What I want you to know about being an immigrant

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Bronwyn Lea.

This is what I want you to know about being an immigrant.

In the ten years I have lived in the United States, people have often been shocked when I tell them that not only do I not have a green card, but that I couldn’t get one even if I tried.

I would love to be the holder of a green card—that elusive piece of paper which would grant me the right to remain in the US indefinitely—but as it is, I don’t and can’t qualify. There is not a single category under which I can legally apply for permanent residence.

This is shocking to many, perhaps because I defy some of the stereotypes about immigrants and immigration laws. After all, I am English-speaking and hold two graduate degrees. I am white, I am a committed member of my church, and I have three children who are natural-born American citizens. I volunteer on the PTA, I do community service.

I have both the skills and the desire to work, but when people want to pay me for writing or speaking, I have to decline. My current visa status allows me to volunteer, but not to earn any income. (This strikes me as a pity, because I would so gladly pay taxes on any income I could earn. The perks of living in a country like the US are well worth the taxes, if you ask me.)

This is what I want you to know about immigration: being English-speaking, privileged, white, skilled, educated, hard-working, legally above-board, and socially respectable are not enough to apply for residence in the US.

As it turns out, there are very few categories under which one can apply for permanent residence, and unless your employer is sponsoring you or you are marrying in, you have to be a bit of an ├╝ber-mensch (as in, a scholar of international standing, a Pulitzer prize winner, an Olympic athlete, to name some of the examples listed on the website) to qualify.

I am none of these things.

But, I have hitched my marital wagon to another immigrant who holds a PhD in Engineering from a well-respected US university and works in research that affects the spending of millions of tax dollars. Our immigration attorneys tell us they are “hopeful” that his application will be successful. No guarantees. But all our eggs are in that one basket, and if he gets a green card, I—his loving wife and official maker of the sandwiches—can have one, too.

Until the day we have green cards, though, I live under the constant threat that something will happen: funding will be cut and my husband will lose his job/ he will get hit by a driver who is texting/ he will have a heart attack – and I would instantly lose my status as a legal alien in the US. I would have no grounds to apply to stay on my own merit. I would have to leave the country immediately, without time to pack up our house or bury my loved ones, and I would have to pull my American children from their schools and therapies and take them back to a country where they would then become immigrant kids.

Until the day we have green cards, I live under the constant threat of being “randomly” pulled over for hours of questioning in arrivals halls at airports (Not being paranoid. This has happened.) I live with the fear that an official will make a notation on one of our pieces of paper which we don’t understand or don’t notice, but which jeopardizes the legality of our stay here and requires us to leave the country to fix it (Not being paranoid. This has happened, too). We have been finger printed, retina scanned, swabbed and searched; submitted documents detailing every place we have ever worked and studied, every address of every member of our families worldwide. (This has happened. Who's paranoid?)

We have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to stay legal and keep our paperwork current – but still, as immigrants we remain aware that something unforeseen and uncontrollable could happen to our visa status, and we would be vulnerable. Fleeing. Homeless.

I am a legal, documented, and in-every-way-welcomed-by-this-community immigrant, and yet I want you to know that being an immigrant still means I live with the fear that our paperwork is a house of cards, just waiting to come tumbling down. I am afraid of losing my home. I am afraid of being separated from my children. I am afraid that we will have spent ten years trying to build a life here, and still we will lose everything.

To be an immigrant is to be vulnerable. And if I, as a legal immigrant, feel vulnerable – how much more so are those who have a black mark against their record that they feel powerless to erase?

To be an immigrant is to fear. And if I, as a legal immigrant, feel scared – how much more so are those who would not just have to leave, but who would be punished?

To be an immigrant is to risk being unexpectedly wrenched from your family. And if I, as a legal immigrant, fear this – how much more do others?

I’m not justifying illegal immigration. We have done everything we can to stay and be legal in our efforts, and we would do everything we can to encourage and others to be documented, rather than undocumented, workers.

But I do want you to know that being allowed to stay in this beautiful land of opportunity is far tougher and more complicated than you might think. The laws which protect the US’s borders are the same laws which apply to our family. Even though we don’t “look” like immigrants, we are.

When people talk with us about immigration and hear our story, sometimes they say, “Oh, we’re not talking about you… we’re talking about all those who came here illegally.” They say, “They shouldn’t be rewarded for their crimes with citizenship.” They say, “If they want to move to the US, they should do it legally and just get in line.”

What I want you to know is that THERE IS NO LINE. Immigration is not like Disneyland, where if you pay enough money and queue patiently for long enough, anyone can ride Space Mountain. There is not a single line that I can stand in on my own merit. Even with language and education and money and privilege aplenty, and even though I don’t come from suspicious countries like India or China or Mexico, there is no line for me. So, I’m holding my husband’s hand while he stands in that elusive, exclusive line; and we’re hoping for the best.

