I Married an Undocumented Immigrant

Talk about immigration continues to swirl in the news. The need for sensible, comprehensive reform remains. And broken policies and tone deaf rhetoric impact immigrants across the country.

We are family that has walked through the immigration system, and we continue to share what we experienced and what we learned along the way. Our hope is that others might come alongside immigrant neighbors and participate in community that values and welcomes the stranger.

Today, I'm sharing a few things I learned about the immigration system while Billy and I were dating. I was also transformed by the experience of compassion as defined by Henri Nouwen. It's a privilege to write about these lessons that have stayed with me ever since. I hope you'll click over and read!

Here's a short preview:

I knew very little about immigration when I met my husband. I’d grown up in the Bible Belt South, and it always seemed like a faraway issue that didn’t really affect me. I had general ideas that sneaking across the border wasn’t a good idea. But mostly I liked exploring cultures and thought legal immigration was beneficial. When asked about the topic in a job interview, I summed up my stance this way: “I don’t really know much about it. But if I had to choose between a closed border or an open border, I’d lean toward more open.” That was the extent of my immigration knowledge.

When I started dating Billy, who is from Guatemala, he made two confessions early on. One, he had come to the States to participate in an international singing contest and had been the lead singer in a hardcore Spanish, Christian rock band. And two, though he had entered the country legally and via airplane, he had overstayed his visa and was now an undocumented immigrant. He also informed me that his only pathway to legal status was to marry a U.S. citizen. If you think that’s an awkward conversation to have in the first months of dating, well, you’d be exactly right.

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