My Post-Reform Wish List.

There’s a feeling of anticipation brewing in my household and I’m sure millions of undocumented immigrants are as excited as we are. You see, last week word came out of the White House that president Barack Obama (also rightfully known as the Deporter-In-Chief) will give an executive order on immigration this week.

This impending order makes me think that I really need to defrost the champagne bottle that I ruefully put in my freezer last year, when the Republican-led House came up with a few suggestions on where the Senate should shove their immigration bill.

Though the House put the kibosh on the Senate bill, I still hold steadfastly to the hope that a reform bill will be passed. I’ve even jotted down what I call a post-reform wish list. In it are a few things (about 200 in total) that I plan to do after immigration reform takes place, or an executive order is given.

First, I plan to send thank you cards to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents who put my wife and I in deportation proceedings. The day they nabbed us, they decided (either out of the kindness of their hearts or because it was a lazy Friday) to process us and then release us on our own recognizance. They also decided not to make us pay bond. The bond ICE typically slaps on predominantly poor undocumented immigrants ranges from about $1,500 to $10,000 per person.

The next thing I’ll do is get a Texas drivers license because driving in Texas with the constant fear of being stopped by a xenophobic cop really sucks. I love this state and would like nothing more that have my ghastly mug slapped on a Texas Drivers license.

My hearts desire has always been to enroll in a university that offers a masters degree in Occupational Therapy. I’ve been eyeing Texas Women’s University. I’d like to help the feeble regain their strength and independence back. I may be hoping for too much, but I really hope that Obama’s executive order will enable me, and millions like me, to go to school, graduate, and use our education to further contribute to this great country.

In a nutshell, many of us hope that Obama’s impending executive order will enable us to get work permits, which will in turn help us get drivers’ licenses so we can drive to work and provide for our families and ourselves without constantly looking over our shoulders. Surely this can’t be too much to ask.





Fear & Spiders

This past Monday I felt fear in a very real way. I was about to park myself in my favorite seat when I noticed that someone else was occupying it. The occupant was a huge, furry spider with long legs that looked fatter than a McDonald’s French fry. This spider-on-steroids was so big, I was frightened it would run over me if I attempted to stand in its way.

The last time I felt this kind of fear was when my wife and I were locked in a small interrogation cell, waiting to be processed by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers. Our precarious future was in the hands of ICE.

Like most undocumented immigrants, I had been living my life hoping and praying never to cross paths with any department of the Law. I would always remind myself to speak with an American accent and drive like a grandma every time I got behind the wheel. I didn’t want to be stopped for Driving With an Accent (DWA), or, even worse, Driving While Illegal (DWI).

The day my bride and I got busted was a scary day. I knew that, going forward, our lives were going to be harder than a Siberian rock. At that point we resolved to fight the coming adversity with every fiber of our fragile beings. And fight we did.

The elephantine spider staring me down scared the crap out of me because I was afraid that it would abduct me. That would leave my daughter fatherless, and my wife without someone to take out the trash. So I did the courageous thing and, as humanely as I could, ushered the spider into spider heaven.

Having gone through the deportation process and come out of it scathed but alive, I now have a new perspective on this thing called fear. Fear has the ability to destroy us, or ignite in us the will to fight insurmountable odds and adversities.

When fear and adversity strike, my hope is that you will choose to face it head on, like my wife and I did, and emerge from it a stronger and wiser person. Fear’s bark is always worse than its bite. Don’t let it rob you of a full life.








Undocumented and Pregnant: Survival Tips.

