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Waiting, it feels like forever no matter the time frame in this process.  I know I really should not complain about possibly only a few weeks or months more.  Especially after over 7 years, officially, in his immigrant visa process.  What has been has been, it’s the current waiting, those moments each day where you check your receipt numbers in an almost OCD fashion.  Of course some days are better than others depending my levels on the stress and bipolar gauges.

My heart was skipping beats when we got notification from the embassy for updated prints. I try to tell myself, at least I know they are working on our case.  While that little “Negative Nancy” in the back of my head goes “What if our case is just sitting on someone’s desk waiting while he is done with another file?”.  Seriously though, we really have no idea what the adjudicator is doing, besides watching a couple of websites for any update on our case.  Many people are left waiting with no updates at all until they have a request for evidence, an approval or a denial.  Service requests, if your case is longer than posted processing times, are a possibility. However,  most filers do not get any substantial answers from their responses.  Seriously, there are plenty of people that question if they even take the requests seriously while others report that they just say anything to get the applicant or petitioner off the phone.  I have not called for our case, we missed the current cut off by four days.

The good thing is tomorrow is Monday, and Monday’s are good in this process.  Monday’s are the promise of a new week of approvals and a chance that ours may be included in them.  There were two approvals on the same days as my case last week and approvals for the following month as well.  So we are getting closer each day, but each passing day also wears thin on hope and patience for so many of us.  I am lucky enough to have several friends in the same process for support.  I have found an entire community of people, good people, that have been unfortunate enough to have to go through this.   I am thankful to have some amazing people come into my life because of this process.

I still don’t understand how our families are ignored for the most part in the vast scheme of things.  Everyone seems to think that immigration reform only affects “illegals” and “anchor babies”.  Pardon me, I hate those words, but let me proceed.   Immigration reform is also a huge citizen’s rights issue.  The laws put into place not only took away due process to immigrants in the process, but also took it away from any US Citizen spouses and/or children. Equal protection is guaranteed to everyone!  People try to argue that these “foreign invaders”  are not protected by the constitution, however, they are.

The Equal Protection Clause is located at the end of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So a simple bill taking away their due process does not technically make it legal to do so.  Because such a change would require an amendment to the constitution.

Every day thousands of families begin this process, families like mine.  We are just one of the many reasons that immigration reform is a must.  And while I wait for an answer on our case, I will continue to help families like mine try to navigate the current process.  Hopefully, that the powers that be in the House will get their heads out of their patooties and bring some real measures to help, not hinder, to the floor for a vote.

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Movement. The act or process of moving people or things from one place or position to another.
Never could one simple action (or word) be so promising or give someone so much hope after such a long and exhaustive battle.  Suffice to say there has been movement on my husband’s case.

Limbo A place or state of restraint or confinement. 
I honestly don’t think I need to continue on here, I am sure most of you have read my other posts.

So, last week my husband and I both received an email that they needed him to go in and update his fingerprints.  Apparently, although for most purposes fingerprints do not have an expiration, this is not the case with USCIS.  Fingerprints for USCIS expire after 15 months.  This actually does not bother me one bit, it gave me the opportunity to know that they are actively working on his case.  The email stated that they needed updated fingerprints so that they could continue to process the case.  Our receipt date is September 6, 2013 and there have been several September approvals both before and after my receipt date.  He updated his fingerprints today and now we wait.  I unfortunately don’t know how long it takes for our adjudicator to be notified of the update, but it really could be any day now.

Movement feels good, much better than limbo.  Now, I am trying not to get anxious, because there is sooo much to do once we get (hopefully) an approval to return home as a family, intact.  My lawyer did concur that if they want something updated that we are most likely close to a decision. I can’t wait to see what the other side of this “mountain” pertains.

DO-SI-DO

The alarm rang promptly at 6:24 this morning, I only got up about twenty minutes earlier than usual.  I had to get four kids, myself and my husband ready to go register our youngest sons birth and renew passports.  I took the older three out of school for the day and made sure to get to the embassy early as instructed.

