Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maybe someday we'll look back and laugh

Lucas' Birth Certificate: $14 and 10 days
Lucas' Social Security Number: 3 months
Mexican Notary Stamp on signed Passport Consent Form from Carlos: $50 and 1 month
DHL fee to mail said consent form to the US: $35 and 3 days
Lucas' Passport: $85 and 2 ½ weeks
Round-trip airfare from Chicago to Mexico for me and the baby: $450

...Having to postpone our much-anticipated reunion because of a swine flu outbreak? Priceless.

I would prefer to think that caution and care are all we need, and that a flu outbreak should not deter me from finally seeing my husband after 7 months, but I've been forced to shelve that approach in favor of extreme wariness.

If it wasn't enough that all the health professionals in my life on this side of the border were urging me not to go, now it's being confirmed from the Mexican side. Carlos' father, who is a health professional in the non-alarmist tradition, said we must not come. Apparently hospitals in Monterrey are classifying this virus as a Stage 4, which Carlos explained to me as basically "bad, bad news".

So even though I feel like a virus is just a virus, preventable and treatable, the others in my life say otherwise and I'm going to rely on their judgment.

So there you go. If we weren't stuck before, we sure are now!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Still a family without a country

I'd love to have posted on all the fun and interesting moments that transpired since the last post. Unfortunately, due to my slacker nature, I'm now forced to jump straight to the very important and not so pleasant news that defines my family's reality.

Where to begin? As you all know, or for those who don't, last October Carlos and I received the final word from the US Consulate in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. He is not eligible for a visa to live in the US as my spouse, and he also isn't eligible for the hardship waiver that US citizen spouses usually get to file when their loved one isn't eligible for a visa.

All this because of one unfortunate day when he was 16, when he was forced by a parent to seek entry to the US using a relative's US birth certificate instead of the visitor's visa he already possessed. Under immigration law -- INA 212 A 6 C ii to be specific -- a false claim of US citizenship carries a lifetime ban with no waiver. Still, the fact that Carlos was ineligible for the waiver was a surprise to most who knew our case, including the wildly successful immigration lawyer who we consulted with prior to attending the interview. Evidently the immigration world had been misinformed, because everyone was under the impression the consulate would not be applying this law to people who were minors at the time the incident occurred.

So, we fought it. In November, the Wildly Successful Immigration Lawyer proved her ongoing excellence by sending a beautifully crafted appeal to the Department of State in Washington. Basically, the argument was that since Carlos was too young to consent to the claim of citizenship, and because it happened against his will, that section of the law should not be used against him. Unfortunately, weeks later, the appeals people in Washington decided that INA 212 A 6 C ii does not require the person to have intended anything. They simply had to commit it. In other words, case closed.

On to December. I attempted to get some help from Senator Durbin's office. This is the man who not only ranks at the top of the power structure in the Senate, but also sponsored the DREAM act, which seeks to provide legal status for people brought into the US as minors. People like Carlos. Sadly, after weeks of attempting contact with Senator Durbin's caseworkers (when they did call me back, I was in the middle of giving birth to Lucas), they ultimately decided they couldn't provide the letter of support I was requesting from them.

Now we're at March. I turned to my local congressional representative, Bill Foster. Within days, his immigration caseworker had mailed an absolutely amazing letter of support. I put this letter on the top of a 60-page packet requesting a Humanitarian Parole from Washington and prayed this would be our chance to get the family together in the US for at least a few more months.

March 16, I sent the packet. March 31, Washington sent their form-letter response. Denied.

We are no strangers to denial at this point. Still, it hurts a little every time. And not just when we think of the time and money that's been wasted. It's so hard to accept that my country thinks this little of the life I've worked hard to build, of my skills and abilities, and of the investments that so many others have made in my future. To reduce my entire experience to a form letter denying my family a chance to exist together in the US for something none of us could help or choose? Just seems beyond heartless.

So now what? Well, we applied for Lucas' passport and once that's here, I hope to book the tickets and fly to Mexico so Carlos can finally meet his son. After that I'll come back, prepare to close the book on our story in the US, and head out into the unknown again...