This letter was written by my friend, an American citizen, who married an undocumented man and then “voluntarily self-deported” with him and her American citizen children back to Mexico. The lived in extreme poverty and danger in Mexico for a year; then she went back to America to work and send money to the family, and then brought her children back with her for their safety. Her husband is trapped in Mexico under a 10-year immigration ban. She wrote this letter today and I asked her permission to share it. Immigration bans are not pro-family. They cause terrible harm to children. I hope you will all listen to her message. –Mary Pezzulo
My 4 kids broke the Japanese screen I have in my living room, the one that’s meant to hide a giant, hideous furnace.
I almost lost my mind- it was someone else’s castaway, because I can’t justify paying $100 for a decoration. I had to fix the sink- little Mikey had put toilet paper down the drain and it was clogged, so I had to become a plumber. While that happened I heard a crash, came into the living room, and the mini trampoline was knocked over and the kids were close to toppling the TV.
Exhausted, attempting to get the house to at least not look like a herd of pigs lived there, I decided that we would have popcorn for dinner. Normally I’m all about the veggies and the meats, but I did not have time to cook while a two year old and four year old battle to the death over who gets to touch the fire on the gas stove. I thought I’d make it fancy, and that’s when I discovered that one of the little goblins I love so much had put his entire face in the parmesan cheese, and the bottle was nowhere to be seen. Yes indeed, I am so poor that parmesan cheese on popcorn passes for fancy. I am so poor I actually use the word fancy.
So why am I telling you this?
I got on the computer and called my husband, sobbing. He asked why I was crying. There was too much to say. A big flood of words held in by a tsunami of overwhelming feelings. I needed a hug. I haven’t touched my husband, or anyone but my kids, in over a year. I’m learning how to be Mrs. Fixit, and I am not mechanically inclined. I have to fill out forms for social security for two of my kids. I have to get ready to enroll them in a new school. I have to do IEP plans, doctor visits, switch doctors, find a psychiatrist so that my ADHD can finally be treated while hopefully not triggering more anxiety and depression and PTSD. I have to remember speech and occupational therapy, and at some point I need to see a doctor myself. I barely sleep because either nightmares or kids are waking me up. In the past few months I’ve passed out from exhaustion, gained 20 pounds, lost 10, and I hope what I have in my hand is a simple case of arthritis at the ripe old age of….33? I have not had depression this bad since my Grandma died when I was a kid. If I didn’t have kids, and still couldn’t be with my husband, suicide would be seductive.
Why can’t I be with my husband? Because he dared to cross the border illegally. A misdemeanor.
And then we left to live in Mexico. I was panicked, scared of how people who attempted to regularize their situations were disappearing into the hands of men and women who demonstrate every day that they hate us. ICE. I don’t care what they say, I’ve seen what they do. So we moved to Mexico and I learned many hard lessons, one of which is that even fluent in Spanish, with a degree, and a background in education, I could not secure a job that would support us, even with my husband working. My husband, for having crossed the border, staying otherwise law abiding, marrying me, and then leaving the country, triggered a 10-year ban. Supposedly we can get around that ban by filing an I601, but I was told by multiple lawyers that my children growing up without a father isn’t a hardship. Living in poverty, getting snide little letters about collecting child support from a man who can’t make more than 10 dollars in a day in Mexico, is not a hardship. My anxiety, so high that I wonder if it did cause a missed stroke at one point, can be waived away as a fabrication. My PTSD, caused by years of being raised in an abusive family that checked all the boxes- physical, sexual, emotional, financial- was not to be mentioned as part of the hardship because that would be held against me. Jesus Christ. I am so sick of the message that I am nothing but damaged, unwanted goods, and that I should hide what was done even when demonstrating hardship, as if I were the one who should be ashamed at what they did to me. I was told unless I had a “real” hardship, what I call “sexy” hardships that are popular causes like cancer, or AIDS, that I had little to no chance of ever living with my husband in the US, that the 10 year ban was unofficially a forever ban, and that even if I managed to suffer enough in the right ways to get a hardship, it was all discretion, and even then, because of the Public Charge rule I would have even less of a chance, because the number of children I have would count against us.
We “did the right thing” by moving to Mexico, “self deporting”, and getting rid of ourselves so others wouldn’t have to. And I regret it every single moment of every single day that I can’t reach through that computer screen to touch the one I love. He was my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first everything. He helped me to graduate college when it felt like the whole world was against me. The statistics say that with how I was raised I should have killed myself already. I should be addicted to drugs, a bad mother, a dropout. He has always had faith in me, has loved me no matter what, and has pulled me through the darkest times of my life. He has overcome so much of his own upbringing, especially the sexism, by being a stay at home dad at times even as he’s ridiculed by family and friends. He works hard, always busy engineering a new stove, or harvesting honey, or working outside in fields and with animals. He missed his calling as a botanist. He knows so much, the elderly in his town come to him to ask him which herbs for what remedies, and why they work. And they do work marvelously. I cry every night that I can’t be with him. I can’t visit- too expensive. I can’t move to a third country with kinder laws because I need to get a master’s, and I can’t do that with four kids, no job security, a pandemic, and no husband to be backup childcare. I put on the bravest face I can, but I’m desperate, pessimistic, and very often deeply bitter. There are people who have raped, who have run over people on sidewalks for fun, who smear feces on the walls of the Capitol, and they have been given more freedom and chances at a better life than my husband who crossed an international property line, worked, and raised a family. If he had never crossed that line, I’d be a statistic, and my four kids would hopefully not exist in that horrific reality.
Get rid of the immigration bans. They have nothing to do with justice, nothing to do with mercy, and everything to do with a monster that looks at the suffering of an entire family and demands more. I haven’t lived under the same roof as my husband for 2 years, I haven’t touched him for 1 year, and the heartbreak of my kids as well as my own stress are literally killing me physically and emotionally. My kids no longer ask when he’s coming home. They hide their faces when he calls. And at night I can hear them crying, just like me. Hatred and love are not just sentiments. They are actions. And the 3 year, 10 year, 20 year ban is nothing more than hatred and a desire to make people hurt, and that monster is never satisfied, no matter how much I break down from exhaustion and grief. My children deserve their father. I physically, emotionally, financially need my husband and best friend, and so do so many others.
The 10 year ban is living death. Get rid of it.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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