My previous experiences with the US Embassy have all been nothing but pleasant.  However, today, is a completely different story.  Now, I understand people are doing their jobs, but this morning was pretty messed up.  I can identify certain mistakes that were made; I just don’t understand why they were made. Of course this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

Two weeks ago I set an appointment via the required State Department online scheduling system for our embassy.   The scheduling system specifically states to only schedule one appointment, no matter how many services you need.  It also only gives you space to write the name of the child.  We chose the option to register our sons birth as opposed to passports, because we were naturally going to do the passport along with the birth registration.  No problem, all set.  At 4:47 p, yesterday afternoon, 13 minutes before the embassy closes, I got an email.

“Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for making an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz to register the birth of your child.

It is very important that the names of all non-applicants who will be coming with you to this appointment have been included in your appointment.  Otherwise they will not be admitted to the Consular Section.  To include the names in one single appointment please use comma’s to separate the names.

Please use the following checklist to make sure that you have all the required documents before you come to your appointment, otherwise your application will be pending and won’t be processed until all required documentation is provided.

Checklist for Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)

·       Both parents and child must appear in person

Checklist for Your Child’s Passport Application (Form DS-11)

·       Both parents and child must be present

You may apply for your child’s Social Security Number card once you receive the U.S. passport.  To apply:

Important Note:

Please arrive a few minutes before your scheduled appointment and be prepared to undergo a security screening before entering the Consular Agency or  Embassy.  Be sure to bring two forms of ID (or an ID and a copy of your ID) to leave at the entrance, since you will be required to provide an original ID when you submit your application.  Mobile phones or laptops are not allowed inside the Embassy and you will be requested to check them at the entrance, additionally the following items are prohibited from entering the building: METALLIC ITEMS, COSMETIC ITEMS, ELECTRONIC ITEMS, PERSONAL ITEMS such as cigarettes, lighters, matches, razors, OTHER ITEMS such as firearms, knives, ammunition, etc.

Sincerely,

U.S. Citizens Services Unit

U.S. Embassy, La Paz”

Now I have deleted a little bit of info from the checklists, but I left in the important info to make my point.   It states that all non-applicants need to be added to the appointment, it does not state how.  I responded at 5:01 pm, asking how to go about it.  Then I tried calling, but guess what, they were already closed.  So I responded one more time via email, with the names and ages as my other children, identifying them as additional applicants.  I did not know what else to do, they definitely did not tell me how to go about adding additional people to the scheduled appointment.  And the State Department scheduling system does not have an edit option, I made a mistake on my first appointment request, had to cancel and reschedule before making the appointment I got for today.

So we get to the embassy early, my husband ran to pull some extra cash, guess what, they don’t take checks or credit cards like some other embassies, and it stated on the email to pay in dollars.  So I go to the window, give the lady my appointment printout and my US drivers license.  She proceeds to tell me I don’t have a scheduled appointment.  I told her I did and gave her a printing of the email and my responses to the embassy.  So she continued to try to get us in.  After about 15 minutes of waiting, she told me there was nothing that could be done and I had to leave.  I told her I was not leaving and wanted to speak to a supervisor.  I was NOT HAPPY and it was quite obvious.  I told her I took my children out of school, I scheduled my appointment, I did everything I was supposed to do and yet, it was not sufficient.  Of course she just kept speaking to me in Spanish.  I don’t have a problem with it, she is Bolivian, she works for the embassy, but I had already told her, I could not really understand her. I am nowhere near fluent in Spanish.