In the mean while, I’m telling my story because, unlike so many others who know the vulnerability and fear of living as an immigrant, my speaking out doesn’t put my status in the US at risk. I am one of a smaller group who have experienced just how narrow and broken the immigration laws can be, but who can speak about it without fear of being discovered and deported.

I want you to know what it’s like to be an immigrant because perhaps you, like so many of the wonderful, thoughtful people we have come to know in the US, will hear our story and say, “I had no idea,” and “I’m so sorry,” and “Whoa! That’s so much more broken than I realized.”

The immigration system is broken – more than we realized when we first came, too. And so, I want you to know.

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Friday Finds

1. Short Sleeve Plaid Shirt | The Children's Place 
2.  The Children's Place | Ollie Laced Sneaker
3. Short Sleeve Striped Pocket Tee | The Children's Place 
4. The Children's Place  | Sleeveless Photo-Real Rainbow Dress 
5.  Floral-Printed Knit Jeggings | The Children's Place 
6. The Children's Place  | Short Sleeve Heart Print Skater Dress | 
7. Solar Mechanics | Woozymoo
8. Squigz Deluxe Set |  Woozymoo 
9.  Woozymoo | Reptangles 

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That's What SHE Said: know your history, adopting through the foster care system, God's anger, toddler texts, unlucky wives and more...

"We are a nation of contradictions. We continue to fight the same battles over and over, decade after decade, generation after generation without facing reality. We put band aids on lacerations and hope the cancer of racial hatred won’t recur. Once again, we are at a pivotal moment. The pendulum is moving. It is as clear as it has ever been that what we know about our history shapes the way we think of ourselves, the way we think of our government and the way we treat our fellow Americans. What we know about history and what we know about current events shapes public policy. When we are misinformed, we make poor decisions."

"We’re asking for trouble. No, really, we are. We know exactly what early childhood trauma does to the brain. We’re looking to adopt a boy around 3-5 yrs through the foster care system, who will inevitably carry trauma, loss, and deep grief. And then there are the risks involved, which terrify me. The worst being the possibility that a placement will be disrupted (translation: kid goes away). Sometimes I think we should just call a stop to all this immediately. And then I wonder if I’m having genuine reservations or I’m just scared."

"Why? Well, we know you’re White. We knew you were White when we invited you. We knew you were White when you walked in. And we knew you were White when we started calling you “White Jane” even though there’s no other Jane there. No need to draw extra attention to your Whiteness, White Jane."

"God is not sad about the existence of injustice; God is angry bout it." To believe in the idea of a sad and mournful God is to stay complacent. Would we, as a society, keep being an active part of oppression if we shifted our perspective and acknowledged God's anger at our continued passivity?"


If Toddlers Could Text Funny diaper off

That escalated quickly.

"What's luck got to do with it? Abi Oborne challenges the notion of being "lucky" for choosing a husband who is also an active participant in parenthood."

Via Little Paper Lane

If you find yourself in New York City this fall, be sure to snag some highly coveted tickets to David Mamet's new play, China Doll, starring Al Pacino and directed by Tony Award winner Pam McKinnon. Also of note, some newly released seats for Book of Mormon this September, a fresh revival production by Deaf West Theatre of the Broadway hit Spring Awakening, and for the kids there is the much adored musical Finding Neverland or General Mischief Dance Theatre's world premiere of Up and Away on October 11th at the JCC Manhattan.  

LA folks, check out Hershey Felder as prolific songwriter and legendary composer Irving Berlin at the Geffen Playhouse. You can also catch the last remaining summer outdoor films with Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery including Psycho, Ferris Bueller's Day Off,  and Back to the Future I & II. 

For screen-free activities, families might want to check out The Sound of Music launching its North American tour at the Ahmanson this September or the Ancient Forest at Descanso Gardens on September 26th, showcasing plants from the days of dinosaurs. Activities will also include an educator from the National History Museum with Jurassic fossils. 

Via @babble

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What I want you to know about having an empty nest

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Laurie.

What I want you to know about the empty nest or having a mid-life crisis. I am 49 years old, have a middle-class life, a master's degree, a dead end job, a nice, hard-working husband, and two grown sons. In the past three years, my husband has left a 25 year career to change jobs. We lost over half of our income. He works 60 hours a week. Both of our children went to out-of-state colleges. Our expenses have gone through the roof. We have cut back on everything to keep afloat. I have gone back to work after a 22 year hiatus. My boss is 23 years old. One of my sons has married and moved 1700 miles away. I am no longer the most important woman in his life . My other son is 500 miles away at college. He moved himself to school this year. No need for mom to hang pictures or set up the kitchen. One of my best friends died of cancer. She was 50.

