Sunday, October 12, 2008

Next Steps and New Hope

OK, a week has passed since the last post, and a LOT has happened since then.

First of all, I said goodbye to Carlos (and our home in Mexico), knowing full well that the next time I see him, I'll be introducing him to our newborn baby! That's a sad and happy thought at the same time.

The GOOD news is that the next time I see him, Lord willing, we will be meeting up in the lovely city of Windsor, Ontario, Canada!

That's right. With the help of my wonderful parents, and possibly even joined by my brother and sister-in-law, we will be driving through Michigan into Canada shortly after the baby's born. Carlos will fly one of the direct flights from Mexico to Canada and then travel to Windsor to meet up with us for several days so that he can meet his new baby. After that, he'll ideally stick around for a short while scouting out the city of Toronto, which we dream of as our future home.

You've read correctly. Our days in Mexico are coming to an end. It was a great adventure, but we can't continue on there permanently. Carlos needs to finish his degree/radiology certification, and the baby needs a better environment to grow up in (read: more diverse, more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan, and more accessible to grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and loving family in the US). Yes, call us snobs, but this is what we want for our future and for our child's future.

So, the current investigation involves options for getting Carlos into school and obtaining Student/Temporary Resident visas for us and the baby. Ideally as soon as possible so we can all be together. Since we adored Chicago so much, we decided that the best place to pursue our future is in the Canadian equivalent to Chicago. Anyone with advice and/or connections involving Toronto, please feel free to share!!

Meanwhile, the fight for justice with Carlos' visa situation continues! We now have the great fortune of benefiting from the assistance of Attorney Laurel Scott. She is arguably the nation's most experienced and successful immigration lawyer working with the consulate at Ciudad Juarez and many others around the world. She will be submitting a request to the Department of State seeking clarification on the application of the law in our case. While the chances are slim, and while the process is indefinite and probably very long, this is one way to continue fighting the lifetime ban. So, those that are still praying, we will keep praying that in the long run, this decision goes in our favor and we can finally return home.

In general, everything looks great for us right now. Let's just pray that the money and logistics can come together to make this promising future possible, and that Carlos' Canadian visa process will go a lot more smoothly, and mine and the baby's, of course!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why We'll Keep Fighting

The official decision was not in our favor at all, but we are not willing to accept it as final. This is far from over, everybody!

However, our immediate concern is for the baby, who has been through a lot already. So for now, our main focus is to finish a healthy pregnancy and also come up with a plan for right after the birth (which is still happening in the US) where the three of us are together in one healthy, sanitary place. As of right now, Mexico is not it. So we will need to get hustling on something of any nature in Canada, ideally for late December or January. It is insane to think that's possible, but we're going to try.

In the meantime, we're working on the great advice we've received from family and friends all over the place. There are plenty of people to contact, angles to work, and believe me when I say we will work all of them.

The reason we refuse to give up is simply the injustice of this situation, and not just the injustice of separating a family at such an important time in their lives. That happens to people every day in the world of immigration.

No, this is because we have been slapped down by a law that unfairly punishes people who had no say in their own immigration histories.

This is because currently, and right there during Carlos' own visa interview he witnessed this repeatedly, people are eligible to waive their inadmissibility and get a visa despite the following infractions:

  • Willfully choosing to run across the border or sneaking in through other means, even multiple times in certain instances, as a fully-conscious adult.
  • Being caught by immigration while trying to enter illegally, even multiple times, before succeeding.
  • Being charged with DUI (or DUIs) while in the US.
  • Being charged with a range of minor crimes while in the US illegally.
Meanwhile, the law also wipes clean all the time spent in the US illegally before the age of 18, because it is assumed that minors are not capable of choosing to live in the US illegally (except in one equally unfair segment of the law).

So people in all of the above situations are eligible to have their inadmissibility waived due to the hardship it would cause their US citizen spouse. Yet the law expects Carlos to be banned for life with no waiver.

The actual reason: Despite the fact that he had a valid visitor's visa to enter the US, a parent unwisely felt it would be easier if he presented a US citizen relative's birth certificate to seek entry when he was a youth. His protests were futile, because as a kid, what are you supposed to do when you're the one thinking more reasonably than your parent?

There are a few unpardonable sins in the world of immigration, the most common of which are:
1) committing a drug crime
2) falsely claiming to be a US citizen

Apparently they are both so equally heinous to US society that the law is willing to permanently ban people for either infraction regardless of their age.

So immigration law doesn't care that Carlos was a minor, or that he was forced completely against his will, not only to present a birth certificate but to enter the US at all. Immigration law doesn't care that he's never committed a crime in his life, that learned enough English to be the best English teacher at the institute where he works now, that he he graduated high school with good grades, went to college, tried to pursue a career in the health sciences. That he married a US citizen and is expecting a child who will also be a US citizen in a few months. None of this matters as much as the atrocious fact that as a youngster, he unwillingly presented a US citizen's birth certificate at the border entry point.

I am not willing to make statements about who isn't worthy of being admitted as an immigrant to the US, although I am seriously tempted to, because I believe a lot of the anti-immigrant climate in the US is aggravated by the admission of people who truly don't deserve it as much as others. The fact is, US immigration decisions don't hinge on the positive merits of its applicants. Only the severity of their negative shortcomings.

However, I am going to argue that if all those others are allowed to enter the US and live happy lives as legal residents, I can NOT see the justification in banning my husband for life. Meanwhile, there are countless others like him being hit with 10-year or lifetime un-waivable bans for immigration violations that happened before they were of an age to even have the intent to commit the offense they will suffer for as an adult. While I want this decision to change for us, I also want it to change for all the others out there who are suffering from the same unfair decision.

