Preparing for Juarez

I belong to a few groups on Facebook. I guess one might call them support groups–as they are made up of people like us trying to get visa approval for immigration to the United States of America.

It was there I first learned that my understanding of the process for Victors waivers was incorrect. It was there I learned of the change in processing time for waivers. (They used to be processed in 4-6 months. Now the processing time is officially 13.5-18 months.) It was in one of these groups that I read something welcomed: the calendar of appointments in Juarez was updated to included new appointments for April, May, and June.

We changed Victor’s appointment from July to the last days of April. Now we are preparing for his appointment.

Once the appointment is made, we can start really preparing. Victor will have to have several appointments prior to his actual visa appointment (in which we know he will be denied). He will have an in-depth medical appointment, which costs a couple hundred dollars. The price includes of they determine that he needs additional vaccinations, etc. Some people end up paying around $500 just for the medical appointment. We are going to try to get Victor’s immunizations here at the clinic to save us $250 or more…

Additionally, he has to get fingerprinted well ahead of his visa appointment. If we were like most people, we would also need to rent a hotel room for Victor for around a week. That’s an added expense we are hoping to avoid by staying with friends.

Of course, when it comes to expenses, Victor will still need to pay for the visa appointment ($320) and for the travelogue and from Juarez. Additionally, he will need money for food, etc.

You’ve heard me tell you before this isn’t an easy process–now let me tell you that this is also not a cheap process. We will be lucky if we spend less than $1,000 USD for this step. And this isn’t even our complicated step…

Once he is denied, he will be notified of the waivers that he can file. Together, to file those papers will cost just shy of $2,000 USD. Oh, and you must pay for all of these items in advance. The payment isn’t upon approval–you pay, and really hope you get approved, because who can afford to do it all again?

The money is secondary to the stress that I feel preparing for the visa appointment. There are so many papers required, it feels like a struggle to get them together. Additionally, all documents in Spanish must be translated. That costs around $12-15 per page. Copies of the documents are to be made and labeled for quick access. The originals must accompany Victor–as they might also be requested.

Remember when I mentioned how hard it is to immigrate? I’ve said this before: I am an intelligent, literate, educated citizen…and I struggle. Now, let’s think of all the people who cross the border from a place of desperation. This isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. There is nothing about it that makes this an enjoyable experience for any of us. The only comfort Victor and I have is knowing that we serve a God who has good things planned for us.

On that note I will sign off for now.

Immigration Costs (in USD): I-130 $420+travel costs $300+translations $100+photographs $10=$830 total

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El Otro Lado and My American Dream

My every waking moment (and many of my sleeping moments) are filled with thoughts about immigration. So here I am, lying beside my youngest, who for the first time in four nights is sleeping peacefully, and I am thinking of our big move.

You know, I feel like a stranger in our country. Sometimes people ask if I am from the US, and I always say, “Yes, but I am Mexican in my heart.” It’s true. This country has been good to me. Teaching here is a dream. Raising a family here is almost perfect. Mexico is IN me now…

But…

I know there are things that are good for us in el otro lado too. The other side has my family. It has the fellowship that I’ve craved spiritually for six years. In the other side, my husband can be paid for his labor. En el otro lado, our family will be able to set up a good life…

But…

On this side, my girls won’t have the same temptations I faced as a teen. On this side, our family isn’t judged harshly for being “mixed.” In Mexico, eating fresh is a normal part of life–even fast food is freshly prepared! In this side, I can work for schools that provide housing and private school education for my girls.

But…

You get the point, right? This is the hard part. We go back and forth between the good and bad of both of our countries. At the end of the day, I find myself chasing the ever familiar, yet ever-elusive American dream. It is easier for me to think of how much more money we will make in the U.S. It is easier to think of the home we can build, and the family we can raise. That’s easier than making a pro/con list in my mind with ever conscious thought.

