Quotes I live by:

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity"~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

"Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgivable"~Nigerian saying

"I don't want you to do it because you're weak, I want you to do it because you know I'm right"~Dabney Coleman as Mark Winslow in the film Modern Problems

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Husband in Hospital, my Mexican Mother-in-Law needs Visitor's Visa ASAP

The following is my reply in a series of Facebook direct messages between a local community leader and myself, regarding assistance in obtaining a US Visa for my husband's mother to visit him in the hospital, where he is seriously ill:

Hi, thanks for getting back to me on finding help for my Mexican mother-in-law to get permission to come visit my husband in the hospital. Here's my contact info and details of the situation. If you check my FB profile "Wall", I have regular updates beginning Sunday night (or Monday morning) about my husband's condition, "acute pancreatitis with extensive peripancreatic edema and inflammation."

They've given him some heavy pain meds along with anti-biotics and blood-pressure medicine, and now he's receiving breathing treatments trying to head off pneumonia, but after multiple labs and tests, including a chest x-ray, abdominal ultrasound, and CT scan, the doctors still can't find the cause. The two most common ones are gallstones, which they haven't been able to see so far, and being a raging alcoholic binge drinker. While not a teetotaler, his imbibing is pretty much limited to a couple beers on the weekend, and not every weekend even then. They're planning on doing a MRCP (Magnetic Resonance to watch swallowed liquid to see if there's a blockage down the pipes), but have to wait until pancreas inflammation goes down, so he's being kept on a minimal clear-liquid diet.

He's been in the hospital since Sunday night and has no insurance, so our next address may be a cardboard box behind Walmart when it's all over, but for now we're at (omitted.) Our address will be changing eventually anyway, because the trailer park has put up new street signs, and everyone will be getting a new house number and street name instead of just being a lot # with the same common address of the main road at the park entrance. But not until the Post Office tells us it's officially been changed, and I'm sure anything with the old address will still be sent here.

The details about our unsuccessful saga to get my mother-in-law a visitor's Visa from the US Consulate are more than a few sentences, and my concentration is shot, but I'll try to be coherent. My husband had left Mexico to join his brothers here in VA when he and I met. We married in 1997, and in 1998 our son was born and my husband was granted Temporary Resident status because we'd been married less than 2 years. He had to wait and apply to make it permanent 2 years later, so INS could verify we were still together. (In case you didn't know, this is a step up from basic "Employee Authorization" card, which he already held.) Its holders file regular 1040 tax returns instead of special IRS form for non-residents allowed to work in US. Our daughter was born in 2000 and the same year his status was approved as a legal Permanent Resident, which he will have to renew in 2012. (Links I've provided are to current procedures, some of which have changed since we went through the process, and are now more cumbersome with longer waits. ICE-Immigration and Customs Enforcement was created, spun off from old INS agency in 2003, and applications for visits, immigration, and residency of foreign nationals are now handled by the US Dept. of Homeland Security.)

We've been trying pretty much since then to jump thru hoops to get his mom approved to visit from Mexico. She had to travel several days away from their small town in the mountains and spend a lot of pesos (and dollars) to get the paperwork for her Mexican passport, as well as documentation that the US Consulate needed for her visitor's Visa application. We, along with her other 3 sons who are also legal Permanent Residents of the US, had to send additional documents and affidavits of support, and she was given an appointment, for a non-refundable fee, with the Consulate, only to be told she needed MORE stuff, and another appointment. She had to bring proof that she had ties that would ensure her return to Mexico at the end of her Visa period, and she gathered documentation of her home-ownership, partnership in running a small store, and the numerous children and grandchildren in her hometown.

