Dating Undocumented: Advice for Mixed Status Couples

July 24, 2014

I’ve always been open on the blog with our immigration story and the process we went through when Billy was undocumented. But I have often mentioned how our circumstances were “best case scenario.”

Every now and then I think about the sweet, young couple who approached Billy and I after a talk we gave and asked for advice. Or I consider those of you who have emailed me asking for more details.

So I compiled a list of things I learned in our process.

Don’t sweep it under the rug. 

I know. You’re in love. You don’t want to let pesky immigration details spoil your “made for TV” movie. I totally get that.

But… you don’t want to be cake tasting when you learn you’ll have to live without papers or leave the country for 10 years. That’s an awful time to hear someone say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t sign up for this.”

Make Good Choices

We all love to giggle and the foolish things people do when they’re in love. Drive across the country to bring you flowers? Romantic. Jump up on the couch and shout your love? Thank you, Tom.

But you must keep your head when dating as a mixed status couple. Skip the late night club scene with its higher police presence. Make sure any epic road trip includes research about checkpoints or immigrant-antagonistic pit stops. Listen to Anna, friends.

Image Source: Rebloggy

Hire a Lawyer

As soon as you can hear those wedding bells in the distance, meet with a lawyer. We were sitting in his office practically the day after we got engaged. (And honestly, I think even earlier would’ve been better.)

Lawyers are not cheap and it’s tempting to think you can do it yourself. But if one person is already undocumented, the stakes are high and the mistakes are easy to make. Once you submit that first piece of paperwork, you’ve made your illegal presence known and you can open the door to challenges.

That said, you must find a lawyer through a referral to avoid scam artists. We highly recommend our lawyer, Julio Villasenor. If you need an honest, effective lawyer, give him a call at 626-968-2226. I’m so serious. It’s that important to find someone good. And he worked with us in LA and Atlanta, so you don’t even have to be local. Tell him the Quezadas sent you!

Shut out the noise. 

The book U.S. Immigration Made Easy has 624 pages. The simple fact is the system is not simple. Cases vary by every detail, not to mention the mood of the agent who happens upon your file.

You’ll be surprised how many people you know will appear to have detailed knowledge of this complex system. Trust professionals. Smile and nod at most everyone else.

Save, Save, Save

This process is not cheap. It’s thousands of dollars. Every piece of paperwork requires a certified check for one reason or another. There’s doctor’s visits and lawyer’s fees. And if you don’t live in a major city, you may have to travel to one for your interview.

My advice is not fun, but save those wedding checks. In the long run, you’ll appreciate a green card more than new bedding.

Emergency Preparedness Drills

Okay, well you don’t need to run drills per se. But it is a good idea to have a plan for if an undocumented partner is deported.

Do you know how to get in touch with family? Do you have access to bank accounts? A lawyer’s phone number? What about children? Just think through the steps you’d take. Hopefully, you will never need to use them.

Enjoy your dating. It's such a super fun season. And while dating with mixed status does present some challenges, you should totally do it if you're with the right person. I'm a big fan of cross-cultural relationships!

Exam Rooms, Dogs, & 33

July 22, 2014

Image Credit: Erica Feliciano

This week I turned 33. There is one story that comes to my mind whenever I hear that number. And it takes me back to an Argentine exam room I shared with a dog.

I feel like I've had an abnormal need to check in with a medical professionals around the world. I am basically a medical tourist.

Hometown doctor in Xela, Guatemala? Check. Ultrasound in Guatemala City? Of course! Pediatrician home visit in Argentina? Best. Medical. Experience. Ever. Because who wants to drag a sick infant to the doctor???

And then I got the sniffles myself in Argentina. When I was feeling particularly like death, we decided to stop by and see someone.

A kind fellow checked me in at the front desk. He disappeared back into the office and a few minutes later, I was called into an exam room.

Imagine my surprise when I was greeted in the room by this same man. Also there was a dog sleeping in the corner.

He pressed a stethoscope to my back. The doctor wanted me to repeat the number 33.

Since Billy was translating, I wasn't sure whether to say it in English or Spanish. I went with Spanish.

Treinta y tres. Go ahead and try saying that over and over. It's kind of a mouthful. And then I made eye contact with Billy and promptly started giggling. Treinta y tres has been our favorite number ever since.

Good news was I was better in like 24 hours. Love me some international healthcare!

(For another fun perspective on remedies in Guatemala, check out this guest post from my friend Carrie.)

Have you ever seen the doctor in another country?

