Saturday, February 23, 2013

Back in the Ring

The last time my sweaty hands grasped the steering wheel of a car with this much gusto was about 11 years ago. We were driving anxiously and fearfully from Arizona and I had just caught my first glimpse of West Juarez when I looked South of I-10 as we drove into El Paso. I saw the Asarco Tower and run down houses and dirt roads and poorly clothed children playing with a ratty old soccer ball and was amazed, for the first time, by how close it all was to the US, yet so far.

This drive was different though. I knew where we were going this time and I could barely contain my excitement. I didn't know what I should show him first... Maybe the East side because the newer parts feel a lot like Gilbert. But there are pockets on the West side that remind me of the quaint streets in downtown Scottsdale too. Or should take him up Scenic Drive first so he can see the whole picture? It doesn't really matter where I take him first though. I can't believe this is happening. We've waited so long for this that there really isn't a thing in the world that matters more than just relishing the moment. I've been in this same line thousands of times but this is the time I've been waiting for, the time I never thought would come. It's our turn. To be honest, I can barely keep it together.

I look at the familiar window washers and the men who have been offering me burritos and sub-par newspapers and sodas every morning since before I can remember. For some reason they look different today but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe because I know I won't see them every day anymore? We got in that line that the American government wanted us to get into and finally it was our turn. Our turn. It's like the end of the line that I can't even explain. It's not like waiting for hours at the DMV or waiting for 2 hours to go on the best ride at Disneyland or even like being on the waiting list to get into the school of your dreams. It's like getting in line for the life of your dreams. How do you describe something like that? It's the end of the line for endless opportunity and possibilities. I choke back my tears as I thank him for putting up with me all these years. I can't believe he dealt with the emotions and the tantrums and my spoiled, entitled nature. I can't believe we made it. I'd complained about waiting in this line so many times that I feel like a jerk because this time around, it seems to pass faster than I can exhale. Actually, I have to keep reminding myself to breathe.

After what seems like mere minutes it's our turn and we pull up to be inspected. I lose it now and am thankful that it's an agent that I know. He's joked with me many times over the years about driving mouse cars and how is life in Juarez and is my name really Emily Rose and how was my exorcism? He's surprised to see someone else in my car. I hadn't been through his station for a while so I didn't have the chance to tell him we were coming. He asks me where we're going and I try to tell him but the words flow out of me like vomit and they are all strung together in a haphazard ball of mush.

We're going to the United States.

I can see he's a bit teary eyed when I introduce him to my husband for the first time after so many years. Instantly, he knows what this day means. He knows what this means. I can't keep it in anymore and I begin sobbing uncontrollably with joy. Nervous laughter mixed with snot. He sends us to secondary inspection as we had anticipated. He puts out his orange cone out and walks over with us. There's a satisfied grin on his face as he watches the inspection. We are waved on and advised that we can park the car in the lot ahead as we go into the office to present my husband's packet. He goes up to the window with the most important manila envelope that I've ever encountered in my life and comes back to me as a new man, with a new lease on life.

This is the dream that I play out in my head, over and over. Sometimes I feel like I'm this ray of positivity and have embraced life in Mexico so much that I've gotten over the notion of ever living in the US. But then I realize that I may have accepted our lot in life and I may not feel bitter or angry on a daily basis, but I want this as bad as anyone else. I think about living in the US more than you could ever imagine. I look at the El Paso real estate ads on a regular basis and fantasize about what it will be like when we buy our first home, when we can stop living check to check, when my husband can sit down to Sunday dinner with my parents and Sam.

That fantasy is just as present as ever. I haven't forgotten. I'd just grown tired of fighting for a while. As I've mentioned many times, it gets exhausting. When your every waking thought revolves around immigration, it's like a big part of who you are dies to make room for this warrior. It's been 8 years since I met my husband, almost 6 years since we've married and 5 years since I realized he wasn't eligible for a green card. It's been a while. I am 8 years, 4 immigration forums, 85 blogs and 7 protests deep in this. I'm tired, yet feel like I haven't accomplished a damned thing.

Even so, in the last couple of weeks, a fire was relit inside of me and my cynicism has been put at bay. American Families United and my blog readers have relit that fire. Just when I thought that no one cared about us or about the thousands of other mixed-status families who are living outside the US, I was corrected. We may have been forgotten by our government during the buzz of immigration reform but there is still a large group of activists who are pulling for us. I met with Congressman Beto O'Rourke's office to discuss immigration reform with some fellow American Families United members last month and was touched by the stories I heard. I was reminded of the misconceptions of immigrants once again and brought back to my roots. It's been a very, very long time since I was active in this fight. I used to go to protest rallies, waving my poster boards like a madwoman, calling my senators and congressmen, signing petitions and joining every organization I could as I yelled violently, "Screw Arpayaso!" Yet upon moving to Mexico, it was like the activist within me said, "Ummm... can we take a nap?"