Again, this is very far from her home, and as an elderly woman with her own health problems, this was a hardship. At one point during all this, she and another son that was helping her were kidnapped by Los Zetas -- yes, the gang reported on TV for kidnapping and killing hostages when not paid, even young children, and many like my in-laws with no ties to the drug trade. They were kept blindfolded with a group of others held hostage until we could all scrape up the $1500 in ransom money. She was beaten. My brother-in-law was beaten and had his arm broken. They could hear the screams of others, many of whom were tortured with electric shocks. When she finally got to that 2nd US Consulate appointment, it was only to be DENIED because she has 4 sons who are here LEGALLY!! Forget that she has several other children still in Mexico, including the one tortured trying to help her get here, and many other grandchildren besides the FOUR CITIZENS BORN HERE who have never been able to meet their grandmother.

That's why I want to punch Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in their smug racist faces, see what "doing it legally" gets you? See why there really is no "wait your turn" if you're from Mexico? Oh, and my son has a friend from another country that moved here with his parents a couple years ago. When they had only been here a few months, the grandparents were able to come right up to visit, as were the families of several other-than-Mexican guests attending a birthday party for my son's friend. While talking with the father of a new baby, he mentioned to me how his mother was coming up to the US to help his wife for awhile, and when I said I wished my mother-in-law could come visit, he thought I meant she was afraid to fly. After I explained how she was denied permission to enter the US, he was surprised and perplexed at why this different standard was being applied. But then, they're all upper-middle class internationals and connected to VA Tech, as faculty and grad-students.

With Blacksburg being a multi-national town due to VT, there are many stories like this, with immigrants and their visitors from OTHER countries able to come and go easily and repeatedly, but not if you're working-class and from Mexico. For the latter, it's go on a scavenger hunt and get tortured so the US can slam the door in your face, and still charge a fee! If my husband had been from Canada across our northern border, my mother-in-law could come right over, but since they're from Mexico, even though it's our only other bordering country, the rules are not the same.

And now my husband's in the hospital and he hasn't seen his mother in 15 years. You asked me before if we were interested in helping Democrats with Hispanic outreach. This population is growing exponentially, and not only from immigration but also higher birth rates compared to the overall population. That means BORN HERE. CITIZENS. VOTERS. And they will remember how their relatives were treated, family members they never got to know. Did you read the story in Tuesday's paper about a German couple granted friggin political asylum(!) by a US immigration judge to stay here because they are uber-Christians wanting to home-school their kids exclusively, and that isn't allowed by German law? Contrast that with our situation, and the thousands of others from countries not so Caucasian and/or wealthy. The history of US policy toward Haitians is an immediate and shameful example, as is our resistance to granting asylum to female victims of abuse, including genital mutilation, many of whom are women of color from countries rating high on the "Visa refusal" list.

Kids of immigrants will remember who helped them, and who demonized their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and all Hispanics by association. I know Politics tends to pander to short-term interests, but we're talking only 10-15 years into the future. My son and his cousin can vote in 6 years, their 2 younger sisters in 8 years. What's that, only 2-3 presidential election cycles? So just 2 LEGAL Permanent Residents originally from Mexico sired 4 voters, whose elderly grandmother was tortured trying to visit them, and was denied entry because this elderly woman in her late-60s MIGHT "overstay?" What, to "steal" someone's cleaning-lady job? or get on public benefits even though they are specifically BARRED to most non-Citizens, and all non-legal residents?

No, all kids of targeted immigrants won't become activists, apathy is universal. But enough mostly-Hispanic farm-workers got fired up to rally and force real change and better conditions when Cesar Chavez led them to organize unions against Big Agri-Business. Remember my telling you of how our Montgomery County Schools Superintendent left it up to teachers whether or not to show President Obama's speech, and how as a result many not only didn't air it, but also didn't tell parents ahead of time that they wouldn't, only felt obligated to inform us if they planned to show it so Obamaphobic parents could "opt out"? My son's 6th grade teacher for that class period was one who not only didn't show it, she in fact didn't even mention it occurred, like some alternate reality, and after talking to her about the absurdity of the unequal notice and options, I worked my way up through the principal of Blacksburg Middle (same self-righteous attitude), then the Superintendent himself, who said he didn't see any problem and that we should just watch it on the internet, insinuating I also invite the majority of working-poor I live among in this trailer park to join us in our rented single-wide. 'Cause really, there aren't any people in Montgomery County who can't afford home computers and internet service! (Note: in 2008, 23% of county residents were living below poverty level where 89% of total residents were White, and 35% of public school students were approved for free/reduced-price lunches.)

