My husband has never been able to take our daughter to school. He was taken into custody a week before she started kindergarten. She’s now 15 and half way through her sophomore year. Her Dad has never been allowed to set foot into the schools she’s attended, never met her teachers at any parent/teacher conferences, and never been a part of her life in the U.S. since she was four years old.
He was deported on January 23, 2003. We filed papers for his permanent residency in April 2001. By the time our appointment came, 9/11 had changed everything. We were excited about getting his green card, but to our horror, he was arrested and taken away at our appointment.
At that moment, our lives were forever changed. Never had I felt the intense fear, shock, and despair as when my husband was taken from us. I suddenly became a single mother. I got three jobs and worked 7 days a week to keep my daughter and I from ending up on the streets and to pay for an immigration attorney to keep my husband from being deported. I tried everything in my power not to lose my husband. I even wrote to the President and have a generic response on White House letterhead – “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.”
The 1996 Ten Year Ban was now being enforced. What was his crime? He crossed the border to be with us, his US born family, because he missed us. TEN YEARS FOR THAT! After my husband spent 5 1/2 months in the Denver Detention Facility, we lost our case in District Court. He was sent to Ciudad Juarez – a place he’d never been to and had no family in, nobody at all. I moved our belongings into a storage unit and moved to El Paso with our daughter to keep our family together.
We were told by the INS that he could apply to come back into the US after one year. So, we waited and spent more money only to have our hopes crushed again. In May 2004, we found out that we’d have to wait until 2013 before he could apply – no exceptions, no pardons. There was nothing more we could do but wait. For the past 10 years, we’ve been living on the border. It has been extremely difficult.
We have no family within 700 miles to help or even be there for moral support. I can’t make a living in the field I got my BFA degree in, so I became a substitute teacher and make under $12,000 a year. I have no health insurance. My husband, Javier, has his own small carpentry shop. He struggles with irresponsible workers and clients who drag out payments for months. We’ve survived the border violence including a shoot-out that claimed 4 lives in 5 minutes right around the corner from my husband’s house. This traumatized our daughter as she cowered in the corner while 100+ shots were fired. We’ve had our house broken into twice, once while we were asleep and many things stolen like all of our daughter’s DVDs when she was in first grade.
My car has been broken into 4 times. My windshield was smashed twice. My car is 20 years old and I fear not being able to take my daughter to school and drive to work. When my car breaks down, I’m on my own. Javier can’t come and help me. He can’t cross into the US at all! We are one paycheck, one accident, one illness away from being homeless at any moment in time. The irony is that both my husband and I have education, skills, and years of work experience.
We have been severely limited for the past 10 years by these harsh immigration laws and are subsisting at poverty level here on the border. Even though I qualify for welfare, food stamps, and public housing, I refuse to accept government assistance. We must prove that we are self-sufficient, regardless of how difficult our situation is, to get my husband back to the US. This is a horrible way to live, but at least our family is together.
I researched the extreme hardship waiver and found out that what we’re going through is considered “normal.” I’d have to be stricken with a life-threatening disease in order for extreme hardship to be considered. We tried to do the right thing by getting my husband legal. Instead, we got an unforgiving 10 year punishment. We have been living a nightmare ever since he was arrested on August 14, 2002. Javier is a decent, honest, hard-working man. He’s an awesome husband and father! He never deserved this.
No family should have to go through the HELL we’ve been going through. This is inhumane and the current immigration laws need to be reformed. Javier told me something 10 years ago when he was deported and it haunts me to this day. He said, “In the US, I am dead.” I hope our story will spare immigrant families in the future from what we’ve gone through and are still going through. In eleven days, Javier’s ten year ban ends. Then, the long, complicated immigration process will start all over again. It’s not over yet.