Monday, May 09, 2011

Holding My Breath

My friend's husband is a Mexican citizen. They are truly in love. They were married in Mexico City almost a year ago. It was joyous. His family loves her. She is so happy with him, she glows. With him, it's like she has found the security and support she has always needed in order to fully be herself, trust herself, accept herself. He is kind and has a generous heart. He is playful with her and has such unwavering faith in her. I love watching them together. They give me hope.

I wrote a letter of support for her petition for him to come to the U.S. while they go through the process of applying for his citizenship.

I know there are people who marry just for a green card. My friends are not those people. I know that immigration is a complex issue with a fraught history and much animosity on both ends of the argument. My friends aren't making any kind of statement.

They are just in love. They want to build a life together. A life where they can live and work in the same country. A life where the people around them love and accept both of them. They want to have a family (maybe not as soon as his grandmother thinks they should have a family, but eventually - a family!) and a future.

She would move there, but the two of them together in Mexico cannot earn a fraction of what either of them alone could earn here. And his family lives in Mexico City - where it is notoriously overcrowded and incredibly dangerous. If they were to raise their family there, they would share a three bedroom home with his parents, his two adult sisters and their two children. And, like his sister's children, my friend's children would play in a small concrete courtyard with a locked gate to ensure their safety in such a dangerous city. So she is here, away from him. Working in the States, to pay for lawyers, so that someday the two of them can have a life here together.

We all know this - but in the U.S. we take for granted the wealth we are born with. I grew up with very little, but the poverty I was born in is nothing like the poverty they endure in other nations. I thought I understood what an overcrowded city meant until I visited Mexico City and saw the people packed like sardines into bus taxis to get to their jobs, the number of people who share a home - and only one bathroom - in even a middle class environment. There are so many people, there is no escape from it - 24 hours a day you have people around you. Huge crowds in the streets, even at home every bed is a shared space. It's overwhelming. I had no idea.

I think that when we discuss immigration, it's easy for the argument to get focused on our resources and to forget the people involved. Families who are separated. People with no other reasonable choice than to seek shelter in a land that will not welcome them. So that they can make enough money to support their families. So that someday their children can play outside. If I was born in a country where the work I could get would not allow me to live in any comfort, where my children had to be locked in a courtyard in order to be safe, where I could not go out without an escort because I feared for my own safety - I wouldn't care whether it was legal that I travel to a neighboring country to live in safety.

I respect that my friends are doing this the right way, following all the proper legal channels. In spite of how painful it is for them to be apart. But my perspective on this issue is forever changed. I watch my friend working, living alone and missing her husband terribly and I am in awe of her patience. I watch her and catch my breath, knowing how she aches to have him home with her and how long they have been apart as they try to do the right thing.

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