My memory is peppered with a million things - among which shine several very bright, bright points. These are defining moments in my life, and I remember them like they were yesterday. One of those moments was a day about six years ago when I received a phone call from my mother, who had just been out to get the mail.
“It came!” she exclaimed.
“What?” I answered, bewildered by this information, given the fact that said letter wasn’t due for another few weeks at least.
To anyone else, it looked like a drab piece of government correspondence. Admittedly, it was - but to me, this glorious U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services K1 notification meant the end to a 2,020 mile separation; the end to ridiculous attempts at “long distance date nights” where we’d both rent the same movie and “watch” it together; the end to months between seeing each other. It meant the end to the months of wedding planning while knowing it was entirely possible that my husband would be denied a visa.
Photo Credit: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
My country had finally said “yes” to my fiancé. While the process was really just beginning, at least we’d finally get to be together for the rest of it.
Over the course of the next several years as we continued through the process, we’ve watched a president scoff at immigration law, and even arbitrarily make up his own rules for DREAMers. We’ve spent the last few weeks watching as thousands upon thousands flood across the borders... and now the president has requested over $3 billion in additional funds to deal with the onslaught (though funds already exist for appropriation to this end).
Before it’s pointed out that some immigrants paid hefty sums to coyotes to sneak them across the border, and the inevitable perils that face those who cross unforgiving landscapes - dodging sex traffickers and cartel members and other threatening figures - I understand that for many would-be illegal immigrants, it is no picnic. None of this changes the fact, however, that they stole from all of us, and in particular they stole from those of us who did it the right way.
[sharequote align="center"]They stole from all of us, and in particular they stole from those of us who did it the right way.[/sharequote]
The debate over what precisely to do with those already in this country aside, the point I’d like to make today is simple: If this government is going to continue to leave the border unsecured while pushing for amnesty to be given to those who managed to skirt our (albeit unenforced) laws, then I want our money back. I want the time we lost back. I want the years of hardship we faced back.
Quite frankly, I’d like to sue the federal government for damages.
Mary Ramirez would like to keep her family together - but she had to go through years of paperwork and pay thousands of dollars in fees in order for her husband to stay and work in the U.S. legally. John Moore/Getty Images
When my now-husband and I decided to come back to the United States to live, we hadn’t the slightest clue what lay ahead.
I moved back in the summer of 2007, shortly after which my then-fiancé was able to come on a tourist visa to interview for a job that he was eventually offered. Our joy was short-lived, however, when the company called again - this time explaining that they didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility (and expense) of sponsoring him for a visa.
Several weeks and a lawyer later, we got the education of our lives: The process was multi-faceted and could last anywhere from six months to a year. We’d have to start with an entrance visa (K1, in our case) and from there we’d have to petition for a work permit, and a “temporary” permanent (wrap your head around that one!) resident card.
After two years, we would have to again file for a “permanent” permanent resident card. After a few more years, we could then file for naturalization. Contrary to popular belief, one does not earn citizenship the minute their feet touch this great soil.
When my husband finally arrived in the U.S., (but not before he had to make the trek to über-dangerous Ciudad Juarez for a consulate and medical visit) an endless process awaited. At every single step we had to submit new filing fees.
A U.S. Border Patrol canine team stands nearby after they helped detain a group of undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11, 2013 near Mission, Texas. A group of 16 immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador said they crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas during the morning hours before they were caught. The Rio Grande Valley sector of the border has had more than a 50 percent increase in illegal immigrant crossings from last year, according to the Border Patrol. Agents say they have also seen an additional surge in immigrant traffic since immigration reform negotiations began this year in Washington D.C. Proposed refoms could provide a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States. Credit: Getty Images
These could range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to close to a thousand. For a couple of kids just starting out (neither family had any money), it was brutal. Mind you, as part of this process we also had to prove that we wouldn’t become a burden on society - no welfare allowed! We had to have a relative sign an affidavit of “if-needed” support.
Navigating the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website is roughly equivalent to trying to understand legislation passed in Congress. You know: “For fee schedules, please visit subsection XX.” You visit subsection XX, only to be told to that the fee schedule is located within yet another document you must find. Moreover, you’ve got a better chance of a personal audience with the Queen of England than you have of getting someone from USCIS on the phone.
As with most government bureaucracy, you begin to feel like you’re somewhere between a root canal and losing your mind.
It was incredibly easy to make mistakes, especially since we had to opt to do most of this without the expensive services of a lawyer. As a result of one such mistake, my husband lost four months of work because we overlooked one form that would have extended his work permit until his “temporary” permanent resident card arrived.
Throughout it all, we lived and breathed under the reality that a mistake could mean process extension, or even back to square one.
Fast forward a few years later: We’ve finally made it through most of the ordeal, and we’ve crawled out of the hole we had to dig in the process.
Why should amnesty be given to those who came here illegally when Mary Ramriez and her family endured financial and emotional strain to go through the proper channels? Credit: Getty Images
“Oh cool!” the customs agent says as we passed through San Antonio on our way home this month, “You’re eligible for citizenship this year. Congrats!”
My mother, equally excited, shared in the agent’s joy. Until I told her how much it’s going to cost. We'll have to save a little more.
“Oh...” she says dejectedly, and then she jokes, “So, would you like citizenship for Christmas?”
You can understand why we - alongside everyone else who’s ridden this roller coaster - feel we’d be entitled to repayment at minimum. Quite simply, it’s not fair.
I’m really kidding myself if I think that such a class action suit isn’t pure silliness. Still, it’s a wonderful thought to relish.
And I’m only half kidding around.
Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com--a political commentary blog, and contributor to the Chris Salcedo Show. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
Feature Photo: Shutterstock
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