Letters from Juarez: “It not only affects the person who is given or not given a visa,”

14 Jul

Lupe isn’t the only one effected by her stay in Mexico. Her husband Marco, a US citizen, has been working feverishly on the required paperwork for the upcoming waiver appointment, as well as functioning as a single dad (with the help of family and friends). He took some time to write a letter from the perspective of the one still in the states, the one trying to manage life minus the other, the one trying to trust, the one trying, trying–

July 7, 2009

There have been a handful of people who have asked me to share how I feel. They think that I may provide some insight to the experience of the thousands who are petitioning for a spouse and have also been separated by the immigration process. I asked God to please help me in my words, that in some way they may help someone that will be or is currently in this situation.

I had been contemplating writing my thoughts on our immigration experience and sharing them from the perspective of a spouse. Being an introvert by nature, it is very difficult for me at times to say how I feel because most of my life I have kept myself guarded. That is one reason why I want to share. An even more important reason is because I have learned and continue to learn many valuable lessons from God from this experience.

Like this blog, there are many websites that you can see firsthand both the devastation and the elation of families who go through the immigration process. It not only affects the person who is given or not given a visa, but spouses, children, parents and whole communities. Those who are close to the families see the pain and the anguish from the separation that families go through. Those who get a visa experience the elation and those who are referred or denied suffer the devastation.

The two main sites that I have used to help me understand the human experience of the process are the Juarez, Mexico Discussion Forum and Immigrate2US.net. Hundreds of people use these forums and post their experiences. There is a vast amount of information and prayers that go through these sites for a community that supports each other through the common circumstance of immigrating a loved one, whether a spouse or child, into the United States.

There were many people that I met outside the consulate who were not privy to this information or were unaware of the immigration process and laws. There is so much misinformation, bad information or outdated information either on websites or passed by word of mouth.

One example of this was a young man that Lupe spoke about in her second letter, who watched his two-year-old son in the hot sun. He kept his son from running into the busy street multiple times. His other two children were being taken care of in a nearby hotel by a family member who he had picked up in Los Angeles on the way to Juarez. He had traveled all the way from Sacramento.

He asked me how I was going to be able to work and provide for my family while my wife stayed in Mexico. I told him that we were somewhat prepared and that my wife and I had discussed the possibilities. We have family and friends from our church who would help. I thought to myself that being prepared is one thing and having to look into my children’s eyes everyday and not break down was another. His wife came out of the consulate soon after our conversation, distraught and in tears. He told me he would be driving home to Sacramento with his three kids in his truck, and he would drop off his only other family member in the United States in Los Angeles on the way back.

Because I looked like a guero and an American, I was a magnet for many other Americans who were going through the immigration process. As the day went along, meeting people waiting outside and their distraught spouses was a common occurrence. The people who exited the consulate and were extremely happy, who hugged family members when their visa was granted, were a rarity.

I considered myself in God’s hands and I trusted in him with my knowledge and clarity of the immigration process. This was something that took hours of research and great amounts of sweat and patience. I had explained to Lupe before the interview that she would most likely receive a ban and we would have to file a waiver.

I prayed to God that I would be wrong and that she would be given the visa without any difficulty. I was hopeful but realistic. I had trust in God in that whatever the outcome it was his will. I prayed that God would give Lupe strength and understanding, that if she did not receive the visa that God would give her peace to know this was part of the process and we would get through this. That God will help us get through this.

From a distance I could see Lupe as she walked out of the consulate. Her demeanor was strong and tough, and I could see she was fighting against becoming emotional. I remember trying to get to her as fast as possible, walking at a quick pace without attracting the attention of the policeman at the corner or the soldiers nearby. I wanted to be there for her. I prayed that I would be strong for her and support her in whatever she needed me for. However prepared I was for whatever outcome, I was still very emotional. We were both trying hard to hide it. We knew we would be separated for sometime.

Lupe told me about the experience inside the consulate and I was relieved that the visa interview had gone smoothly considering that she was ineligible for a visa. Most importantly we were eligible to file a waiver to waive that ineligibility.

The following day we made our waiver appointment. The appointment was a day earlier than we actually predicted, which we thought was a good sign. Still, we would be physically apart for about two months. In the back of my head the same question kept coming to mind: “How will we get through this?” We had never been apart for such a long period of time. Our kids had never been apart from their mother or me for that long.

On June 4, I hugged and kissed my wife and drove alone from El Paso to Albuquerque to pick up Tomas and Makayla from my brother- and sister-in-law’s home, where they stayed during our visit to Juarez. During the drive, I thought about how I would speak with them and reassure them that everything was okay.

