Dating Undocumented: Advice for Mixed Status Couples

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

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

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

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}

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.

A World Cup Identity Crisis

German Image: Werner Kunz // Argentina Image: Billy Quezada
I am fifth generation German.

It's something I hardly ever think about. Until... you know... Germany is trouncing Brazil. Then I'm thinking, Hey Brazil, I may have stood on your border and revealed in the beauty of Iguazu Falls, but did you know I'm 5th generation German?

I mean, seriously, if I'm going to be a bandwagon fan, I can change teams, right? Just kidding. I stayed loyal to Brazil through the painful end, but it did get me thinking about my heritage.

We've tried to be so intentional in raising our children to appreciate their multicultural heritage. We are staying the very bumpy course of their bilingualism. We celebrate Central American Independence days and attend a bicultural church. It's super important to us.

And then I realize that when I consider my own identity, I tend to analyze my whiteness or my American-ness. I'm really not connected to my German heritage, even though both sides of my family are very German.

Then I wonder if Ella and Isaac's great grandkids will say the same thing. (Also... how funny is it to imagine your children as great grandparents?)

My grandfather said his parents spoke German at home. I can count to 3.

Of course, I have an inkling that Spanish language will be even more common in the U.S., regardless of your family background. I already know several other families who are not Latino teaching their kids Spanish. (Make sure you check out this great guest post from Bronwyn if you missed it.)

I don't feel any sense of loss, which also makes me strangely sad. I have sat with monolingual young adults who lament their lack of language and connection to their parents' culture. And I've heard parents bemoan their children's lack of cultural engagement.

I know those emotions probably exist somewhere in my family tree.

Of course, times were different. World War II made German ancestry complicated. And "blending in" was a common immigrant strategy. I can't quite imagine processing through those identity questions.

These have just been some my thoughts on cultural identity as we prepare for the Germany-Argentina game on Sunday. As much as I think about my own kids' multicultural background, I rarely think about my own history. Hats off to you, World Cup, for that.

Now don't get it twisted. I will be cheering for Argentina on Sunday. Or to put it more accurately, I will be wearing team-related clothing inside an Argentine bar. It's also a possibility that a flag as a cape will be involved. (Cleaning out my guest room turned up our Argentine flag just in the nick of time!)

But behind that cape will be a girl who, per usual, identifies with more than one country.

How many generations has your family lived in the country where you are now?

Children Crossing the Border: An Administration-Made Disaster?

Image Source: Romel Jacinto

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled "An Administrative Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors."

Depending on how you access your news, you may or may not know there's been a significant influx recently of children crossing the border without adults.

The very nature of the situation breaks my heart. I mean, how can it not? I'm a mom and a human. Children are attempting this journey that is horribly dangerous for adults. They are risking injury, dehydration, unspeakable violence, and death.

It's been hard for me to reflect on what's been happening actually. Partly because it flips my empathy switch in a way that I just want to cry. And partly because the some responses makes me so furious that I just want to burn things down.

National Game of Capture the Flag

House Republicans have washed their hands of immigration reform this year and simply decided they will not deal with it. There have been accusations that the little work that has been accomplished is what's inspiring this recent surge in unaccompanied minors at the border.

The rhetoric has become that until current laws are enforced, the House will not discuss additional immigration reform.

Obama has a reputation for record deportations. I'm not gonna lie... for me personally, that does nothing for his approval ratings. But for those who favor deportation as an immigration solution, they should feel differently. He's done about as much as can be done in that area.

Deportation and border enforcement can only go so far. This is a much bigger issue than a nationwide game of capture the flag.

Why Are Kids Leaving?

In fact, the factors encouraging children to leave are multi-faced. One major one is the levels of violence in Central America escalating to levels that are causing families and children to literally flee their homes. Per 100,000 people, the murder rate is 90.4 (Honduras), 41.2 (El Salvador), and 39.9 (Guatemala).

The resulting exodus is not a U.S. issue alone. Belize, Panama, Costa Rica and other nearby countries report immigration increases around 435% from those three Central American countries. (Source)

"An Administration-Made Disaster"

But actually, I can get on board with this crisis being labeled "An Administrative Made Disaster." I just may disagree on what the U.S. needs to take responsibility for.

We love deporting gang members.

The lack of a legal future is one contributing factor to poor, Latino youth joining gangs. But once caught, regardless of how long they've lived in the States or even if they know Spanish, gang members are deported to their country of birth.

I recognize that our current system offers little to no alternative. However, it must also be recognized that when you deport hoards of U.S.-trained gang members to tiny, developing countries, you're simply exporting violence.

We love drugs.

Guatemala recently discussed legalizing the transport of drugs in the country in efforts to curb drug-related violence. The logic was that it is neither a drug-producing country nor a high consumption country. However, they caught in between those two. (In case you weren't sure... the U.S. is the big consumer.)

Drugs headed to meet the needs of the U.S. often travel through Guatemala to get there. The Guatemalan government has approached the U.S. to do something about our high drug demand to no avail. In the meantime, Guatemalans were dying in the violence that surrounds trafficking illegal substances.

We love cheap corn.

Once NAFTA created "free trade" (note: not "fair trade") in this part of the world, it had devastating impacts on Latin American farming. Once local farms began to decline, the resulting crushing poverty has been fueling migration in and around that part of the world ever since.

We won't pass immigration reform.

Some are convinced that these migrants are coming because they've heard the U.S. is sympathetic to children. It's likely that false rumors of DREAM Act eligibility or amnesty have had a role.

