by Nancy Sepulveda
My life has been redefined by loving and losing an “illegal” immigrant, whom I shared a home and a child with before his deportation. That was two years and a thousand tears ago. Hours spent scavenging the Internet for immigration information. Wrestling with the idea of moving my children to a third-world country (Guatemala) and sacrificing reliable education and health-care systems, my own fledgling career, and the comparative safety of American life, to reunify our family. The heartache of knowing a separation of thousands of miles and a vicious border meant other romantic interests would inevitably be pursued. Our official breakup, and inability even now to stop the desperate I still love you’s whispered across endless coils of phone line.
I admit we played a role in creating our own tragedy. He chose to come here paperless and I “chose” to love him, and at every subsequent fork in the road we went the wrong way. Why didn’t we get married before he was picked up? I was a college student dependent on financial aid and didn’t want to jeopardize it by including his spousal income. I graduated two months before he was detained.
Why didn’t we marry while he was in ICE custody? I mistakenly trusted the immigration attorney, whom I’d paid $75 for the pleasure of speaking with for 30 minutes. She said we’d have to wait until he was back in his home country because “nothing could be done before then.” She was wrong.
Why didn’t we get married as soon as he was deported? I was struggling to pay the bills and couldn’t afford an immigration lawyer. We decided the best plan was for him to come back without documents, work long enough to save money for our own little “legal defense fund,” and return to Central America for us to wed. Except he got caught trying to return.
Why don’t we marry now? His detainment during attempted reentry after deportation makes him ineligible for any waivers or petitions that would allow legal entry. He has no hope of pursuing legal immigration until 2029.
So what to do now? Lament that our daughter is another fatherless child. Regret the many if only’s peppered throughout our drama. Mourn that he saw her take her first steps and utter her first words, but will not walk her to her first day of school nor hear her sing in a school recital. Helped her get through teething her first tooth, but couldn’t help the Tooth Fairy reward her first tooth loss. He bought her baptismal dress but will not buy her prom dress. Watched her blow out her first-birthday candle, but won’t see her celebrate her sweet sixteen. He walked me down the hospital corridor as the contractions increased, but will not walk his daughter down the aisle…
Now tell me that our broken immigration system doesn’t also break families.
Contributor, Nancy Sepulveda
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.