So you’re undocumented and have just found out that you are pregnant. Maybe you are scared and uncertain about what you should do for yourself and your unborn child. Here are 5 things my wife and I did, that will help you navigate this new chapter in your life:

  1. Don’t panic. My wife’s pregnancy was unplanned, so naturally we were both freaked out when we learned about it. At the time, we were both weeks away from being deported. The doctors’ offices and hospitals we called for help and advice were as useless as my appendix. One nurse even suggested that my wife hang tight for 9 months and then hobble into the nearest hospital after her water broke. Thank God we didn’t take her boneheaded advice!
  1. Apply for CHIP. The CHIP I mean is really not related to a computer, a potato, or a cartoon character. It’s actually a form of health insurance for children who come from low or no income families. Applying and qualifying for it (they don’t really care about your immigration status) will enable you go for checkups and deliver your child without having to pay a cent. Here is a site you can use to find the Health Insurance programs that your state has:
  1. Pick an insurance company. After you apply for CHIP and they determine you are eligible, they will send you paperwork to enroll in CHIP. They’ll also include a list of insurance companies that carry CHIP as a health plan. The insurance company you pick will determine which doctor you can get. Pick the one that suits your needs.
  1. Pick a Doctor. Once you find a doctor who takes the insurance you fancy, call them to confirm that they take that insurance and if they do, set up an appointment.
  1. Enroll in WIC. WIC stands for Women Infants and Children. It is a supplemental program. It will not take care of your entire grocery bill but it will help provide nutritious food for you and your child. This government program has been a lifesaver, especially after our child was born. With WIC’s help my wife and I are able to get free Formula and baby food for our daughter, Pookie. Our local WIC office has a staff who have offered my wife really good classes (both online and onsite), advice, and tips on how to care for herself and our child. Google WIC + your city to find your local WIC office.

Simply put, your next move now is to find a doctor, and enroll in CHIP and WIC as you await the coming of your child.


WIC and Underwear.

The other day I was standing in line at the self-check out section at our local grocery store waiting for an open station. In front of me was a couple who had just scanned the items they had bought and were about to pay.

The lady, who looked so pregnant I was afraid that she’d go into labor right in front of me whipped out a peculiar looking card from her purse to pay for the items. Immediately, her man began to moonwalk away from her and look around to see who was watching. He looked somewhat apologetic and embarrassed and I knew why.

3 years ago when I had a job, the idea of people getting on government assistance repulsed me. I strongly believed that people who had two hands, two feet, and clean underwear had no business getting government assistance. Then I woke up one morning with a pregnant wife, no job, in deportation proceedings and wearing somewhat clean underwear. I had no choice but to get on government assistance because it was the only legal way I knew to survive the storm we were in.

For 15 years my wife and I religiously gave a portion of our paychecks to the bottomless pit of taxes and Social Security. Back then, we knew full well that as undocumented immigrants we’d never benefit from any of it. Now that we have a citizen child, we are eligible to use Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as well as Women Infants and Children (WIC) for our daughter, Pookie.

Using WIC is humbling, but you won’t find me getting all sheepish about whipping out my WIC card at a grocery store. Nor do I care that there are people who think of me as a parasitic déclassé for doing so. They do not know my story.

I paid taxes for 15 years, and I think that, in itself, gives me the license to get food for my precious wife and child. So the next time you see someone unapologetically and enthusiastically swiping his WIC card, that’s probably me getting food for the two loves of my life.


Champagne & Executive Orders

Talk of undocumented immigrants getting some sort of legality has been around for as long as I can remember. This time, the subject of the talk has shifted from hoping Congress will pass immigration reform to Obama taking matters into his own hands. It is believed that he is about to issue an executive order, which will legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, like me.

This upcoming order is the kind a leader issues out of frustration because nobody (Congress) seems to be doing what they are supposed to (their job), but then again, what’s new?

Marco Rubio and John McCain are two congressmen who have been a huge disappointment to me. Marco Rubio is, of course, the son of Cuban immigrants who has made a career out of changing his mind, and drinking gallons of water while giving speeches.

John McCain is the former presidential candidate who unleashed on America the scourge that is Sarah Palin. It is also believed that he was present when John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed the Declaration of Independence.

These two clowns, who had once vehemently championed a bipartisan immigration bill, have suddenly distanced themselves from it, just like one would swiftly distance oneself from a friend who farted in an elevator.