So we will fight, and if God gives us the strength, we'll fight until this is fair not just for us, but the others, too.

On a lighter note, this is sort of the visual depiction of how we feel right now!
Credit to an immigration forum member for that one :)

We'll keep you all updated!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Final Result: FAIL :(

Well, sadly, our year-long immigration adventure has experienced a violent and devastating collision with the reality of immigration law. After nearly 11 months, two humiliating Mexican jobs, thousands of dollars, 9 international flights, endless hopes and dreams, and tons of prayers, we are left empty-handed. As things stand right now, Carlos is banned from entering the US for life, and there is no opportunity for a waiver. This was always a possibility, sort of the worst-case scenario, but this is now our only scenario. We're pursuing a few unlikely leads, but it seems like it's time to start planning for a future that doesn't include the US.

Still, all of your prayers really made a difference in how this day played out. Here are some ways:

  • We were blessed by the presence of a friend from the immigration forum who was with us for the whole thing and helped us keep cool heads and think quickly.
  • After the interview, Carlos returned to the hotel in record time, allowing us plenty of time to catch our flight back to Monterrey.
  • Despite being clearly affected by the stress of the day (making nonstop violent movements), Baby G is still doing OK in there.
We woke up at 5:20 am (well, the baby and I were up since 3 am stressing...). Carlos took the hotel shuttle to the consulate at 6 to get in line for his 6:45 am appointment.

The day consisted of turning in documents, getting fingerprinted, and waiting for the official interview. When the time came, Carlos says he had the good fortune of being interviewed by the most veteran official, since all the others kept coming to her with questions about the cases they were dealing with.

The entire interview dealt with Carlos' immigration history. He was asked (in Spanish) to detail the times he entered the US and was asked several questions about the incidents. After this, he was handed the checklist sheet where the legal sections were marked to indicate the verdict in his case.

That's when Fighter Carlos came out. He says he switched to English for more privacy because the other applicants around can hear everything. He then pulled out the legal argument I had written and individually attacked the sections of the law the officer had marked, presenting all the related evidence for each one. The officer gave great thought to each, and made some copies of some of the pieces of evidence (why? not really sure...). At some point here, she pulled out the actual document that went on record the day he was stopped at the entry point in Laredo and found to be using a US citizen's documents. I always wondered if they really had record of the incident, and apparently they do. This means that our situation was really determined on November 27, 1997 at the US border. In that single moment, our future was permanently altered. The fact that the incident was on record since that day means that nothing we could have done from the day we met would have changed this decision. I suppose I find that comforting.

The consular officer declared that it was so difficult to give him a lifetime ban, as he is a nice guy with a great record, the kind of guy they like to give visas to, and that the law was too harsh on him, but the law is what it is. She ended the interview by telling Carlos she hopes he'll pursue private legislation to overturn this decision.

Carlos came back, relayed the news to me, and I phoned the officer in charge of the consulate to confirm that this decision was accurate. According to reports, this officer has stated in the past year that people like Carlos SHOULD be eligible to file a waiver to end the lifetime ban, but on the phone, he denied this.

So we're left seeking help on how to fight this from some very creative friends from the immigration forum. Maybe we'll muster the patience and energy to seek a private bill. All I know is that once the baby's born, I don't intend to continue living in separate countries, so I will probably be moving back to Mexico until we find a new solution/a country that will accept us both.

And so our global adventure must continue...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Medical: Complete

Carlos left at 7am on the shuttle to the consulate so he could do his mandatory medical exam. I spent pretty much the whole time in the lobby where the computer gets decent wireless reception. This gave me a chance to meet some others going through the process, including a friend from the online immigration forum that we frequent. I also met an interesting couple from the North Side of Chicago.

Around 1pm, Carlos returned to the hotel absolutely famished thanks to not eating in over 14 hours. He wasn't supposed to eat prior to the blood draw, which is the first step in the exam, but then unfortunately he had no chance to eat after that, either. So we pretty much speed-walked straight to the nearest place that serves food and I waited for him to start getting food in his tummy before asking him any of the dozens of questions I had.

In summary, they asked a lot of seemingly unimportant questions (Do you wear glasses/contacts? Have you ever broken any bones?). They poked, prodded, took all possible measurements, made him strip naked, and gave him 3 pointless shots (the Chicken Pox vaccine, a new round of MMR, and Tetanus, despite the fact that he was just re-vaxed for Tetanus in the recent past, apparently). Grand total: $290. Not as bad as it could have been.

They told him to return to the clinic at 2pm to pick up his results, so after lunch we walked over there together. He went into the clinic while I waited in a tented area outside reserved for non-applicant family members. Nobody felt it appropriate to offer the 7-months-pregnant girl a seat, so I settled down on a curb. An older gentleman loudly pointed out the rudeness of the situation, as there were also several elderly people who arrived later and were left standing, but hey, that's the way it is, apparently! Immigration is a dog-eat-dog world out here. Fortunately, I'm young, healthy and can handle it. :)

About 20 minutes later, Carlos emerged with his results. All looks good! No document check tomorrow, so we have the whole day to relax!

Here's Carlos, relaxing in the lobby:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We've arrived!

We left the house at 7:30 am so we're a little droopy at this point, but a quick rest will cure that. The airline apparently has a policy of very much overbooking flights so that even though we arrived 2 1/2 hours early for our flight, they tried to bump us to tomorrow's flight. We weren't about to have any of that and insisted that they find room for us on today's flight. We won.

Other than that, no incidents to speak of, and a quick and easy flight. The hotel is great, with a couple swimming pools and a verrry comfortable bed. Later we'll post some photos, after we better figure out the internet situation. Tonight we'll be going to bed early so that we can be ready to get up early for Carlos' medical appointment.