Tag Archives: letters from Juarez

Letters from Juarez: “This might be my last letter. I’m not sure.”

21 Jul

This may or may not be the last we hear from Lupe. She’s relocating temporarily, and by the time that temporary move is up, she may be relocating back to Tucson. We shall wait and see. Until then: reliving the cycle, separating the family, everyone has a story, finishing grandpa’s beans, more, more–

July 9, 2009

The last month and a half has been both difficult and fun at the same time. It has been difficult because I am away from my husband and my kids. They are my entire life and being away from them has been the most difficult thing I have ever done.

In many ways, I’m in the situation that I never wanted to be in. When my brother and I were very little, my mom left us to go to the US to work to be able to support us. She left us with my grandparents, who were also caring for their youngest daughter and another grandson.

For awhile I was upset with my mom for making that choice. Now, being in my situation, I have learned that sometimes God puts us in situations that we might not like or understand. He always has a reason to do what he does. I now know how my mom must have felt when she left us. Although being here isn’t by choice, it still hurts.

Right now my kids are with my mom. She is caring for them like her parents cared for my brother and I many years ago. We are reliving the cycle. People say that we should not judge our parents because one day we might turn out to be like them. I’m not like my mom in many ways, but in others I am. I can no longer judge her for the choice she had to make. Not now. I know how heartbreaking it is to be away from those you love.

My time in Juarez has been difficult for our entire family. When I first called my son Andy, when I was told I had to stay in Mexico, he said something that really got to me. He said, “Mommy, why are you separating our family even more?” He lives in California and I don’t get to see him often, so the simple fact that he couldn’t spend time in Tucson with us this summer like previous summers, and me being even further away, made him feel that way. I know he didn’t mean anything mean by it, but his words stayed with me.

I’ve asked God that same question. “Why has he done this?” “Why is our family separate?” “What is the purpose?” I don’t ask these things in anger. I just want to understand. The answers still haven’t arrived but I’m sure he’s working on them. Or he might be showing me and I just haven’t been paying enough attention.

It breaks my heart to hear that my daughter is sad or having a bad day. That she’s asking when I’m coming home. I received some drawings that the kids made for me, and one of them was of me holding a suitcase, going home.

It also breaks my heart to hear that Tommy, my other son, is having a difficult time. That he’s crying or sad. No mom, no parent likes to hear that. So I ask again, “Why are you doing this to our family?” I can’t blame anyone. The situation is what it is.

Even though it has been hard, I know we are doing the best we can. We are in communication everyday. My family here has been very generous. My aunt and uncle have opened the doors of their home to me and made me feel comfortable. It’s been nice to get the chance to get to know my cousins and their families again.

I have a big family, and they all have a story to tell. My aunt in El Paso had to relocate her family from one day to the next because of threats they were getting. One of my cousins just left last week for a small town south of Juarez where he got a job after almost a year of looking, leaving his wife and daughter here. Another cousin’s husband lost his job a long time ago and now makes a living doing odd jobs. He built their house from the ground up with his own two hands.

My other aunt, whose husband is in jail (I still don’t know why) has her daughter, son and granddaughter living in her house, and she hasn’t been able to get a job since she got laid off months ago. I would have told you all their stories in depth, but they are not mine to tell. I didn’t feel like it was right.

My grandparents are wonderful. Whenever we go over to their house, it feels like I’m walking into my own home. There’s always a hug waiting and food smelling yummy. A few weeks ago, I spent the night at their house and it reminded me of when I lived with them. When I was little, I would sit next to my grandpa at meals. Whatever he didn’t finish eating, I would be happy to finish for him.

When I was there recently, we were having breakfast. He was eating eggs and beans. He didn’t finish his beans and without thinking about it, I took his plate and finished up. I looked up at him and he was staring at me like he remembered it, too.

That evening we had cereal for dinner, and I served it. That was also something I used to do as a child. It was my job to serve the cereal for him. Not exactly a job, just something I liked to do because I would steal Frosted Flakes from him. It’s those little moments that I will treasure about being here.

This weekend I’m heading to my grandparents house to stay. Marco will join me there next week when he arrives. I’m heading over there early because my grandma got really sick last week. She had to be taken to the hospital to get an IV connected. I’ve never seen her so bad in my life. It was scary.

She’s okay now, still on bed rest. Her diabetes was acting up and she has some problems with her heart. One of her doctors took away a medicine that was causing her body to react, so she is stuck in bed now and can’t be given any news that will make her stress out.

She needs 24-hour care. My aunts and uncles are organizing themselves to care for her during the day, but I will be going to care for them while I’m here. Right now, one of my aunts is with her, but she’s leaving Saturday to go back to her home in Parral. I’m going to go take over. Maybe that is the reason God has me here. Who knows?

This might be my last letter. I’m not sure. I’m going to stay at my grandparents’ house from this weekend until my waiver appointment. They don’t have an Internet connection, so I won’t be able to sign on and send my letters.

