Immigration Policy and it’s Effects by Matt Rust

Immigration Policy and it’s Effects by Matt RustFirst, let me thank Ricky Potts for giving me the forum to write a guest post.  I hope this story finds a lot of people because it is an important one for me to tell.  By the time you finish reading this you are sure to think: “Really, I had no idea” or “That doesn’t seem right” and I agree.  How could this be?  The story I want to tell is a personal one about a particular immigration policy, that still has me reeling with heartache, depression, and disbelief.

It all started in late 2004 when I first met my wife.  We worked together and from the first day that I met her I was instantly attracted to her.  She was a beautiful young energetic girl from Mexico.  I wasn’t sure how good her English was, but I soon found out that it was above average for someone that wasn’t from here.  I decided I just had to ask her out.  Some how despite being from two totally different places we really connected. After a month we really knew that we had something special and were completely in love.

Somewhere along the line, she had admitted to me that she came to this country illegally.  I was kind of astonished, because I wondered how she got a job.  Well, I was naïve because now I believe that 90% of Mexicans working in restaurants are illegal from my experience.  I was kind of surprised when I learned this, but I didn’t care.  I was in love, meeting her was the best thing that ever happened to me and if we ever got married, she could become legal.  I had already considered the possibility. My wife was in a different situation than most people like her because she came here as a teenager looking to reconnect with family that basically abandoned her in Mexico.  She learned English incredibly fast, she graduated high school, she got a job, she worked hard, and she got her own apartment.  She didn’t come here and not learn English, she didn’t get pregnant, and she didn’t end up on welfare, or anything like that.  She assimilated into society.  So well in fact that years later, many were surprised her status was that of an illegal.

So it was finally decision time, I love her so much and knew despite that it would take a little time and money to become a permanent resident; I knew it was time to get married.  We wanted a family and it shouldn’t be too hard should it? To get a green card, one just needs to marry a US citizen.  Well it turns out that it is extremely difficult, and a lot more complicated than that.

Proving our marriage is legitimate? That took some time but not too hard.  After that we start the visa process to immigrate.  Well because it is an illegal situation, she needs to physical return to Mexico and enter the country legally.  We are advised that she will go to Mexico, and have an interview at the US Consulate.  There is an interview, where she is found to be inadmissible.  This is expected because if you have been illegal for more than a year you are banned for ten years! That is ten. That is scary, and is it even worth it? We thought of this but, to wait for immigration reform didn’t seem wise, and really it isn’t right that my wife has to live without a driver’s license, without health insurance (since I can’t add her to mine without a SSN), so yes we felt it was important to do now for our well being.  Wow, well is there anything else that we can do.

Turns out, yes, no big deal.  All we have to do is apply for a “Waiver of Extreme Hardship”.  This is an interview, which was scheduled two months after returning to Mexico.  For this I must prove that I am going to experience an “Extreme Hardship” by being separated from my wife.  My thought was, “Obviously? Yes of course.” How am I going to pay for everything on my own?  I need her to work.  Who isn’t a two-income family these days? I assembled some evidence of the financial difficulties that I already had, from paying for the wedding, to being unemployed for an extended period in 2008, and so on.  I can’t move to Mexico City, I have a house that I can’t sell, my mom and dad, three siblings, and eleven nieces and nephews all live here.  Indiana has always been my home.  The standard of living is much worse there, in Mexico City especially, and I have asthma and the air quality is really bad there.

My parents write a letter, my siblings, my wife and I also all write a letter.  It more or less says, “Please approve this waiver, so that my pregnant wife and I are not separated”.  I provided a lot of financial records, etc.  The main issue for me is that we have a kid due in August.  I can’t let that child be born in Mexico.  What if something goes wrong?  We need to do regular prenatal appointments and get quality care.  For two months we were confident, everything will be fine and when this is over we can move on with our lives.  She can go back to work for four or five months; we can pay off our debt and prepare for our first child.  Guess what though? The US couldn’t care less about my needs, or the simple fact that if they don’t approve the waiver that my family and I will be separated for over a year.

Doomsday came. Case referred. Wait…what? What does that mean? It means that either no one had the time to look at our case, or they approved too many cases recently, or that we didn’t prove that I would experience an extreme hardship.  The case is referred until a later date. Possibly for longer than twelve months even.  Really? Yes. Really.  It is unreal that they arbitrarily can toss my case into the “look at this some other time” pile.  This is how it works apparently.   We have the opportunity to at least send in more proof and documentation for our case until it is reviewed again.  So the good news, is that it is not at this juncture a flat out denial.

The government doesn’t care that they are breaking up my family, that I could miss the birth of my child, or that I have to pay my bills here and support her in Mexico.  Now I am faced with a terrible decision, where I have to either move to Mexico to be with my wife and child or to just wait it out here for a year.  Now if we lived in a border area, maybe that would be an option but that is surely not an option living in Indiana.  The irony is that if I wasn’t experiencing a hardship yet, then I am now.  I am so shaken, heartbroken, and depressed over this.  The whole system is insane.  The burden falls on me, a United States born citizen, to prove that being without my wife will cause me to experience a hardship.  They don’t even care about her.  She doesn’t matter.  It is all about my ability to cope without her.  Being apart? That isn’t good enough. Being broke or bankrupt? Not good enough.  Being apart from my child? Not good enough.  All people applying for this waiver are likely in this position.  I got the lovely quote explaining “these factors are not, in and of themselves, sufficient for consideration”.  Also note though, that other people could be applying for these with varying relationships, not only a spousal relationship. Any US Citizen can petition to have a relative immigrate to the United States.

Most are surprised at this story I’m sure.  You can have a strong opinion either way on our immigration policies or what a reform bill should look like.  One thing is for sure though, and that is I should not be severely punished as I am for this.  This is a law that just doesn’t seem right and I hope for the sake of others like me that something is done soon.  I’m tired of our government running so inefficiently and doing nothing for its people.   What happens now is that I have to wait for an indefinite amount of time.  Some are saying it takes 12 months, but they have a new office and they are trying for 6 months.  However, I am told by the government to expect 17 to 20 months.  How can I plan my life with that sort of uncertainty? My first child is due in August and it seems pretty certain that will be happening in Mexico.  I guess he won’t be running for President.  One thing is for sure though and that is I will not miss that occasion no matter where it occurs.

If you want to help you could contact your Senator or House Representative, or even trying to contact the White House.  They need to know that this is an issue and system that needs to improve because I have the right to marry who I want.  We don’t disagree that we should have to go through a rigorous process.  We just disagree that this process needs to require us to be separated from each other.