Holidays Apart and Other Stuff
It’s yet another holiday season where I’m not with everyone I love. In 2009, just eight short months after our wedding, Alberto was deported. I spent our first Christmas as a married couple, thousands of miles away from him, packing and selling our things. Needless to say, it was not a Merry Christmas. The following year I was in Mexico with him, but our children and grandson were here in the States. Even though his family was welcoming, it was very hard to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas away from my children. (I had always spent the holidays with them in the past.) Now, I’m back up in the States, trying to earn enough money to pay for the paperwork and legal fees to bring Alberto home. So, for the third year in a row I don’t have all my family with me.
I have always been a generally cheerful, up-beat person. However, now that is truly being put to the test. The stress I have been under for the last couple of years has been incredible. It isn’t easy to make the drastic decision to sell everything and move to a different country, especially one so poor as Mexico, and leave your family, friends and everything you know behind. I made that decision so I could be with my husband. Mexico City is a very difficult place to live, and that was only compounded by my lack of Spanish. I am just now able to carry on conversations with people, although often it is a struggle due to my poor conjugation. So many people complain about the problems of crime, pollution, jobs, cost of living, etc. in the States. I am convinced that they would not complain as much if they lived a year in Mexico, working a regular job there and earning the average pay. There is no ‘equal opportunity employment’ there. Employers can specify age, gender, attractiveness, and a host of other things that would not be permissible here in the States. Alberto and I struggled with finding adequate work and ultimately opened a cafe to support ourselves. We had been working sixteen hours a day, six days a week until about three months ago, when we were finally able to cut back to ten hours a day, six days a week.
I have been back in the states for almost a month now and I still feel very displaced. I did get a job right away, and I really enjoy my work. There was a possibility to get my old job back, which would have given me a lot more pay, but I couldn’t bring myself to apply for it. I used to enjoy that job even though it was very stressful, but now the thought of going back to something that intense is overwhelming. Where I am now is perfect for me. Even when we are busy I’m not stressed at all. I’ll take a good work environment with less stress and decent pay over high pay, high stress any day. What has me feeling displaced is the fact I’m sleeping on my daughter’s couch, living out of my suitcase and borrowing a friend’s vehicle. As welcoming as my daughter is, I don’t really feel ‘at home’. Then there’s the problem of not seeing Alberto and missing that companionship. I have barely even seen my friends since I’ve been back too. I really want to see them, and sometimes I have the time when they are free, but I feel so tired (from sleeping on the couch and stress) that the idea of getting back into the suv and driving to see them is just too much for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this way before. I can hardly wait till I have paid all the fees and the lawyer and I can visit Alberto and (hopefully) get him back up here. I just want to have our life back.
I keep getting asked “But since you’re married, doesn’t that mean he automatically gets to stay?” It doesn’t matter that we are married. Gaining residency to the States (or any other country for that matter) is a complicated process. It is not an easy process either. I don’t want to hear people talk about how illegal immigrants are only here to cause crime and/or drain resources. My husband paid taxes, he donated blood, he volunteered his time to maintain parks and did many other things a good citizen would do. In other words, he contributed to society. Most people don’t know how complex the immigration process is, and yes, there are a lot of people out there who are a drain on society – but that goes for U.S. citizens as well. Most people who come here to this country do so for the same reasons that the first settlers came here – opportunity for a better life and/or freedom from oppressive government. My family came from Germany and Ireland many generations ago and they had a much easier time immigrating. Now life is more complex, and it is easy to make mistakes while trying to navigate the immigration process. We should be a little more understanding and start looking at the individuals rather than have an us vs. them attitude.