Archive | June, 2009

Letters from Juarez: “It only feels right to explain.”

30 Jun

We never asked Lupe to explain; we only asked her to write. Now, her experience has brought her to the point where it would be a good thing to answer some questions that have been coming her way, both before and after she started sending us dispatches from south of the border. If you have had questions about Lupe, about citizenship, about going to Juarez and not staying here, they are probably answered in the following.

June 23, 2009

I had planned on writing about some conversations I’ve had with my family in regards to religion, which many know is a touchy subject, but my heart is telling me to answer some unanswered questions. After receiving many emails in regards to my current situation, it only feels right to explain.

Many people do not understand how someone who grew up in the United States, lived there for 20 years, went to school there, had kids and got married there would be denied a Resident Visa. Others have asked me, “If you get married to a US citizen, doesn’t that automatically give you citizenship?”

These are great points, but that’s not how the law works anymore. Many people who have gone through this process in the past abused the system. Men and women alike married random people, paying lots of money for the sole purpose of getting their citizenship. Because of people who abuse the laws, others get, for lack of a better word, screwed.

Right now the law reads that if you live in the US after turning 18 years old for more than a year, you could get a 3-year, 10-year or lifetime ban. Of course, those bans depend on many things, like how many years you lived in the US after you turned 18, if you have criminal record, or if you have been deported before. My ban was 10 years because I’ve been in the US for almost 10 years illegally after the age 18. I don’t have a criminal record and I was never deported.

Questions I have been asked time and time again are, “Why now?”, “Why did you wait so long?”, and “How come you had to go to Juarez? Why couldn’t you get your citizenship here in the states?”

All of these are great questions. To answer the first two, I can start by saying at first it was fear. All the “What ifs?” Later, we would talk to lawyers and we would always hear “Wait for amnesty to pass. Congress might pass a new law.” The main reason was the unknown.

We did this now because we finally got great advice. More than advice, we had help. We got help from my sister-in-law’s father, who worked for the Border Patrol for many, many years. My sister-in-law and her husband asked her father if he knew what we could do, and he gave the answers we needed. He told us exactly what paperwork to file and what a little of what the process would be like.

Quickly, we started the process. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our family. It is difficult and expensive. Looking back now, God really did have his hands on everything. Most people who go through this process say they waited years and years just to get a reply that their application had been approved. We received it within months.

We started the paperwork in January 2008 and now, a year-and-a-half later, here I sit. It took a very short time. The reason we had to come to Juarez is because that is the closest US Consulate to Western US. Yes, there are consulates in Nogales and Tijuana, but they all handle diffierent types of immigrations. Some offices only handle Work Visas, others handle Travel Visas.

The one in Juarez, from what I have heard, is the biggest. This is where you get sent for Resident Visas. Of course when they deny you, you don’t have to stay in Juarez, you could go to a part of Mexico closer to where your family is located, but for me it was better to stay here. Just about everyone on my mother’s side lives here, so it was best for our family.

As for why I couldn’t go through the process in the US, the simple answer is that the only people who can do the processing in the US are those who entered with a Visa in the first place. Even a Travelers Visa or Student Visa. Any kind of Visa. Those who did the process the right way.

Yes, I know the question would be, “Well, why didn’t you do that in the first place?” My answer is I don’t know. I was brought here when I was six. I’m not sure my family knows that answer either. I just haven’t ever asked why. All I can say is things happen for a reason and only God knows why.

My family and I were prepared for this process, for Juarez. After receiving our appointment date, my husband Marco threw himself into research. He spent hours and hours on the computer researching every website he could find. Blogs, help sites, government sites. Everything he could think of. It is because of him that we prepared for every outcome before we left.

I’m not going to lie and say things are great. It is very difficult being here. I haven’t been able to hug or kiss my kids or my husband for almost month, my oldest since May. Thanks to computers, I can see my kids on the web cam, which helps a lot. Many nights I have cried myself to sleep. Sometimes, I pretend to be asleep, wait until everyone goes to bed, and that’s when I cry, when I pray.

