“Mommy, my friend at school said that the president is sending all Hispanic people back to their countries. Is it because he does not like my daddy? Does daddy not give money to all the bills?”
The questions never end. That’s my seven year old.
Some of these questions hit me harder than others. For example, my eleven-year-old asked me the other day if his father was going to get sent back to Central America, and how he hoped not because then he will not be able to see him again, and how will we be able to stay a family if his father is not here to help support his family. It’s a constant barrage of anxiety.
Families are getting ripped apart now by ICE, the Trump administration, and these bogus (I meant to say complex) immigration laws. DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is being removed. And those “childhood arrivals”? These are children, often grown now, that have only ever known the United States as their home. Yet, they will be reduced to “illegal” status and can face deportation.
Deportation to a place where they most likely know nobody. To a country where they may not even speak the language. Because their parents brought them along, and they dreamed of a better life for their family.
He chose to come for a better life, in pursuit of the American dream. He says it like the millions before him.
Can you fathom being ripped away from your family and sent off to another country? If you cannot begin to imagine or you do not care to imagine, then you are part of a bigger problem. There are some women that must sit and wonder if their husbands will be coming home. There are some children that wonder if their mothers will be taken from them. And it hits home in my family.
We are closely connected to this immigration system. My husband is from Central America. He came over when he was a teen, gasp, illegally. “Why didn’t he just stay in his country and apply?” Like it’s as simple as getting a driver’s license!
In his home country, there is a violence we cannot begin to comprehend. And it’s a government thing, not a citizen thing. He chose to come for a better life, in pursuit of the so-called American dream. He says like the millions of others before him.
A few years later, he met me. We fell in love. We started a family. We have careers.
He started by applying for an ITIN, a number that grants immigrants the ability to pay taxes. Undocumented immigrants contribute to the economy in this way, but also in their jobs, in their spending, in their rents and mortgages. They cannot apply for any governmental assistance. Most people do not understand that, as illogical as that thinking might be.
Undocumented immigrants cannot get welfare, Medicaid, SNAP, etc but they give to the economy in so many ways.
Still, we started the immigration process. The family member that is a citizen does a petition for their alien family member. And that’s the technical term: alien. Like he’s green or extraterrestrial. At worst, dangerous, and at best, weird.
I am like a bowling ball on a thin sheet of ice with my nerves.
Illegal alien. Undocumented immigrant. Dreamer. I prefer dreamer.
It is around seven hundred dollars just to start the petition, but you need a lawyer. Better safe than sorry, right? Then there are finger scans and background checks and physicals and sponsors. Wait. Sponsors?
A sponsor is a person that would take over your financial responsibilities here in the United States while you go back to your home country where you then have to apply at the consulate. At the consulate the immigrant essentially gives up their rights as a citizen. And that can take anywhere from two short weeks to a couple long years.
No big deal, just pay several hundred dollars, hire a lawyer, travel abroad, hang out there for a while, and come back.
But that’s the legality of it. Plain, boring, hard, time-consuming, and expensive. The whole process can cost around ten thousand dollars with a lawyer to get a green card, which isn’t even full citizenship. Citizenship means more funds and more wait time. Much more.
But this paying and waiting do not even guarantee that these applications and petitions will be accepted even in the green card process. Can you imagine applying to get into college or law school or whatever, spending a couple grand, and waiting two years only to be told no? It is gut wrenching for waiting family. Except instead of college or law school, it’s the freedom to be with your family, to provide for them, to be rendered “illegal” and forced back to a country of systemic violence and terror. Slight difference.
This gut-wrenching process is my everyday. And this is where my husband holds his faith strong: the waiting game. I, on the other hand, am like a bowling ball on a thin sheet of ice with my nerves. We have a family. Kids. And pets. How do I explain to my kids that their daddy may not be able to stay here?
It’s so complicated.
And in the bigger picture: this week. This year. This time in our lives and in the life of our country. I know what lies heavily on my heart. What bothers me at night. I know what the process is for an outsider looking in. It’s not pretty. What we are going through as a country right now is not pretty. It’s not just. It’s not okay.
How do I explain to my kids that their daddy may not be able to stay here?
We, the people, must be the change. If you see a law that is not working, what do you do? You rise and call for a change. Tearing families apart, sending hardworking men and women back to their home countries is not the change.
This affects people. It affects our nation. It changes who we are as a nation. If you do not want to be a change for the better, or if you do not want to aid in the change for the better, then politely shut your mouth on topics you do not clearly understand and sit down.
As for my family and friends, we will fight and stay united. The Statue of Liberty says it best: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Mi gente Latina, estamos juntos en esto. No nos vamos a callar! No nos vamos a sentar! Vamos a pelear!
My Latino people, we are in this together. We will not be silent! We will not sit down! We will fight!