In 1998, I met my immigrant husband in Chicago while I was in AmeriCorps and going to school. By that time, he had been in the US for almost 10 years–he had earned his GED, learned English, and moved up from his original position as dishwasher to become a kitchen manager. We fell in love. In 2002, we got married in his hometown in Mexico.
We were told that petitioning for his visa would be faster if we submitted our paperwork from outside of the country. Just six months after I submitted a petition on his behalf, we were called to Ciudad Juarez, supposedly for a “visa interview”. Instead of a visa, the Consulate gave him a 10-year bar as a punishment for two previous illegal entries into the country.
As a citizen, I was forced to choose between life in exile or life without my husband. Neither option seemed just. For us, the 10-year bar meant “no hope left”, so we made the difficult choice to return to the US. I walked across the bridge to El Paso, my husband passed in the middle of the night, illegally, one last time.
We now have two boys who are 7 and 4 years old. We are always living on borrowed time and feel that at any minute everything that is our lives–our jobs, schools, friends–could be taken away from us. All it would take is a traffic ticket. When I tell people our story, they invariably say, “How is that possible?! You’re an American.”
Indeed, I am. It is a testament to how broken our immigration system is that it has even managed to force suffering on 1000s of good, law-abiding US citizen spouses and their children.