I have asked God why many times, over and over again, but I’ve also told him that it’s okay, that I have total faith in whatever plans he may have. It is because of all the prayers, my family and my new-found faith that my world has not fallen to pieces, that I am able to live in peace and to enjoy the time I am spending with my family. That I don’t feel guilty for smiling or laughing.

I just finished reading the Gospel of Mark in the Bible. I’m rereading it because it really got to me and I want to understand it better.

I hope I was able to asnwer some of the questions some of you had. And give some understanding. Once again, thank you for the continued prayers.

Take care,

Lupe

Dove&Snake Video: D&S + Reflective Collective Tees

29 Jun

We just partnered with Tucson’s own Reflective Collective for the first Dove&Snake tee. They designed and hand-printed the shirts, and John DeSoto took his camera along to watch John Weatherford and Andrew Ling work their magic on some red American Apparel shirts*.

*We’ve sold all the red ones, and the plan is for the next batch to be black. If you want in on Print Run No.2, send an email to doveandsnake@secondmi.org with SHIRT in the subject line and your size in the message. They will cost $15.

Letters from Juarez: “Maria said she kept asking God why.”

24 Jun

We’re interested in Lupe’s letters because they give a personal quality to immigration issues, a story many people encounter on the national news but rarely hear from an individual’s perspective.

Lupe is not the only one is Juarez in such a position. She sent us a letter detailing the story of a family she met. All the violence that we hear about on television is their daily existence. We’ll let Lupe tell the rest.

June 17, 2009

After being in Juarez for a little more than two weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak to lots of different people through my aunt’s friends and through family. Just last week, we went to a First Communion dinner for a friend of my little cousins. There, we had the chance to meet a couple, Juan and Maria. They were very nice and kind. After about an hour, they started opening up about their story. I asked for their permission to share some of it and got the okay as long as their names weren’t used*.

Juan is the owner of a big factory here in Juarez (He wouldn’t tell us the name of the factory out of fear). In the past year and half, their lives have been turned upside-down. When the violence in Juarez started, he had to get extra security at his factory, and he installed cameras everywhere.

Last year, the family bought what they thought would be their dream home. The contract stated that their house would be ready in 6 months. That never happened. The seller ran off with their money.

After that bad experience, they tried again. This time they did get the house they paid for, but after a few months, new neighbors arrived and problems started. A few weeks after the new neighbors moved in, Federalis and military soldiers rushed in and took the neighbor out of his house. His neighbor turned out to be a Narco, a drug lord.

A few days later, the family went to pay for their mortgage with Carlos, the owner of the gated community where their house is located. Not 2 hours later, there was a massacre at Carlos’s house. Carlos was not injured, but his 5 guards were shot and killed. Carlos is now under investigation for selling houses to different people at the same time. Later a woman showed up at Juan’s family’s door, telling them they needed to get out because that wasn’t their house, it belonged to her. They could not believe all this was happening to them. Maria said that she kept asking God why. But she still doesn’t know the answer.

Just 3 and half weeks ago, Juan stopped at a gas station to buy a soda and when he walked out to his car, there were several men, ages 20-25, waiting for him by the car. They held him at gun point and asked him to give them everything. He saved his own life by throwing his keys up in the air and taking off running in a zig-zag pattern. The men took off in his truck, with his work information, house information, and factory keys inside. Everything.

As of last Friday, Juan’s family found out that the main person who held him up was a brother to Maria’s best friend, a friend she has known since the age of 12, a friend who knew everything about them. It was sad to hear them tell the story.

Right now, Juan and Maria have a home behind their children’s school. They drive the ugliest cars they can find and never travel alone. After seeing them again this past weekend, they seemed to be holding up okay. Juan did say that now, when he is driving, if someone is behind him for more than 10 seconds, he takes a different route.

My aunt and I asked them how their religion was and if they were close to God. They said they haven’t gone to church or anything. They have been living in fear. They have 2 boys in third and fourth grade. Right now those boys are all they worry about.