I’d love to say that I’m flabbergasted by Rubio’s and McCain’s actions but I’m not. None of us “illegals” are. We’ve witnessed this flip-floppy behavior so often that it no longer surprises us.

Lately, my wife and I have decided to suspend our skepticism and to anticipate the president’s executive order, which may happen very soon. My better half is cautiously optimistic. She hopes that all 11 million of us will get to step out of the shadows and be able to travel and work legally.

I, on the other hand, am obsessing over a $5 “Champagne” bottle chilling in our fridge that I can’t wait to pop when President Obama issues the executive order.





How to make pizza for illegals.

Now that we’re in deportation purgatory on account of Administrative Closure, the Mrs. and I have cut down our budget to about $30 a week. I realize that seems like a lot of money to some of you, especially if you convert it into Zimbabwean dollars. Yet for others, $30 is a bad tip given to a waitress for receiving horrendous service.

After a lot of begging and nagging, my wife finally gave me a work permit to use our kitchen on the condition that I wouldn’t burn it down. She also handed me $10 and sent me off on my merry way. Immediately, I headed to my laptop and YouTubed How to make pizza for dummies, because making a pizza was somewhat on my bucket list. What appeared were thousands upon thousands of videos made for dummies like me.

One memorable video had this energetic young buck, who effortlessly stretched his pizza dough using the back of his hand and arm and then tossed it up, way up in the air. Amazingly, the pizza dough stretched and doubled in size mid-air!

That video made me feel so inadequate as a prospective pizza maker. I wanted to give up and just boil an egg instead. But I’m no quitter! I clicked the thumbs down icon right below the video and resolved to make a pizza.

At my local supermarket, I bought a packet of flour, two packs of 33-cent yeast, cheese, a bell pepper, an onion, mushrooms, pasta sauce, and a small roll of minced meat. All these items cost me just $8. I quickly fist-pumped the air and yelled, “Yes!” then skipped out of the store and sped home.

What these pizza-making videos don’t tell you is that one key ingredient, namely yeast, can be a royal pain in the posterior. I really should be thrown in pizza jail because, that day, I killed two packets of yeast.

It turns out that, like a pet or a significant other, yeast needs a lot of time, love, and attention. To activate it, one has to put the yeast in water that’s between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures any higher will massacre the yeast, and any lower will put it in a coma.

Out of yeast, I accoutered my 7-month old in a cute, little, purple dress, strapped her into her car seat and drove to the store for more yeast. Pookie was in a state of awe when we both entered our local supermarket. Noticing this, I slowed down to let her take it all in. I even let her touch an onion and a mango.

She’s in an oral phase, which means that, in her eyes, the world is a huge buffet waiting to be eaten. So before she put the onion in her mouth and drooled all over the mango, I decided that it was best for us to move on to another aisle. We ambled to the baking section, where I quickly grabbed a packet of yeast.

“I see you’re baby-sitting today,” the employee manning the checkout station said to me.

“No, actually she’s taking me for a walk!” was the retort I really wanted to give, but instead I smiled and said, “Yup, I do this every day.”

Things almost always get ugly whenever I’m left to my own devices in the kitchen. My wife always tells me that she knows I’m cooking when she hears words like “Crap!” “Oh, no!” and “Oh, boy!” emanating from the kitchen. I find that cooking really isn’t rewarding unless I hurt myself, break something, or set off the smoke detector.

The yeast activated on my second try and, before long, I had smooth firm dough standing right in front of me. That night, I cut two slices of the Pizza that I’d cooked, put it on a plate and presented it to my beau. I watched her closely as she looked at it with trepidation. She picked up a slice with a look that said, let me get this out of the way, and took a bite.

“This is not bad!” she said.

“Really?” I asked, trying to tone down my excitement.

“Yes, really. It actually tastes surprisingly good!”

Her rave review, which was also a subtle jab, prompted me to secretly start working on a coup d’état to take over her kitchen. After taking control of it, I plan to attempt to make Vanilla Crème Brûlé, mainly because it doesn’t require yeast. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it all turns out.

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An Emerging Crisis.

