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if only it were mine to give…

March 21, 2013

I learned today that my friend’s mom passed away a few months back. While that in and of itself is bad enough, my friend wasn’t able to visit her in her last days, nor was he able to attend her funeral. The reason why? US immigration laws that’d have prevented him from reentering the country, separating him from his wife and three children, as well as preventing him from reapplying for citizenship for up to a decade. I can’t tell you how angry that makes me, especially since the same thing happened when his father passed away. My friend is a Mexican immigrant who original came to the US to work and help support his family, and who wants more than anything to stay in order to give his family a better life.

Working with him for 3 years and being friends for about 5, I know how much his mother meant to him, and I know how much it must have killed him to know that leaving to see her in her final days would’ve cost him everything he’s worked so hard to achieve for the past 24 years, making his family’s future even more uncertain than it already is. Under current immigration laws, neither he nor his wife can leave the country without forfeiting all the time and money they’ve spent the last 8 years trying to become citizens.

Because my friend, his wife, and their first daughter initially came to this country ‘illegally,’ and his first lawyer screwed him over by putting the wrong country of origin on his paperwork because it was easier to immigrate from certain Latin American countries, he was ultimately denied citizenship despite the fact that he’s been living, working, and paying taxes in the US for over 24 years, is an asset to his present employer, has no criminal record, has two children under 18 who are legal US citizens, and has been going through the immigration process since 2005. What’s worse is that while waiting for his appeal to go through, which he’s heard absolutely nothing about for almost 2 years now, he’s had to live in limbo, not knowing what’s going to happen to him or his family if his request for citizenship is denied a second time. And now this.

Hearing about his life growing up and all the things he went through to get here, as well as the things he’s had to endure just to have a chance to stay, it makes me feel ashamed that I take what I have for granted. By the sheer luck of being born on the right side of an imaginary line, I have by chance what he’s strived for years to earn. I can’t imagine the amount of stress he’s been under, and it breaks my heart to see everything he’s given up pursuing this dream. There’s nobody I know who deserves to be here more than him, and if I could, I’d give him my citizenship in a heartbeat.

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