Carlos only had a minimal clue; he had only spent 4 weeks of his grown-up life in Mexico, right before we left for Europe.

We decided that we would try to squeeze out a living in his hometown of Monterrey while we researched and mulled over our other options. So that is what we've been doing these past few months. Meanwhile, we decided to take the plunge and put in the spouse petition for Carlos' US permanent residency, just to see what would come of it. Rules change, interpretations get bent. What they're doing now may not be what they're doing a year from now. We know things could go against us, but they also, in a very rare turn of events, could go in our favor, and we're curious to find out.

This process is long and drawn-out: it will probably be at least a year before we go to Cuidad Juarez for the immigrant visa interview where they will deny his visa and then, only then, inform us if we have the chance to file a waiver for his denial based on marriage to a spouse.

All we know right now is that Carlos is not allowed to re-enter the US until this process is cleared. If ultimately he's denied, we will try to settle down somewhere, once and for all, and someday solicit a waiver for an visitor visa so we can both return to visit family and friends, and glimpse the life we once had been building for ourselves in the US.

Carlos remains pretty positive about all this. I go back and forth. Sometimes I feel like we have the whole world at our feet and the sky's the limit. Our house in Mexico is great, the weather's warm, the food is good. :) Other times I just cry over the injustice of all the people like Carlos suffering for the immigration sins of their parents, and all the families being separated, scarred, and permanently altered by the current immigration laws in the US.

But on the brighter side, we have faith that all of this will lead to a strong future somewhere, someday. To everyone who has sent little emails, updates, and messages: We appreciate it more than you might think! Every little connection to our loved ones is a great encouragement! So keep them coming! We love you all!


laurafern11 said...

Wonderfully written post Amy!

gerbmom said...

I try to keep up with what's going on in your life from your dad, and occasionally your mom. But this post really made me understand what is going on. It is so sad that Carlos is being penalized for something his mother did. Immigration is not black and white. Ever. I'll be thinking about you guys... and praying.

BTW - we miss you here at Gary!

Jim Houtsma said...

Yours is not an uncommon story. I am living it as well but much further from the US than you. See my blog

Anonymous said...

Hi i got this page from imigrate 2us and it is amazing what is going on with imigration ... but i see that your love is bigger than anything else , im going threw the process and dont know what is goin to happen , but you have made me think .... and love should be before any thing .. but my problem is i have 2 children from a previos marriage and i have one with my now husband who is in Mexico .. i cant work with that ... but i hope one day all your problems will be resolved keep fighting yall deserve to have what yall want .. Gos bless both of you ...

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post highlighting the difficulties and often injustices of the US immigration system.
I know that many people misunderstand the immigration process and make judgements based on their limited understanding.
They would learn much from reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

I know this blog is quite a few months behind you now. And those similar situations of mine are more than a few months behind me now but it still brings tears to my eyes. The funny thing is that my husband was more positive than I through most of our turmoil. I think its in the culture. :) I often also get angry about the injustice of the whole thing. My husband did make the choice to cross the border but he was also 19. Hey I did worse things at 19 really. Im glad you all have your faith. I know we would have never survived without ours. Id love to chat with you at some point for now Im reading your story with much interest. Thank you for sharing.

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