I think of our family–nestled on the porch of Granny’s cabin, surrounded by the mating songs of crickets. I think of that sweet breeze blowing away any lingering sticky of the day’s humidity. I think of waking up early, making a coffee on my fancy new espresso machine, and sitting down to read my bible before the girls wake. I think of Saturday mornings, and tables full of biscuits and gravy. I think of summer evenings, the faint smell of cows and freshly cut grass, while listening to the ring of laughter as the girls play. I think of planting a garden, harvesting tomatoes, and making salsa on demand. I think of milking cows, laying hens, and daily chores. I think of hosting family dinners, and having sleepovers with cousins. I think of porch swings, barbecue grills, and magnolia trees. I think of convention and gospel meetings with the people that I grew up with. I think of crisp curtains and open windows–listening to the rain on a tin roof.

My American dream is what keeps me going. Just like all the other immigrants who’ve crossed that border before us–risking their lives and their freedom for a dream of something better for their families.

(I let myself be deceived right now–it’s way easier than noticing how the con side outweighs the pro side.)

I focus on my American dream…not just for me, but my family. And I hope that we find it waiting for us en el otro lado.

Are You Kidding Me? (Immigrating Sucks)

“Are you kidding me?”  I literally just said this.  Today Victor went to go get his new passport so that we (I) can fill out his application for a visa to our wonderful country.  (Sarcasm intended…)

So, let me tell you a little something about the application for a visa:

You can’t just fill out an application for a visa like you might other applications.  I have filed in the past for the girls’ American papers (i.e. the report of birth abroad).  I have printed the other applications that Victor needs to be able to join us in the U.S.  That’s the key in many applications.  You can print them.  You can see what they require.  You can work on them, then return to them.

Not this lovely application.

First of all, you have to ask if you can even file the visa application.  I literally had to prove that Victor and I are married enough.  I spent the fall preparing that paperwork (asking for affidavits from friends who have spent time with us, making a photo timeline of our lives as one, compiling a PILE of papers that are requested by my country, etc.).  THEN, I scheduled an appointment in Monterrey to present my paperwork and file the i-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).  The man we met with (an agent from Homeland Security) was the best part of that visit.  He was a gentleman–and a very kind and helpful person.  I imagine that by the time people get to him, they need someone kind and helpful…

My process for this was much quicker than most applications, because I am filing from Mexico.  The application was approved and the case was sent directly to Juarez.  For many applicants in the U.S. they wait on this first step for MONTHS.  I received notice two weeks later that our petition was approved.

So, my friends… at this point, I began waiting.  Because even though our application was approved, I still needed the official letter in order to begin the application for the visa.  So I thought.

Nope.  Victor needed a new passport.  More waiting.

Today he got his passport, so I continued the application.  Another roadblock.

Let me tell you: you can’t even preview the application to see what you need online.  You receive access page by page.  So, I get to the page that asks for address.  Not just the address for where we live now.  Not just the address for the last five years.  No, they want all the addresses from the time Victor was 16.

16 YEARS OLD!!!!!!!!

How many people keep up with all of their addresses for 20 years?

Oh, and to make this application SO much fun: the website logged me out twice, and neither time would it save what I had added.  AND it won’t let me save the addresses that I have access to, then add the others later.

Guys, you need to know this: Our country does not make it easy for people to immigrate.  It doesn’t even make it easy for an American citizen to register their own children as Americans.

Do me a favor?  Stop saying, “It’s okay for people to come to the country, as long as they do it legally.”  Unless you have been through this process, you. have. no. idea.

I am ready to toss my teaching license down the shithole (a proper use for the word–as I am not referring to anyone’s country, but rather the commode that you shit in), and chill as an expat for the rest of our lives.

The Long Road Home

I have avoided writing.

At one time, this blog was therapeutic to me, and it really helped me get through a rough transition period in my life.  There was also the added benefit that I could share my experiences in another country with my loved ones at home.

But I have avoided telling a story that isn’t quite mine to tell.

And I have avoided taking the risk of sharing our story with many of my friends and family who have an oppositional view on immigration.

I really think stories like our story should be told.  It’s through stories that people can learn empathy and compassion for ideas that they don’t understand.  We teach children, through stories, how to embrace new siblings, deal with “enemies” or “bullies,” and learn social skills.

So, I am going to begin to tell our story… our story of immigrating to the United States.  I am hoping, that in the process, it will also help me to deal with these new changes in our lives.