No, neither of my kids is on drugs. They have jobs. We are able to pay our bills. No one has an incurable illness. But that doesn't mean that I can't be sad and that the foundation my whole life was built on is now crumbling beneath me. Who am I ? I volunteer. I get out of my house. I don't feel sorry for myself. But, I am sad. I want you to know that is is okay for me to be depressed. Life is full of changes. These past three years have brought a lot of big ones. I am trying to figure out who I am without doing something insane or hurting the ones I love. I need your help, your time, your prayers, your laughter, your love. Brene Brown had an interesting video about the difference between sympathy and empathy. She said something along the lines of "Sympathetic people always say 'at least' all the time. "At least your kids are employed," "At least, you are still married," etc. However, empathetic people, will climb down in the hole you are in and just stay there with you and hold your hand. That's what I want people to know about the stage of life I am in now. There are huge adjustments for me to make. Be there for me. Don't tell me to move on, or how things could be worse. I help those less fortunate, I don't need to be reminded how good I have it. Another quote says, "Telling me I can't be sad because someone else has it worse, is like saying I can't be happy because someone else has it better." Please understand this is a stage like all stages of life. Hopefully I will get better and learn a lot in the process. Help me to get through, not over.

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Is "having it all" a feminist fiction?

Is it possible to have it all?
It’s a question that seems to be frequently asked, usually in regards to women, and especially in regards to mothers. The pressure “do it all” can sometimes be overwhelming.  Many women enter motherhood believing that they can successfully balance their roles as wife, mother, homemaker, and employee, only to discover that the juggling act often means that one or more roles suffer.

As we are nearing the end of a summer with all four of my kids at home, I can attest to this.

As a working mom, I usually have more on my plate than is probably realistic with four children.  I write for a number of websites, and I'm acting as general contractor on our house right now.  On paper, it may appear that I have it all.  In reality, I’m exhausted.  If everything worked out exactly as planned in any given day, I still probably wouldn’t have enough time to do everything.  My life is a daily renegotiation of how I think the week will go, and how it actually goes.  And for working moms, it’s knowing that no matter what commitments you make or how professional you are trying to present yourself, it is all subject to change without notice, based on a sick kid or a school function or a diaper blow-out as you are walking out the door.
I love being a mom, and I love having a career, but I can’t help feeling like somewhere along the lines I was sold a bill of goods that anyone could adequately do them both. Someone is going to lose, and sometimes it feels like we are all losing.  I’m working non-stop, foregoing sleep, and just wondering what new thing will crop up tomorrow to keep me from finishing the deadlines I needed to make yesterday, before my time got way-laid.  I’m often tired and grumpy.  I don’t get enough sleep, and I don’t feel like I have time to hit the gym most days.  I am modeling a lifestyle of stress to my children and I am disappointing people right and left because I just need 10 more hours in each day to do everything I need to do.
And I really don’t think I’m alone.  I think I’m describing every working mom, on some level.
Mothers are bombarded with media-created prototypes of supermoms who are seemingly able to do it all with ease.  Sitcom moms, from Claire Huxtable to Claire Dunphy, are able to juggle work, multiple children, and impeccably clean houses without breaking a sweat, all while maintaining a svelte figure and perfectly coiffed hair.  But if TV and film supermoms weren’t enough, we’ve now entered the age of blogging, where carefully staged photos and well-crafted stories give the illusion that regular moms are living out their days in a dreamy haze of crafts, homeschooling, organic gardening, and impeccable design.  Pinterest now acts as a virtual show-and-tell, a place for inspiration but also another potential message that moms should be doing more. We’re comparing ourselves to everyone else’s highlight reel.
It isn’t just the media that perpetuates the myth of the moms having it all. Competition and comparison between moms can be just as dangerous.  In the age of the mommy wars, judgments about parenting abound.  From cloth diapering to co-sleeping, from homeschooling to organic cooking, moms face incredible pressure to do things “right”.  In an environment where working moms and stay-at-home moms are pitted against each other, many moms are left feeling guilty for wherever they fall on that spectrum.
In addition to the pressures of perfection placed on moms, women today also have to contend with the performance pressures on their children as well.  The trend of overscheduled kids . . . with demands of sports leagues, dance teams, or music lessons starting younger and younger. Moms are often taking on the role of taxi-driver in between practices and lessons.  Add that in with the inevitable tedium of motherhood: cleaning, laundry, errands, homework coaching, and meal prep, and it’s no wonder balance seems unattainable.
Feminism gave us the gift of being able to choose who we want to be.  As women, we can choose the role of the corporate careerist, the toned, tanned and manicured trophy wife, the co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding attachment parent, the PTA president, the at-home entrepreneur, or the domestic goddess with a perfect home.  It’s a blessing to live in a time when women can choose who we want to be.  But it is a myth to assume that we can play all of these roles at once.

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