This is a story, I’ve been told, that you hear often here. When you are in front of the person who it’s happened to, you just want to hug them. I’ve been praying for their family everyday since we’ve met them.

The violence in Juarez is ugly. Most of the ones committing the crimes are teenagers and those between the ages of 20-25. They’re boys and girls. Everyday, I hear the stories on the news. Often they show pictures of the victims.

Through all of this, I can tell you that God has put an invisible shield around us. On Friday, we were supposed to go pay Juan and Maria’s mortgage. We have no clue why we didn’t go, we don’t remember what we did. The next morning, we found out that the place we were going had a shooting on Friday at the time we were supposed to be there. God is really amazing. Those kinds of things have been happening to us a lot. Violence breaks out before or after we leave, or we just don’t end up going at all.

I can tell you that I have faith in God. I feel him around me and our family. Fear is not in me. I feel safe.

Lupe

*Juan and Maria are not the real names of the couple Lupe spoke with at the First Communion dinner.

**Neither is Carlos the real name of the man who owns the gated community where Juan and Maria bought their house.

Letters from Juarez: “The whole time we were there, I could feel that everything was okay.”

22 Jun

Here is Lupe’s second correspondence from Juarez, Mexico, as she seeks citizenship (which means a medical exam, a husband waiting for hours in the sun, an assigned number, prayer–).

June 16, 2009

Hope all is going well with your family. I thought I’d send you a little something about what’s happening.

I’ve been here in Mexico a couple of weeks, and let me tell you, life is different. Sad, depressing at times, but it’s also amazing to see how some families cope.

Of course, the reason for our visit or stay is because of my immigration visa. When they give you the appointment, they tell you that you need to arrive one to two days early to get a medical exam. It sounds scary at first, mostly because you’re in a different country and you don’t know the medical background of the nurses or doctors. The exam was all right. They had to do my X-rays twice. I’m still not sure why. Only God knows.

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My husband Marco had to wait in the sun for about 3-4 hours while I was getting my exam done. At least I wasn’t alone. 3 women and I went through the process together. We got to talk a little and that was really nice. We supported each other. The whole time we were there, I could feel that everything was okay. It was like we knew God was with us, that he wasn’t going to let anyone take advantage. I say that because they make you get completely naked. They check you for everything. During that time, I kept my eyes closed and just prayed to God that the doctors would respect all the women getting their medical exam. It was all fine.

The next day, we had to be at the consulate at 9:45am because my appointment was at 10:15am. The consulate looks scary from the outside, but inside it’s beautiful. Security was tight. We had to go through several checkpoints. The only thing that bugged me was that we were at the US Consualte and people looked at me weird because I would speak in English.

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When you go in, they give you a number and that’s how they identify you. They call you to different windows for different things and you have to show that number or they will make you go back out to the waiting area and wait again. My number was 5141.

The interview went just like we thought. The lady only asked me a few questions, and then she told me that because I was in the US illegally for more than a year after turning 18, I was banned from the US for 10 years, but I will be allowed to file a waiver. At that moment, I seriously thought I was going to lose it, but I didn’t. A calm came over me and it was like in my heart I already knew that was going to happen.

My next appointment is for the waiver. At that appointment, Marco and I will have to prove hardship for our family, how it will affect our family if I’m stuck in Juarez or if we all have to relocate. At that interview, we will have to present evidence. At this moment, Marco is busy in Tucson, being a single daddy and working on the hardship letter he is writing. At that appointment, they will let me know if they will give me the resident visa or if they need more evidence.

I can tell you that I’m extremely blessed. We met a few couples here who did not prepare for any outcome. One man had to leave his wife here and drive back to California and figure out what he was going to do. His wife is living out of a hotel right now. For the next couple of months, she’s alone.