This time around, it isn’t a single 27 year old off on an adventure of finding her place in the world.  This time, it’s a family: a honest, humble, loving father… A scared, strong, forward thinking mother.  A little girl who looks forward to a life in a new place, with a lack of understanding about all that will be left behind.  And the final person: a pichita–lively, funny, and just coming into her personality…unaware of changes at hand.

These are the characters of our story.  This is us.

family in chiapas

Our family this January in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.  (The place that Victor and I met, six years ago…)

Shock and Sadness on the Day After Elections

I feel sick.  I am literally crying as I write this a country away.

When I visited home during the summer of 2015, Trump had recently began his race.  He had gone on camera talking about Mexicans, and we all were still wondering if it was a joke.  

And that was a question even during the spring of this year:  Is this a joke?   We have all been waiting for the punchline to be delivered.

You know what?  Hate is no joke.  I cannot believe that my countrymen just voted for a man who says the things he says.  Someone who has repeatedly spoken out against Muslims, Mexicans, homosexuals, and women.  Someone who makes fun of people with disabilities.  Someone who jokes about using weapons of mass destruction on other countries.  Someone who every living president has warned us about.  Someone who opens his mouth and spews anger, ignorance, and hatred with every word.

I am reeling, thinking of my little family here in Mexico.  I am wondering  if I need to apply for Victor’s visa earlier than planned.  We were planning on applying for a visitor visa in January.  But now?  What does this mean for us?  Do you, dear readers, realize that with the exception of one brother and my mother, my own family hasn’t met my husband?  Not one family member or friend from home has met my child?  Did you think of us when you voted?  Did you think of the thousands of families like us–or families who have to live seperate in order to survive?

And what does this mean for our country?  Do we really belong to a nation that wants this man as the leader?  I am appalled.  This is the first time in my life that I can say I am embarrassed to be American.  

And I am scared for our future.  

A Plea for Your Vote

Did you see the first lady’s speech?  If not, you may want to watch it on YouTube…if you are of voting age, and you are registered you SHOULD watch it.

I did.  Laying in bed between my two perfect little girls, I watched the First Lady speak about the upcoming election and all that is at stake.  She didn’t have to utter the name of Hillary Clinton’s opposition for us to know who she was talking about. He-who-should-not-be-named lit up the press again with his lewdness.

There’s something about watching an election as an expat that allows for a certain level of clarity.  My election conversations are not with my friends I’ve grown up with, my family, or my countrymen (in many cases).  And so, I get to see what they see: humor that turned to disbelief that turned to disgust.

I get it.  

Because I am disgusted that there are people (potentially reading this now) who would consider voting for a present day Voldemort.

I am an educator–so Day of the Girl meant something to me too.  All over the world girls have to fight for their right to education, freedom to choose their future career or husband, and/or survival.  Here in Mexico there are areas that JUST registered the female native population.  In the United States women who work just as hard as men (or arguably harder) are in many cases still paid less.

And yet, here we are.

Did you know that when women received the right to vote that the final voice chiming in for ratification was a young man from Tennessee?  His mama had sent him a note imploring him to wisely stand up for what was right, and he did (much to the dismay of his constituents).

I beg of you, vote wisely.

This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a “lewd conversation”. This wasn’t just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour…

The First Lady says the men in her life don’t talk like that, and I feel the same.  I’ve NEVER heard my father, uncles, brothers, or husband talk like that.  Of course, they never made fun of immigrants, people with special needs, or plus size women either.  They were raised to respect others, not lie, cheat, and abuse them.

And I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer – not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.

You know, I’ve had people in my own family say they just wouldn’t be voting this election.  The options are not options they are happy with, so they just will leave this one up to God.

In her speech, Mrs. Obama says something I want to share: One of these two people WILL be voted on next term as president of our country.  Don’t sit this out.  Don’t vote for someone who hasn’t got a chance of winning to prove a point.  Think of all that is at stake if we elect a national disaster (and embarrassment) as our leader.

And finally, think of my family.  Sometime in the next four years we will probably try to move home.  If you elect someone into office who makes ignorant, hateful statements about immigrants, what does that do for my family?  