I think it's time to wake up.

AFU had a monumental event on Valentine's Day that kept people like my husband and my friends in mind. I wanted, with every thread of my being, to join them in DC but was stuck here in Juarez and only able to take some cookies and a card to my congressman in El Paso. Regardless, I was consoled by the fact that I knew I was well represented. AFU has done me proud, yet again, and I am so thankful for that. Words cannot express my gratitude. I am so thankful to be a part of this organization and it seems like it's almost our turn.

It's been a long time since I've had the hopes of changing my personal situation or the bar that my husband faces. However, after listening to the stories of other members, I feel so compelled to continue with this fight. I had given up, lost hope and just accepted our situation. But I think it's time to get back in the ring. If not for me, for everyone else who is in this mess yet struggling with it so much more than I am. I have been blessed to have been able to adjust to life in Mexico so easily, but I know that isn't the case for most.

I have been moved and inspired by those who are so passionate about this cause and feel that I have no choice but to try and make our voices heard as well. Above all, I have been inspired by certain people who have come into my life and upon finishing their own immigration journey, they have continued to fight. It actually blows my mind. There so many who have suffered in similar situations and were able, in one way or another, to overcome all odds and find a place in the US to call home. And for some uncanny reason, some of them didn't forget about the rest of us. They didn't forget about the people who continue to pine for happiness and unity and I can't even begin to describe how much that means to me.

Just when I thought the fire inside me was gone for good, you all handed me a match. Gracias.

For Randall, Marie, RJ, Laura, Raquel, Emily, and everyone else who has continued to fight for those in the shadows, even after your own American Dream was realized to some extent. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for never forgetting where you came from or where you want this country to go.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Emily Cruz? Present!

I cant believe its been over a month since I've checked in with all of you! My trusty old  Dell finally kicked the bucket and I wasn't able to buy a new computer until now. I'm going to miss that computer. She and I shared a lot of tears and laughter and about 428 glasses of wine, but it was time to move on. I switched to an HP which just arrived on Friday and so far, I love it, Windows 8 and all.

We moved into this house a year ago, and if you remember, I was ecstatic. The rent was almost double what we were paying but I fell in love with this house and was prepared to do anything I could to make it work. We lowered the minutes on our cell phone plan, cancelled the cable and got rid of my mailbox in El Paso so that we could afford the extra cost. Once we got settled in we started looking into different internet companies because that is one luxury I refuse to live without. We looked into Axtel and (begrudgingly) Telmex and were appalled to see that we would be paying as much for just internet as we would for internet AND cable with our old provider, Cablemas. In the end it didn't matter. Whoever was living in this house before us left a hefty tab with all 3 of those providers.

In Mexico, bills stay with the property, not with the tenants. If the former tenant racked up a huge electric bill then the next tenant (or landlord) has to pay that debt before you can get the electricity turned back on. Yup. The concept blows my mind but it's the norm here. And so, despite various trips to Cablemas and arguing on my part, we have been without internet for the last year. Basically I had been relying on open networks that my laptop would pick up so obviously it was hit or miss. Sometimes a week would pass without connection. It was annoying to say the least. Sometime over the summer I made another desperate visit to the Cablemas office where I demanded to speak to the supervisor's supervisor. After a lengthy debate she agreed that we could resume services when a year had passed since they cut off the previous tenants' services.

Of course when we went into the office last weekend we were told that we must have misunderstood and that we would still need to pay 9,000+ pesos to set everything up. Of course I asked to speak with the supervisor and thankfully she remembered me and the agreement. Should have gotten that in writing, huh? Really, that wasn't the only thing I should have gotten in writing. This whole thing wouldn't have happened if we had a notarized rental agreement in the first place. Cablemas, and presumably other companies, accept a notarized agreement as proof of your move-in date. I guess this is another one of those "Mexico lessons" for me. Now I'm just happy to put it behind me and enjoy all the Netflix and Nat Geo that my little heart desires.

We've had so much going on in the last month that I'm sure it's going to take me a bit to catch up with you all. There are huge changes on the horizon for immigration reform that I'd like to talk about and Gordo started school! Both obviously warrant their own posts. Unfortunately I have caught a pretty nasty cold so I will have to play catch up later. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!