AN AMERICAN AT HEART, TORN APART
In their own words…
Our story is only one of millions.
In light of the immigration debate, I feel compelled to share my story with you. My name is Eloisa, and you might have seen me at the gym, or at the local Starbucks with friends. Maybe your children and I went to school together, or maybe you and I worship together at Antioch Community Church. I am an ordinary American at heart, but not in paper.
See, my parents brought me to the U.S. without papers when I was a child. When I came here, I had no idea what it meant to be undocumented, nor did I know that my parents’ choice would forever change my life. I grew up attending Waco public schools and graduated a few years ago from Midway High School. Along the way, I had remarkable teachers who invested in me, prayed for me and wholeheartedly loved me. When high school graduation came, I found myself full of dreams. I wanted to go to college with all my heart, but I did not have a green card, and my parents had no money to pay for my education. However, I was determined to go to college, so I began working in order to pay for tuition and to support myself. Today I have a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Ten years ago this spring, I had another life changing experience. I met Jesus. God was so faithful in putting me in a wonderful Christian community. But even though they genuinely cared about me, I could not bring myself to tell them I had no papers. The same people that loved me and accepted me would also often say very ugly things about “illegals.” The life of an undocumented believer is one of a heavy heart. I passionately hated having to lie and living a double life. Fear and shame plagued me, and I lived an isolated life because of it. However, co-workers and friends found me perfectly normal. If someone suspected me, they certainly never did so openly. In 2006 I met Nick, a tall, handsome-as-heck, kind, Godly man. We fell in love and got married a few months later – ever since we have been working towards adjusting my status. In 2008 I became a legal permanent resident and as soon as I became eligible to apply for citizenship, I mailed in my application. Unfortunately my application was denied. In fact, I was told that that under current law I should not have even been granted legal permanent status. USCIS could revoke my green card at any moment and put me in deportation proceedings, which would mean de facto deportation for Nick.
The only thing that could make a difference for our family is comprehensive immigration reform. Nick and I are not alone. There are millions of mixed-status families like ours. You may know one, but they might not have the courage to tell you their situation. Immigrants are not some people group far away from here picking tomatoes in a field. We are part of the American fabric. We are your co-workers, your neighbors, and your family in Christ. We contribute to and love our communities. On behalf of 11 million immigrants I ask you: Will you give us a chance to come out of the shadows and officially be one of you?
I am a U.S. citizen. In 2007, I married my wonderful wife, a citizen of Mexico. Since then, we have been entangled in the immigration process to adjust my wife’s status. She was brought without papers as a child. Her family came to the U.S. because her father had been unemployed for many months and needed to feed his family. Little did my wife know that this decision would forever change her life. She lived in the shadows covered with a shroud of fear and shame, yet she tried to make the best of it. As a young adult, she worked without a permit to pay for her college education and to support herself. She made the U.S. her home.
In December 2008 we were successful in obtaining conditional permanent residency status for her. In 2010, she became a legal permanent resident – no conditions. In October 2011, she applied for U.S. citizenship. Because of our commitment to God, we were transparent about my wife previously living in the U.S. without a permit, and claiming to be a U.S citizen in order to work and avoid deportation. A few weeks ago, she was denied U.S. citizenship. In fact, USCIS is now saying they should have never granted her permanent residency in the first place, because she had previously claimed to be a U.S. citizen. Under the current laws, anyone who falsely claims to be a U.S. citizen is PERMANENTLY barred from ANY immigration benefits.
So here we are… waiting for a deportation letter to come in the mail any day now. I am committed to my wife, and I would never want her to live away from me. So in essence, I would be deported too. We currently have no children. But when the time comes, they too will be denied the joy of residing in the U.S. We are a family – we could never live apart from each other.
There are no laws in effect to protect me or my family from this. While politicians debate, millions of families like mine are being torn apart. We are in no way a burden to our society. My wife has a bachelor’s degree and is a hard-working woman. I have a master’s degree and work serving U.S. veterans.
We believe that sharing our story is one step towards bringing about change for us and the countless others just like us. Tell your friends about us. Share our story, and help families like us stay together and remain in our country.