Be responsible.  Vote responsibly.  And think of us when you bubble in, punch, or press your option for the next president of The United States of America.

Up To Here…

I think I have reached my limit.  It’s happened before, but never to this extent.  I can’t take another moment of Facebook.  It seems like my friends are posting one of three things these days:

1)  Immigration/ Obama News. 

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First of all, the people who post things like this are people who I expect more of.  That is my first problem, I guess.  I have expectations for people…  I always want to tell them, “Hey!  Try some empathy!”  I know that the biggest issue is that they are ignorant.  Living in a multi-cultural community can make a difference in how you view others in the world.  Living in another country makes an even bigger difference!  I am not saying that it is okay to break the law, but there are reasons why mamas are sending their babies off to another country to live.  There are reasons why teenagers risk abuse, rape, murder, etc. to cross multiple country borders, ride trains, pay coyotes, walk in deserts, etc.

And while I know everyone wants to sneer at Obama’s amnesty for immigrants–remember, he also has deported more immigrants than any other American president…

And how about thinking about what you are posting–and how it might effect the people who read it.  Cause no offense..

2)  News on Ferguson/ Racial News

That continues with this.  Think about who you might be offending!  Facebook can hurt or harm other people when you post little bits of hatred.  I first found out about the verdict of the Ferguson trial via Facebook.  The same people who post immigration posts also post the following:

ferguson ferguson2 ferguson3

 

I know everyone has an opinion about what happened, what should happen, etc.  Complaining or spreading hatred on Facebook isn’t going to change that.  It just makes people like me want to block you.

3)  This elf again.

I realize that this doesn’t seem as serious as the previous two posts, but seriously, people… Enough already.  You did this last year.  Bah Humbug.

elf

If you want your children to behave, is the best way to model that with an elf who does naughty things (but supposedly reports to Santa)?

I love seeing photos of cute kids.  I love seeing how my friends decorate for various holidays–or just in general.  I love to celebrate successes when someone needs some encouragement.  I am being pushed past my limit of understanding.  For my own sake, I need a break.  Ugh.

Home Is Where God Puts Us

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I’ve been thinking about coming home. Or more specifically returning to the United States. Maybe it is just because it has been almost a year since our last visit. Maybe it’s because I miss my family. Quien sabes?

With this thought comes me entertaining the idea of beginning the lawyer talk. The immigration talk. I’ve had friends and family offer contact information for immigration lawyers, but much like Algebra at age 14, I wasn’t ready for it. Now it’s on my list of things to do this summer–sandwiched in between buying new underware and eating Vietnamese Pho. Hey! A girl has priorities!

This is scary for a couple of reasons:
1) I don’t know if I actually want to live in the U.S.
2) It is a pretty lengthy/ expensive process.
3) I don’t know that I should make that move it God wants us here.

In reference to number three, I remember life one year prior to my Mexico move. All I wanted was to be in my “place.” To be used by God. To have a family that loves him. And some pretty rotten things had to happen to get me to the point of surrender for his work in my life.

Last week at church, one of the ladies spoke along this line–about a time when she was thinking of leaving Torreón. Ultimately, she decided to stay because she felt like it was her will verses God’s will for her life. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

But still, I will begin talking to a lawyer. Because even if we decide to stay in Mexico–or head somewhere else for an international position, it would be nice if my whole family could come home together.

Someday.

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Feeling Frustrated

Well, we’re beginning the process…

I emailed the lawyer contact that we were given in Dallas.  Of course she wants me to come to Dallas to file my paperwork.  I don’t mind–it is totally worth it.  I just feel like it seems like it will take for.ev.er. to get my husband’s papers.  I am hopeful about my husband though.

So, with a heart full of trepidation, I began to look over all the legal-talk online.

Sigh.

I understand that immigration is a big tender spot for people right now.  I get that.  Even my husband gets that.  And we don’t want to pull one over, but seriously?  There are about a billion clauses, a billion different forms depending on your situation, and a billion different ways to mess up.

Step One:  File a I-130.  Cost: $420.  Purpose: For citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States to establish the relationship to certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States.  

Sure, let me get right on that…