I'd love to think that some of these 9 year olds crossing the border alone are doing it all to plan for their college education. But I think that's a reach, don't you? And honestly, if they are that committed to their future educational opportunities, maybe they should study in place of those folks who just plan to party their way to graduation.

I think that if immigrants are watching the immigration reform pot, waiting for it to boil, they are not inspired by all the pathways we've offered. (You know... since really, we've offered zero.) Couldn't it be more likely that someone's like "Okay, they're not going to do anything. We can't wait. Pack your bags." People will not be ignored for political games.

Many are calling this surge of children at the border a humanitarian, refugee crisis. This moment isn't "a move" by Central America in the political game that is immigration reform. It's a crisis.

I feel like I'm in Vegas and the House has all the cards. They are refusing to deal with this issue, even though the Senate already passed Reform. Even though the country overwhelming favors reform. Something must be done. Do something!

Families won't wait. Survival can't be put on hold.

There's so much more to this issue than I can possibly unpack, so I thought I'd include some links to check out. You may also want to follow BorderLinks on Facebook. They post some great info. 

Video (about 12 minutes) - PBS
Video (about 2 minutes) - Vox
Amazing photographs of children traveling - MailOnline
On Capitol Hill, A Debate Over What's Driving Central American Exodus - NPR
Migrant Children Flee Violence in Home Countries - G92
To Understand Child Migration, Look Beyond the Border - HuffingtonPost
Some Statistical Analysis - Center for American Progress

Dear Brazil. Love, Two Mamas {#WorldCupWives}

Image source: Steven Depolo

There's no other way to say it. Yesterday wasn't pretty. We've all played in or witnessed those kinds of games in our lives.

But when the dust clears, there's always someone offering you a juice box.

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

What's your go-to encouragement saying?

How the World Cup Helped Me Love My Husband Better

The World Cup has caught me by surprise this year. I mean... not like I didn't know it was coming. The tournament bracket has been on our fridge literally since May.

Nope. What's surprised me is how much I've enjoyed it.

The World Cup Wives started on somewhat of a whim. Basically, a conversation began with "Oh man, we're going to be watching a lot of soccer this summer" and quickly escalated to "They will fly us down to Brazil to interview the players about their babies and maybe... just maybe.. we'll bring our husbands with us." 

But a community quickly emerged, and I immediately started learning more about the players, the teams, and the countries. Suddenly, I found myself very invested.

Billy and I were having all kinds of conversations about footballers. One night he was even watching ESPN when I overheard a joke about Messi. I totally got it because I had read an article about his childhood soccer experiences. Billy was all, "What on earth is happening? And why do I have no idea what you're talking about?" 

All my reading and video planning means I've been pretty on top of the game schedule. One day I came home and joined Billy at the TV. I had been following the game on Twitter, so I already knew that the Uruguayan jerseys were awkwardly tight.

I realized how weird things had gotten when I found myself watching the Argentina game this past weekend while Billy was at work. But thanks to our love of Voxer, we walkie-talkied during the game. It was fun to share his excitement.

Billy actually mentioned to me recently that he's glad I started doing the World Cup Wives project. He said it's been nice to come home and the game is already on because I'm into it.

We've always been a "best friends" kind of couple. We genuinely enjoy doing things together. I know that doesn't work for everyone, but we have always spent a lot of time with each other and a great deal of that time is spent laughing.

I didn't really get involved with the World Cup Wives thinking this would be a good way to show interest in one of my husband's interests. In fact, I worried I might end up annoying him.

But, as it turns out, I've been joining in the World Cup in a way that works for me. I still don't understand "off-sides" and some of the actual games lose my interest from time to time. But I love watching comments on Twitter, enjoying the memes, and learning all of the non-soccer-related hype.

Turns out Billy likes the soccer, but (as I should've guessed) he also enjoys the hype. So we've shared a lot of videos with each other, dressed up in a lot of patriotic paraphernalia, and added a new topic to our conversational tool box.

In our particular season of life, sometimes it feels like marriage has taken a hiatus for a well-oiled partnership. Our conversations focus on babysitter schedules, house chores, shopping lists, and the like. This summer it's been a fun diversion to talk "about" soccer.

I'm grateful that the World Cup has brought us closer. It's been a fun surprise!

Which of your spouse's interests have you tried to join in? Have you ever liked it more than you expected?

The Fallen Tributes {#WorldCupWives}

If the opening ceremonies reminded me of the Hunger Games, we're now shining lights in the sky. We've said good-bye to a lot of teams and players we've grown to love in this World Cup:

Luis "I will chomp you" Suarez.
Our boys in the red, white, blue.
Shakira's boyfriend. (Remember when Spain was in the World Cup?)
And today... the mighty Ticos.

Katie and I check in now that the tournament is down to just four remaining teams.

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

One awesome benefit of the Internet is that the stars live on in the memes, gifs, vines, and probably several other media options I know nothing about. Here are some of my favorite odes to the fallen tributes:

Tim Howard - U.S. Goalkeeper
His record 16 saves during the Belgium game... all at the same time.

Source: YahooSports
Luis Suarez - Uruguayan Biter
A fun jab at the crazy biting incident and FIFA's Line Technology.

Source: Sportige
Guillermo Ochoa - Mexican Goalkeeper
He was awesome against Brazil.

Source: FutbolRed
Ronaldo Cristiano - Portugal Striker
When he scored against Ghana, it assured the U.S. a spot in the knockout round. (I don't know... don't ask.) Weirdly, he became the U.S. MVP.

Source: Storify

Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands are left standing. Who are you cheering for? Got any favorite memes? Share in the comments!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.