Once again, thank you to everyone for the prayers, help and support. Especially thank you to my husband who has been the one who has been holding everything together. If it weren’t for him, I think we would have gone nuts. Thanks, honey, for all that you have done.

God bless, and I hope to see you all soon,

Lupe

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.

Continue reading

Letters from Juarez: “We’re not just locked up at home all the time.”

8 Jul

Juarez is not all fun and games, but there is fun to be had, even in the midst of violence and uncertainty. There are pool parties and graduations. There is the color guard. There are movie theaters showing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in Spanish. See? Si.

July 1, 2009

Hola!

I’ve officially been living in Juarez for a month now. It’s amazing how time flies. Really, the days are just stuck together. Maybe it’s because I try not to think about them. I have only 3 weeks until my appointment, and it’s going to come quick.

Life around here has been pretty busy. The night before Father’s Day, my aunt, uncle, their three kids and I went to have dinner, to celebrate both Father’s Day for my uncle and my birthday. We went to Las Alitas, a laid back wings place in the Misiones Mall. I kept laughing because all I heard on the sound system was American pop music. They kept laughing at me because I kept singing every song it played. It’s not my fault I know English. What did they expect?

Dinner was something we did because it was a special occasion. We don’t go out much, but we do once in awhile. From what I’ve seen, most people try to carry one with life as normal, but with caution. The mall is full of security everywhere. I think they have undercover people, but I’m not 100% positive.

On Father’s Day, we baked two cakes and made food for a get-together at my grandparents’ house. That day was great. We saw how everyone admires my grandpa. He is one extraordinary man. He worked in the gold and silver mines in Santa Barbara, Chihuahua, Mexico. He could tell you loads about the history of Mexico. He can also tell you about old Mexican movies, and the cowboy ones from America. I think he knows more about Gene Autry than I ever will.

That day I got to meet so many nieces and nephews. I keep telling the family that we could fill up a school with our kids alone.

On Monday, for my birthday, we went to the movies. My little cousin Peanut Butter and Jelly (PBJ)* and I went to see 17 Again, and the rest of the family saw Up. I swear I’m only ever watching movies in Mexico. We paid 35 pesos for 5 tickets at the grocery store and then spent 120 pesos for popcorn and drinks. That’s less than 20 bucks!

The following week was nuts. PBJ was getting ready to graduate from elementary school, my cousin Chapito** was getting ready to graduate from kindergarten, and my cousin Caritas*** was preparing for his First Communion, so my aunt was busy with details. I changed my name to Nanny Lupe because that’s all I did that week.

When we went to a party for PBJ’s classmates, I got stuck watching a bunch 12- and 13-year-olds at the pool. Oh, to be that age again. Sleep overs, and no worries about violence. They live in their own little magical world. I’m serious. They really do. I was talking with PBJ about it the other day. She said they know what is going on around them, but they choose to think about happy things.

We had a triple celebration on Saturday, June 27 for PBJ, Chapito, and Caritas. My relatives say it’s the season for First Communions and graduations. I didn’t go to the communion because I was being Nanny Lupe and babysitting at my other cousin Chuche’s house, and because we didn’t all fit in the car. I did hear about the communion at the celebration. Apparently, Caritas was still tired from spending the day before at the pool because he kept falling asleep. My aunt kept waking him up.

First Communion

They told me that the priest told the parents that often kids learn by what they see. If kids don’t see their parents involved in the church or actively reading the Bible, then kids won’t follow suit. If the kids see their parents complaining and avoiding church, times of prayer, or worship, then they shouldn’t judge their kids for not wanting to go to church or do those things. They’re just doing what they’re being taught. I found that very interesting and very true.

Older Graduates

The graduation was hot but nice. They held the graduations for the kindergarten, elementary, and junior high all at once. They all wore their green and yellow cap and gowns. The ceremony started with the presenting of colors, the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance and an introduction of the teachers. PBJ is part of the color guard. They won a competition a few months ago but didn’t receive their awards until graduation day.

Kindergarten Grads

PBJ's Color Guard

After the introduction, a little kindergarten girl went up and gave a cute speech. She made everyone cry. After her speech, the kindergartners got their diplomas, followed by the elementary and then junior high students. The school my cousins go to is a private school. They take half of their classes in Spanish and other half in English. Most schools around here are private. Apparently, those are the best. My aunt and uncle told me that kids don’t get the same education in public schools. Most of the public schools are far behind.

I know my last letters weren’t fun. I want you all to know that we do have fun, that we’re not just locked up at home all the time. Yesterday, we went to see Transformers in Spanish. My family kept laughing at me because I kept saying the words in English and kept yelling at the screen. Now they have a story to tell about their nutty cousin who yells at movie screens in English.

I hope you are all doing well. I miss my family, my friends, my community, everyone.

Take care,

Lupe

*That’s not her real name, but it is her real nickname.

**See previous footnote.

***Again, see first footnote. Protecting the innocent and all that.

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

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