So, a supervisor called me on the phone outside, and was of no help, just told me that I had to leave, that we were not authorized.  I told her, I could not keep talking on the phone, my three year old son keeps running around and I could not continue to ignore him.  I of course started to have a bi-polar infused rant.  I was not yelling, but we tend to speak a mile a second when the emotions start to slip.   At this point, my husband was still not back.   She told me she would have a supervisor call me back in two minutes.  About 8 minutes later my husband got there and I explained what was going on.  I was pretty much fighting back tears at this point, again, un-medicated bipolar and stress.   Of course the hundred or so Bolivians in line were staring at me at this point. HA, watch the crazy white woman have a meltdown, whydontcha…

My husband is really level headed, something that drives me nuts sometimes.   So he spoke calmly to the lady at the window, of course, I wouldn’t shut up.  He had to ask me at least 5 times.  What can I say, it’s the brash US Citizen in me.  We continued to wait about 10 more minutes.  I picked up the phone and told the lady at the window I really didn’t understand, because their system was faulty and technically they were all applicants as we were renewing passports.

I hung up with her and about 40 seconds later the outside phone started ringing.  I had pretty much gained a bit of composure at that point. The consular official explained that the procedure had changed due to the new embassy security policies.  He was very kind and apologized for the confusion, he went out of his way to set an appointment for us tomorrow morning, a day they don’t usually hold appointments like this.  Of course it was partly because Carnival is starting so Monday and Tuesday are holidays.  Nonetheless, it was very kind and I greatly appreciate it, otherwise I would have just been sent packing and had to of set the appointment allover again, possibly with the same crappy results.  I did not get his name, but I thank him dearly.

Now, I am not really done, because you realize, an embassy just turned away 5 US Citizens (the youngest is one, although we have not registered his birth) due to a “security threat”.  I fail to see how 3 children, 10 & under, all US Citizens, truly pose a security threat.  This is madness.  All because an online scheduling system cannot be updated to reflect current changes.  Nor can embassy staff send an email, anytime before they did.  I mean, seriously, why send it 13 minutes before closing, the day before a 8:45 am appointment?  That is my biggest issue with it all, had they been on the ball, or even called, they had our number, this could have been prevented.

I left once I had a resolution, had I not been my brash “American” self, I would had no resolution and no appointment for the foreseeable future.   Of course, the Bolivian’s were all staring at us as we left.

We went ahead and took the kids to school, we don’t want them missing an additional day for no reason.  Then my husband took us to a breakfast that we really probably can’t afford, as we have over $500 in application fees to pay tomorrow at the appointment.

The security issue still bothers me a bit, I love my Country.  If I didn’t, why would I fight through all the years of nonsense to get my family home?

On September 6, 2013, our applications for my husband to return to the United States were accepted by USCIS.  Since then it really has been a roller coaster ride.  The first few weeks were filled with nothing but relief.  Honestly, what do you expect when you have waited for over 6 years and 8 months to finally be in the running.  Some days are easier than others, some days I just want to cry, and some days I just want to yell.  I so want to believe the worst is over and we will have an approval pop up any day now.   It really hit home today when there was a Sept 11, 2013 application approved.  I am on the precipice of change in my life, the question is will that change be in the form of an approval or denial.  I want to believe that the approval is coming and we will be home by the end of summer.  Yet, I really don’t want to get my hopes up.  I left the USA on Dec 30, 2006 believing it would be less than a year before my husband could come home with us.  I was baffled and felt so betrayed when I realized the laws would not permit it for 5 years for missing an asylum hearing.  

While we waited in immigration limbo life has happened.  Good times, bad times, awful times.  Of course, that is life, right?  I have faced so much adversity in my life, I begin to wonder, when will I get a break.  I am not trying to whine, but my life has been eventful to say the least.  We added two children to our family since this all started.  Our oldest sons were 3 1/2 and 5 months when we first came here.  They just started 6th and 3rd grades respectively this month.  Our daughter started first and our youngest son is about to be 3 on Monday.  I honestly don’t know how I made it this far.  There were times we were starving, times I wanted to throw in the towel and just leave with the kids.  Not for lack of love between my husband and I, but because sometimes I have just had enough.  Of course, then I realize, I will not let immigration win.  All the while cursing under my breath about it sucking so damn badly.  