Violence here is rising again. Although, thanks to lots of prayer, we don’t see it much. Every day I pray for that woman and all the families who will have to go through the same thing. I get to stay with family in a safe, gated community with tight security. I’d be foolish to tell you that it’s not difficult being here because it is. What makes it better is knowing that God has his hands in everything. That I have complete faith in him. He is loving over everyone I love. My kids are doing extremely well thanks to him and all of your prayers.

Juarez life is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The average family makes about 500 pesos a month, which is about 40 dollars. You look around and, besides solders, you see people, families, trying to sell what they can just to make it. My uncle, who I hadn’t seen in 20 years, had to close down his welding business, sell everything, get another loan for his house and start doing odd jobs just to make it. Life is really hard for many people here. There are on average 12-20 deaths a day. Like I said, I don’t see it. God is really guiding and helping. He is felt at all times.

I ask that you pray for all the lives here. For those coming to Juarez for immigration issues and finding that God is there for them too.

Thanks,

Lupe Leon

Letters from Juarez: “I’ll be stuck here for awhile.”

18 Jun

Lupe Leon is a wife and a mother. She grew up in the United States. She is not a US citizen, but she’s seeking citizenship. To accomplish that goal, Lupe had to travel to Juarez, Mexico. After hearing a bit of her experience in Juarez, we asked her to write us about her life right now and send us any photos she may have taken.

She is in Juarez now. We can tell you that she is staying with family, but her husband and children are here in Tucson. We have her dispatches from the bordertown, from trying to immigrate to where she grew up, from staying with family in a dangerous place, from taking photos from the car for safety, from–

Here’s the first of Lupe’s letters from Juarez. There will be more.

(This is a compilation of several short pieces of correspondence from June 2 to June 7, 2009.)

I’m not sure what you want me to write. I can tell you that there are soldiers everywhere. In the past few days there have been more than 30 murders. As for the immigration part, it’s difficult. I see so many people everywhere who are here for the same reason I am, except when they get denied and are told they have to stay here, they have no family.

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Today, I got a 10 year ban, but I am able to file a waiver. So that’s good. A 10 year ban means I can’t go back to the US because I was there illegally for more than a year since the age of 18. The waiver is just a file we can submit. If we can prove that it would be extreme hardship for me to be here, then they would waive the ban and I can get a visa. My next appointment is July 21, so I’ll be stuck here for awhile.

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Life here is fine. We haven’t seen much but the consulate area. I can tell you that you have to pay to park anywhere. I’ll write more soon.

Take care,

Lupe

The View from the Top: “Hanging” with Matt

8 Jun

Andy Coley, Gerred Clark, and Mike Roper produced “‘Hanging’ with Matt,” a short documentary about Matthew Donahue’s climbing adventures. He climbs with his dad, climbs with a club, climbs on Sunday mornings, and climbs till his hands are “triple their size.” Follow Matthew up Mount Lemmon, listen to his climbing tales and watch him ascend rocks with his fingers and feet.

D&S + Reflective Collective Tees

2 Jun

The first Dove&Snake shirt will be produced by Tucson’s own Reflective Collective (made up of friends of Dove&Snake Andrew Ling and John Weatherford). We’re curious who would be interested in locally-designed, hand-printed, American Apparel Dove&Snake tees. This first tee will be red and cost a reasonable* $15.

If you are interested in purchasing a Dove&Snake tee, please comment below or send an email to doveandsnake@secondmi.org with SHIRT in the subject line. Tell us what size you’d like to wear so Reflective Collective knows what shirts to print.

*Reasonable for the following reasons: that’s half what Urban Outfitters asks for tees and less than many other trendy places, it’s $2 less than American Apparel shirts (which are so cottony soft and made by fairly-paid folks in Los Angeles, CA) when purchased in American Apparel stores, it supports not one but two local creative enterprises (run by people you might just know and love), the shirts will be numero uno in a (hopefully, if all goes well) long run of limited edition D&S tees designed by local artists, and there will be a certain exclusivity to owning said numero uno because it will be a small print run that will only be available for purchase for a short time and then only be available in the wardrobes of your friends.