Lupe and I had prepared our children for the separation weeks before. We told them we were going to Mexico because she had to go to a meeting to get her papers so that she could come back to the United States. We told them that she could be gone for two months. Telling our children about the situation together was one thing. Coming back without their mother and looking into their eyes and seeing their pain was something else. Looking at them hurt every part of my being. I felt I had failed them. I knew I had to be strong for them and I asked God to give me that strength.

Everyday since then I have constantly reminded Tomas and Makayla many times a day that their mother loves them very much, that this situation is temporary and that we as a family will be together again. I have been amazed and proud of our children’s strength and understanding. They talk to Lupe through a web cam and on the phone as much as possible, and count down to her return on calendars.

Because of my children’s knowledge that we will be reunited, it is imperative that I do everything possible to ensure that the waiver is approved the first time. If the waiver is not approved, the separation may be lengthened from about 2 months to 12 to 15 months.

Lupe has always made comments about how it would feel for me to switch roles with her, how it would feel for me to run the household on my own. Through circumstances and by law I have always been the breadwinner and she has always been at home to take care of our children. As a couple, we agreed on the importance of a stay-at-home mom to take care of our children at an early age. We discussed Lupe finding a career when our children were of school age and she got her visa. We have been blessed by God and can say that we have relied on each other so far together in uniting, protecting and providing for our children in a loving household. I can say I have relied a lot on my wife for raising our children and in growing together as a couple and as a family.

In a recent blog she referred to me being a “single daddy.” This is something that I have thought of often and has caused me great pain. I have great respect for single mothers and fathers and what they go through raising their children on their own, working while ensuring they have time and energy for their children. I have family and friends that were brought up by single parents and have seen the joy and the stress that comes with raising children as a single parent.

This was something that I never wanted because the thought of not having my wife in my life has caused me extreme sadness and depression. It is not by choice that I am away from Lupe, the one I love so dearly. I am not a single daddy. I am loyally and lovingly married to my wife who is still my wife even though we are separated by such a distance.

Through this separation, God has given me the strength to be reassuring with my children and supportive that this situation is temporary. I will not say that the duties of feeding, bathing, clothing, playing, and breaking up fights while maintaining a household has been easy. The many hardships have included having my daughter wake up in the middle of the night crying and telling me, “Please don’t leave me daddy. Please don’t leave me.”

These are days when my children look at me and look for reassurance that their mother will be home soon. These are the days when my son asks, “Mommy is coming home in this many days, huh daddy?” These are the days, the nights that I want to break down. These are the days that I ask God to make me strong for them, for my wife and for our family.

On July 5, I drove six-and-a-half hours from Palm Springs to Tucson after dropping my children off with family where they would stay while I go to Mexico for Lupe’s waiver appointment, and I had a lot of time to think. Over the last month, I had thrown every ounce of my time and energy into Tomas and Makayla who were with me while my wife was hundreds of miles away. It had been over 36 days since my children have seen their mother other than over a web cam. It had been thirty days since I had physically seen my wife.

As I drove, I thought back through each day since the day Lupe and I entered Juarez up to now. I thought about the two days that I sat outside in the sun waiting for my wife as she went for her medical exam and her visa appointment at the US Consulate. I thought about the hundreds that waited and prayed with me, the constant traffic, and the heavy construction of another new consulate building across the street. I remember constantly asking God, “How will we get through this?” Even with the police officer at the busy intersection and the shuffling of soldiers with heavy weapons, my foremost focus was asking God, “How will we get through this?”

When I drove from Palm Springs to Tucson, I asked myself “How I can leave my two children with my wife’s family?” They will not have either parent to watch over them. I also asked myself the same question I had a little over a month before: “How will we get through this?”

There are many lessons that I have learned from God through this experience. The first was an understanding that has humbled me to my very core. I cannot do this on my own.

I had to let my pride and my guard down and trust in others. I learned that God would give me the peace to trust in others to take care of one of the most precious gifts he has given me, my children. God has also given me the peace in trusting in my wife’s uncles and aunts who take care of her in Juarez. It is not that I did not trust in others before. It was more that raising my children was my responsibility.

I now ask myself, “How did we get this far?”

I realize the hospitality of family and friends and the grace of God has helped us get to this point. I truly believe this. We have been blessed with family and friends that have helped us above and beyond our expectations.

I am grateful and indebted to everyone for their generosity, their time, and prayers. For phone calls and meals that have been delivered to our home. For family, neighbors, and members of our church and small group who have taken care of our children and helped with our household.

Our children have been blessed by those who have taken care of them, the special gifts and time that they remember with each and every one of them. As a parent this has been huge for me. I am grateful for everyone that has been along with us in our journey in Juarez, Tucson, Albuquerque and California.

Everyone’s hospitality, prayers and support are evidence of how far my family has come. It has not been easy and there is still further to go. I have trust in God that we will get through this, no matter the outcome. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Take care and pray,

Marco

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