My life has been one hell of a storm thus far, but I will never stop fighting against the tide.  I won’t give up or in, I will keep going and live my life as it’s given. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

I see the comments more often than I would like to admit. It is hard enough that we have to look at negative comments about our situations from the haters, sometimes it’s worse when someone going through this mess fail to see that like all things in life, the choices we make are never that simple.  Nothing in this system is black and white, there are so many murky areas in between.  Not to mention curve balls, heartache and surprise after surprise along the way.  I am of course referring to comments about how some people, including myself, are selfish because we chose a man over our children from a previous marriage and how they could never abandon their children like that.  My biggest sin is not being naive, no, I was the opposite.  I was arrogant.  How could they require the spouse and parent of US Citizen’s to leave the country for processing?  No chance to take the lives of 5 US Citizens into consideration in this process .  Yes we have followed the law, but that does not excuse the fact that the laws were written to be unjust.  How can people turn a blind eye to the blatant violations to US Citizens rights and the basic human rights that are being ignored in this process?   Essentially, the choices that families like mine face, do not solve anything.  Leave behind your entire life to keep your family together, albeit in extreme poverty most could never imagine, or living separated where you always hurt. Most end up on government aid as their spouse, oftentimes, was the sole or main breadwinner.  Some become homeless relying on friends and family, objectifying that family even more.  Sometimes, it seems nobody like to talk about us, recently I have noticed some press on our families, however, most are riddled with misinformation and mistakes;  the reporter does not fully understand the situation and can cause more problems than they solve.  I wonder though, if they even feel a tinge of guilt when the haters are spouting off about how our families deserve this?  That we knew the consequences when we chose our spouses.  Yes, this is what love is about.  Again, maybe I was arrogant, but not so much to think that people deserve to suffer years or life under inhumane laws.  Wanting to destroy the lives of hard working and loving people, screaming to deport them all, no care for the US Citizens involved.  The thing about it is, our own Government’s foreign policy has played a part in this mess to begin with; Nafta and the War on Drugs has taken its toll and sent many people fleeing from violence and to look for a better life.   But hey, they are just all criminals and so are their US Citizen Spouses and Children by association apparently.   We are damned for falling in love.  What it comes down to is I am nobody.  I am just another American woman who is trying to keep her family above water, in a rapidly rising tide of ignorance, indifference and hate.

Today was one of the worst days I have had in a long while.  It started innocently enough, with me working on getting documents prepared to send over to the translator (very close friend) for my husband’s immigration waivers.   Unfortunately, it took longer than planned and by the time I was done, I had to start working. 

 Fighting and arguing ensued amongst the entire household before long, including my husband and I.  Yes, we argue, we don’t always see eye to eye, which is fine.  I don’t expect perfection in my marriage because well, no one is perfect.   Anyways, things just seemed to go downhill from there.   Today was my terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day.   

You see, I was diagnosed bipolar when I was a teenager and have gone without medication for many years.  When I am not stressed, or I don’t have too much on my plate, I seem completely normal.  But, once I have lost control of my emotions that is pretty much it for the day. 

For some odd reason, today, the punches just didn’t stop coming.   Emotionally exhausted, I call my sister for some pertinent info on my mom’s medications.  My mom who Is only 55, has early Alzheimer’s, today my sister let me know they are doubling her dosage of her Aricept prescription, my mother is no longer improving on her old dosage.  Most people would just say,  just spend time with her, have the kids spend time with her so that you can get that time in before it is too late.

Sadly, this is not an option for my family because my mom is over 3600 miles away in the USA.  I watched my grandmother’s mind deteriorate in her late 60’s and early 70’s.  I had the chance to get my time with her; we always knew this was a possibility with my mom, due to her own history of traumas and psych issues.  The only thing is, I thought I would be there for this.  I thought there was more time and there is nothing I can do about it from Bolivia. 

Do you know that feeling where you have no control over what is happening in your life?  Like no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, it’s always wrong?  Yeah, story of my life. 

The last 6+ years has been so mentally and physically demanding on me that I just want it to all go away.  I just want my life back, I can’t get these years back that I have lost, my daughters still in the states are going to be 13 & 14 years old and I have missed out on all those years.  My children have missed out on loving Aunts, Grandparents and Cousins.  They missed out on the life we had planned, in the states.  I have done this to keep my family together.   

