How I Sold My Soul...
To the US Government
I stood on my front porch watching my husband and my mom drive away in her red pickup. Are we doing the right thing for our family? It's so dangerous in Mexico right now...with all the cartels and violence...what if he gets killed? What if I sold my soul for a piece of paper? What if I sold my husband's soul for a piece of paper?
I couldn't shake the feeling that my husband of eight years and I had just embarked upon a treacherous and lonely journey. Our three children were still asleep in their beds, oblivious to how their lives were about to change for the next 12 months. Oh, sure...they knew their dad was going to be gone for an undetermined amount of time (could be three months or a year). Little did they know how hard it was going to be...and neither did I, for that matter.
My husband and I had filed the I-130 paperwork nearly seven years earlier. We requested that his 'unlawful presence' in the United States be 'pardoned' and that he be allowed to apply for legal residency in the United States. We thought, like many other unsuspecting applicants, that the process would be quick and painless. The process, so far, has been neither quick nor painless.
Two lawyers and seven years later, we discovered that my husband's first interview in Ciudad Juarez would be December 9th, 2011. Our hearts swelled and sank simultaneously. This was great news! The news that we had been waiting for with bated breath. But, this was also very stressful news. We now had to figure out what to tell our three children about why their dad (who had never been away from them for greater than eight hours) would be gone for upwards of a year.
As it turned out, telling our children their dad was going to be gone for 'awhile' was the very least of our concerns. While we packed my husband's two tiny suitcases for the two day Greyhound trip to Juarez we made our peace with how quickly the appointment had been thrust upon us. This is what we had waited for, right? We were 'doing the right thing'...
My husband's journey to Juarez was miserable, albeit uneventful and went fine. When he reached Juarez and officially crossed into Mexico was the moment we realized the gravity of what we had chosen to sacrifice so that our family might have a better life. A life where we no longer live in the shadows and on the brink of a constant fear of deportation.
Pirynola, my husband's nickname, stood at the border to Mexico, cell phone gripped tightly in his hands and spoke to me in a calm, yet frightened voice. "Well...this is it. Should I stay, or should I go?"
In my head a small voice (mine) was screaming: Don't make me decide! Come back! Come back right now! But what left my lips was: "Go, my love. Everything is going to be fine." And...he went...while I cried (hopefully silently) into the phone as he crossed the border into the most dangerous city in the world, the city with the highest murder rate...in the world.
And just like that, he was in Mexico...for the first time in 22 years. We both breathed a labored sigh of something akin to relief. So far he has been in Mexico for six months now. We received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security in March stating that the 'waiting period' for Permanent Residency visas was currently eight months.
At this point, we're not even counting the days anymore. I've resigned myself to secretly count the months...but I hide the calendar from our kids. All three of our children have had a birthday, lost teeth, started school for the first time and have all asked me no less then ten million times if their dad was 'coming home soon'. (No.) We celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary apart and he turned a year older in a country that is now foreign to him, alone.
These may seem like small sacrifices in the big scheme of life...but these small things chip away at a person's resolve. So, did I sell my soul for a piece of paper? Probably. Is it worth it, in the end? I don't know, because it's not over yet.
I miss my husband. I am very proud of what he has sacrificed. But...I have to ask myself this every night before I go to sleep...before I kiss our children good night and wipe away their tears...Was a social security number worth all of this suffering? Why is this process so devastating to families? Who designed this cluster-eff? They certainly didn't have families in mind when they hatched this brilliant masterpiece of immigration law.
The only thing that keeps me semi-sane...is my new obsessive-compulsive mantra: Someday your kids will understand. Someday this will all be a distant and vague memory. Someday...you will get to escort him across the border, legally, and into the waiting arms of E, R and L (our children). And then you will see the value.