I bring this all back up, because that racially-tinged controversy made my son more aware. It made us go "hmm..." later when the work-packet this teacher put together constantly used the term "Indians" instead of Native Americans when studying US history, as my son strongly identifies with this heritage from his indigenous father (who's always asked if he's Cherokee, except the one yahoo at a Pow-Wow that asked if he was Aztec.) Then yesterday, he came home from school and told me she made a color-coded map to show the different regions added to the US as it expanded across the continent. The part marked "Mexican Cession" was brown. In an isolated context, it might have earned a passing "WTF?", but coming on the heels of the previous experiences, it made him whisper "racist bitch" under his breath. Luckily, no one heard him, but my son felt strongly enough to discuss it with a classmate afterward. Anyone acquainted with my son at school knows him to be the most conscientious, studious, easy-going, polite kid, and would be shocked to hear that come from him. He won an award (with a savings bond!) for citizenship at his 5th grade "graduation," and his grades are mostly A's with an occasional B or two. But he was pissed. Even I was surprised at his strong reaction, then proud of his restraint. I would have spat it out-loud in her face.

So here's a US Citizen aware that his dad is a marginalized Mexican immigrant who has done nothing but work his ass off to support 4 US-born Americans: a now-disabled gringa (me), our 2 kids, and my daughter from a previous marriage, because she was abandoned by a Republican wet-dream: US-born-and-bred White male, born-again-Christian conservative who has spent the last 21 years of my eldest daughter's life working "under the table" to avoid paying child-support (we had married when I turned 18, after she was born because I became pregnant at 17, he was 21, and our divorce was filed before her 1st birthday.) Oh, and since she and her husband can vote now, that's 2 more, and before I forget, my brother-in-law having 2 kids born here also has a US-born step-daughter, so I guess that brings our tally up to 8 voting citizens who owe their support to just 2 Mexican immigrants.

Sorry, went off on another tangent, but it's almost 11am as I'm finishing this (I've been up all night after returning from the hospital), and it's been pent up awhile. That previous line of thought was to point out, if my son's like this now, how do you think he'll be at 18? Who do you think he, and others he's sure to raise awareness in, will vote for? campaign for? donate to? stomp down like a flaming paper bag of racist dogshit? (hint: Sarah too-many-brown-folks-in-Hawaii Palin, anyone who called Justice Sotomayor a racist and compared La Raza to the KKK, SC Lt. Gov. Bauer who said the program providing poor kids free and reduced-price school lunches was like feeding stray animals that would only breed...)

Which brings me back, finally, to the immediacy of my family's situation. My husband has been in the hospital since being admitted through the ER Sunday night, and as it's now officially Thursday morning, that's 5 days so far, with no idea how much longer. With no health insurance, and a gross annual income of less that $30,000 working a full-time job to support our family of four, we could not only be the poster-family for immigration reform, but also for healthcare reform. The least the damn US Consulate can do is let his mom come visit her seriously ill son in the hospital. I doubt she'll be a risk to "overstay," as I don't think there'll be enough room for her when we're bankrupt from paying off the medical bills and have to move into that box behind Walmart.

Thanks for reading my rant (if you're eyes haven't already glazed over) ~ Laura Hernandez

P.S. After working so much on this reply to you, which is way more than I intended, FB told me my message was too long to send, so I decided to post it on my "Cranium Stew" blog. There's a lot here that might personalize these issues and inform many out there who "just don't get it," especially if their opinions are not based on malice, but merely ignorance and misinformation. So that's why I've withheld most names, to protect the innocent, the guilty, and those who don't want to be sued.

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