And as I prepare our waiver, I wonder how I am going to handle the next 6 months as we wait for an answer.  The threads are wearing thin, life doesn’t just go on….sometimes it stops, and sometimes you lose sight of yourself in this process.

God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Don’t take the people whom you love nor the people that love you for granted.  You never know when they will be out of reach, out of touch, or just gone. 

Hopefully the next 6 years, will be different.

I am the type of person that gets caught up in life, especially if I am manic.  I have to admit, the past seven months have been interesting to say the least. After the entire family did, in fact, contract swine flu I was a mess.  Hell, I am still a mess, but that just comes with the territory of living in exile and wanting to go home so damn badly.  Let’s play catch up and discuss a little of what has gone on in the city of La Paz since I last updated my blog.

Hmm, just a few days into our swine flu diagnosis the Police went on strike.  I am not gonna try and make it seem like it was bigger than it really was, but it was damn scary.  I really didn’t want to leave the house for several weeks after that happened.  My mom was a cop when I was little and I could never imagine police officers taking to the streets like that.

May I move on to how much the President of Bolivia hates American’s.  Yeah, battle cry my ass, living in La Paz and seeing the newspapers, Evo Morales would be happy to see America fall by the wayside.  Not to mention his little press conference this past October about relations with the US Embassy here in La Paz.   What about how he would like to see happen to the multi-million dollar US Embassy earlier last year.  I could go on and on about the President vs. the USA but I do have a point to get to.

I don’t know what it is about me and my kids but we are spotted as American’s everywhere we go.  Do we just look different from Europeans?  Because they guess before any of us ever open our mouths.  Do we just give off this aura or something?  I try not to talk to people or make too much eye contact, there is no hiding our light hair or blue eyes and its not like they don’t have native born Bolivians that are light skinned with blue eyes because they do.  I promise I am getting to my next point.  Since late 2011 we have seen a great increase of kidnappings of minors which makes me hold my kids hands tighter when we are out (we are not allowed out alone without my husband).  Our safety seems to be diminishing every month.

We moved back to Downtown La Paz in Sept. 2011 to be closer to the kids school, but it also meant we are closer to all the action.  By action I mean protests, express kidnappings, etc, etc.  This last year we saw one of the most violent protest in the City of La Paz since we came in 2006.  The Miner’s Protest, shortly after the Police Riots, happened within a mile of where we live, including the throwing around of the dynamite.   Well, this of course led to me not leaving the house for quite awhile.

Let me go back to Evo for a moment, the President talks such great game about how Pachimama (Mother Earth) has rights how we should treat it with respect, blah blah blah.  Look I am all for Green Energy and I believe in Global Warming but Evo does not play by his own rules.  Yeah, its just an act, so many of his policies are questionable, he is a true politician.  Yeah maybe I am a little biased but he is constantly putting my and my children’s homeland down.  I know my country is not perfect, hell what is happening to my family is proof enough of that.

Now to the thing that is really the scariest when you sit down and think about the close ties Bolivia has with Cuba, Venezuela and especially with Iran.  This happened right near where we shop for groceries, now what were they planning on doing with all that uranium?  And why the hell was it in the section where a lot of American Expats live?  The longer I live here the less safe I feel.

This brings me to my ultimate point, family members of US Citizens should not be subjected to years long waits to immigrate.  My husband was banned for 5 years without relief for missing an asylum hearing.  We have waited out more than our time and we are actually going to be filing to return in a few weeks.  I am ready to go home, but I ask anyone that thinks that Citizens should have rights to bring their loved ones home without having to wait, 5, 10 or more years to please sign our petition to eliminate non-waivable bans for family member of US Citizens.    I ask this for the tens of thousands of US Citizens affected by these draconian immigration laws that destroy US Citizen families, making us choose between keeping our families together or living the way I do, impoverished and exiled for years.  All this talk about comprehensive immigration reform and we are the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about, but we are here, we are not going away and we will be silent no longer.