When Suffering and Silliness Collide

July 18, 2014

This week I shared two posts. In one, I was literally rapping about the end of the World Cup. In the other, I reflected on if my daughter were a child migrant.

The silly and the suffering. The joy and the pain.

The beautiful complexity of life means holding conflicting emotions gently in our hands while still placing one foot in front of the other.

This tension is blatantly obvious on Facebook. Yesterday I scrolled through news about the Malaysian jet being shot down, instantly followed by a post detailing the hilarious mischief of a friend's kid. How can I laugh mere seconds after I take in such tragedy?

It's no one's fault, of course, it just is life's truth. We experience supreme delight and crushing sorrow simultaneously, both individually and collectively.

I have chosen to live in difficult places for the last 15 years (off and on). Sometimes it is a challenge to figure out how to appropriately engage the world when confronted with unending hurt. Aware of so much brokenness, how do you enjoy living within it?

Billy and I used to joke that we had the spiritual gift of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). We had a habit of inviting beautiful, servant-hearted folks over to our home... and then challenging them to a dance-off. Folks are hesitant at first. Aren't we supposed to be discussing strategies for loving our neighbors with dignity? Then, before you know it, they're sweating in our living room like their lives depended on it.

We were always amazed at the response: emails and texts after the fact overflowing with gratefulness. Somehow... in the midst of all the hurting... it's easy to forget the fun. It may even feel too indulgent.

How can I laugh when I know others are crying?
How can I spend time creating amazing art when there's so much work to be done?
How can I enjoy life when there's so much misery?

I have sometimes struggled to find my place in the social justice subculture. And part of it is because, while I appreciate a good documentary, if I had to choose between that and filming a rap video...

In fact, I made a conscious decision with all my recent World Cup foolishness not to write about or share articles about the challenges and protests regarding Brazil's hosting. (Wait... did I just break my own rule?) Not because it didn't matter. Not because I wasn't reading anything on it. But because I decided to focus on the festivities and the tomfoolery this go 'round.

I will never ascribe to an "ignorance is bliss" philosophy. I love to learn things, and I desire to know more about the world. However, when I was studying for my Master's in Sociology, I was spent a lot of time feeling sad or angry. I need the balance of laughter and dance parties.

How do you balance brokenness and delight in your life? To get started, here's a quick list of some ways we've attempted to incorporate the fun and ridiculous into our little world. (We never seem to need to add pain...)
  • Celebrate - Throw parties, eat cake, give gifts, cook tacos for an army!
  • Create & Consume Beauty - Paint, read, get outside, go to an exhibit.
  • Express Gratitude - It truly does the heart good.
  • Value Solitude - If you haven't yet, read this book. It'll change your life.
  • Build Relationships - You need friends to encourage you, cry with you, and dance with you.
What would you add to the list?

If It Were My Child

July 16, 2014

My husband recently posted a video on Facebook. It depicts a woman waiting by the train tracks to toss bags of food and supplies to migrants traveling on the trains through her town. (I cannot figure out how to embed it, but you can view it on my Facebook page here.)

I can't even talk about it without tearing up.

Because when I saw that woman, all I could think was that she probably does this because she has a child traveling somewhere North. And my mama heart went out to her mama heart.

I keep hearing stories of unaccompanied, Guatemalan children crossing the border. I am the mother of two half-Guatemalan children.

One report mentioned a child as young as 3 coming. My oldest child is 3 and a half.

And I just keep thinking, "What if it were my Gabriella crossing the border without me?"

My mind has gone a thousand different directions with that question. From the horrifying "What if she got hurt?" to the ridiculous "Could she actually talk non-stop on such a journey?"

I've worried about her supplies, about someone looking out for her in the group, about her safety.

But when I saw that video, all I could hope is that another mama along the way would give her food and water. And maybe some stickers... she just loves stickers.

The "Rap Up" {#WorldCupWives}

July 13, 2014

We have had so. much. fun. this summer. The World Cup Wives has been a sweet, fun community to watch the games with.

We have been grateful for y'all... every single lady who joined in the fun and foolishness this summer. A special shout out to those of you who tweeted, linked up, and helped up create the community: Abby, Michelle, Ali, Melissa, Christine, Sarah, Becca, Carrie, Laura, Tracy, Holly, and Ashleigh.

To send you off with our deepest love, we've made our final "rap up" video. It's basically just as amazing as you're thinking it's going to be.

(Note: If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to watch the video.)

Thank you. We out.
Proudly designed by | mlekoshi Playground