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December 03, 2008

FAQ; what is the process like at the waiver interview in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico?

Answer; Here is an email from Kerri Meelia relating her husband's experience the waiver interview. Kerri is a client that I helped through this nerve racking process. Her story of family success is balanced against the thousands of people whose families have been separated by the US immigration laws. Here is the email told wonderfully in her voice;

"Hi Everyone,

Well, we did it. Manuel finally got his Visa to come to the U.S. and it's such a relief! It makes me so happy to imagine uniting our little family with all of you. At the same time we leave with mixed emotions thinking of the thousands of people waiting in line from dawn until dusk outside the consulate who aren't so lucky. People pay so much money and work so hard, often to be postponed or simply denied for reasons they don't even understand. Or worse, they leave feeling like they're being appropriately "punished" for having been in the U.S. illegally. Before Manuel's final interview I made this journal entry about our experience in Juarez and just wanted to put it out there so people get a sense of what's going on and how it needs to change.

My workout buddy was in the hotel gym again this morning here in Ciudad Juarez. He runs for an hour wearing a sombrero and sweatshirt tucked into jeans.. Like most people here he greets me with a big smile. We got to talking while running, and it turns out he is here in Juarez for his wife’s third Visa appointment. They met in Chicago and started their family there 15 years ago. He had his papers and she didn’t, but with all the arrests of illegals they've made recently she thought she’d better try. Since having her first interview at the consulate a year ago, she's been in Mexico alone while her husband works and her kids go to school in Chicago. He starts to look vulnerable as he says it’s all in God’s hands. Like he believes it, but that he also really wants a break. He says he’s tired. At the end of our conversation yesterday he told me half-jokingly he was running in his winter clothes to prepare for crossing the desert with his wife. Today, he wore the same outfit, but it was spotless, and it was the spotlessness that finally made me cry. The dignity in his humility. These people are good. Later I met his wife, who held and cooed Ela like everyone else in Mexico, telling me that being away from her kids was like having her heart torn out. Then she cried and told Ela never to leave my side.

Everywhere we go people are doing business with the consulate. It’s like Visa applicant camp. Kids speaking English run up and down the hotel halls chased by their Spanish-speaking parents. Entire families gather for the free breakfast to support the one person dressed well with papers in hand, waiting for an interview. Outside the consulate itself hundreds of people sit in the parking lot nursing babies, heating tortillas, and mostly waiting. Police walk through the crowds answering questions. Manuel got all dressed up for his appointment, as did lots of others. It’s funny though, I dressed him like an American business man, while most of the fancier people here wear shiny leather jackets, gold chains and grease in their hair. Others wear jeans, leather boots, silver belt-buckles and cowboy hat – the fathers and brothers of U.S. residents hoping to straight from el campo to el norte. I also chuckled at all the people dressed in winter parkas and scarves, shivering. In fact today's paper complains about the consulate makes family members wait in the "extreme cold" while applicants have their interview. I run around in a sun dress and people look at me like I'm insane.

There’s a Starbucks nearby, of course, which lured me out of my lockdown in the hotel. I was nervous about leaving because of the drug violence and well known killing of young women, but now that it’s Monday and the entire area is full of eager visa applicants and their families, the eeriness of this place has lessened. Nonetheless, just as I started to feel comfortable sitting in the sun on the Starbucks patio drinking my predictable decaf Americano, three trucks full of “federales” pulled in wearing black masks and wielding machine guns. So we left. But the rest waited, adding color to this otherwise strangely clean, fenced-off, neighborhood full of American chains, hotels and drug traffickers. And of course, the big, concrete consulate with bars on it’s tiny windows.

On Friday, Manuel showed up at the medical clinic at 6 AM for his medical exam mandated by the consulate. After waiting outside for 2 hours with hundreds of people, he was told they had no time to see him, and transported to another site. Once there, they examined him, took his blood, gave him vaccines without telling him what they were, and then charged him $400 dollars for the whole thing. After that, they told him he needed to see a psychologist but didn’t tell him why. So, he hailed a cab with the other “questionably sane” visa applicants to a psychologists’ office where he had to put together puzzles, write stories, play the ink blot game and answer a bunch of questions. He said that for him it wasn’t so bad, but that a little old man sat in front of the puzzles sweating for three hours unable to complete them. Manuel got home at seven at night without having eaten anything. Later, I met with a woman who was at the psychologist until midnight. Manuel spent the next day with a fever, a headache and a well-justified chip on his shoulder.

That’s the story so far. It has been psychologically and physically really difficult for Manuel, and in turn for me. It shouldn’t be this way. I wish it wasn’t. It is part of why Juarez is violent. It is a town of poor people bordering a rich country. It is a mix of desperation and envy on one end, and power and panic on the other. (At the same time there is good cheer, humor, camaraderie and surrender…the kind of stuff that makes me love Mexico.)

Nonetheless, knowing that Manuel is doing all of this for me .I kept wanting to do something for him, like buy him a bottle of wine or give him a massage, but I know all he really wants is for me to be happy where I am, with what we’ve got. A life-long lucha no matter what happens!


Posted by VisaLawyer at December 3, 2008 08:34 AM

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