A new immigration crisis has emerged. Over the past few years more than 40,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been showing up at the southern border asking for asylum because of the rising gang violence in their home countries.

So who is to blame for this influx of children? Frankly, there is enough blame to go around. One could blame the US for supporting corrupt Central American governments. One could also blame Mexico for adopting new immigration policies that make it easier for Central Americans to enter and cross Mexico. One could even blame the parents of these children for sending them on a perilous journey to a country that they believe won’t reject their traumatized children.

It is highly unlikely that these minors will be granted asylum. They will most likely be detained and processed. Some will be released to relatives in the US after paying bond, but most will eventually be placed in deportation proceedings.

The solution to this crisis is not simple, but something could be done to begin nipping this crisis in the bud. I believe that “something” is Immigration Reform. Immigration Reform will fix the current broken system and usher in a system that works.

A system that works is one that will allow 11 million of us living in the shadows to start living our lives in the light. A system that works will bring the backlogged Immigration Court system from the Stone Age into the 21st century. A system that works will secure the border and make it easier for foreigners to enter this country without having to risk their lives.

Sad as this crisis is, I’m glad that it has brought Immigration Reform back into the limelight. My wish as a parent is that when all is said and done, these children will end up in a place where they won’t have to worry about gang violence, or constantly be afraid of deportation. Until then, we all need to keep fighting for Immigration Reform.



My dear wife and I went to court for our very last removal hearing. This one was gonna be the one BIG one. Left with no other choice, we’d planned to throw our hands up in surrender and request for voluntary departure. If granted, we’d then be given just 90-120 days to pack all our things and beat it.

5 minutes after walking into immigration court, our judge administratively closed our case and sent us on our merry way. Here is how it happened:

About 4 weeks prior, I came home to find my wife in our empty apartment looking like she’d been hit by a ton of bricks. Speechless, she pointed her finger to a white and blue looking object lying beside her. It was a pregnancy test. On it were the words “pregnant.”

After reeling from the realization that, unbeknownst to us, we had made a child, I emailed our immigration lawyer, and broke the news to him. I asked him if there was a chance that the Immigration and Customs Enforcers (ICE) would administratively close our case on account of my wife being with child.

Our tell-it-like-it-is lawyer emailed us back the same day and told us that there was a slight chance the government would consider administratively closing our deportation case. Since our final court date was coming up really soon, he urged us to move rapidly and collect statements of ‘good moral character’ from friends, family and pastors. He also asked for college transcripts, a document with proof that my wife was pregnant, copies of our passports, among other things.

After we gathered all the documents, our lawyer used them to create what he called a “brief.” This brief is very different from the one men wear as an undergarment. It’s actually a file filled with the documents we’d submitted, as well as a written argument by our lawyer persuading ICE to administratively close our case.

On the day of our last court hearing, my wife and I walked into court solemnly, but with our heads held high.  Our lawyer, who’d probably camped outside courthouse the night before, met us and whispered in my ear, “We got it!”

It’s crazy to think that even before the judge walked into court, we’d gotten the inside scoop of how our case would go. Our case would be closed and the judge, who was walking into court, didn’t even know that he’d close our case. The battle had been won even before it began.

My wife and I walked out of the immigration courthouse that day relieved and overwhelmed with emotion. For the past year, we’d been on a journey filled with fear, desperation and loss. This deportation journey had finally come to a sweet end. We knew that our future would still have its challenges, but thankfully, we’d face those challenges on American soil.

I think back to that court-day and I can’t help but realize that though our story had a happy ending, many of the people I saw in the immigration court room were probably ordered deported and, consequently, torn apart from their children, families and community. It’s for them that my heart aches and bleeds. It’s for them that I still fight for immigration reform, and I’m more than persuaded that it’s gonna happen!



Just when I thought that nobody gave a flip about the Undocumented, my wife and I stumbled upon an amazing non-profit organization called the Hope Resource Center of McKinney.

Six weeks into my wife’s pregnancy, we walked into the Hope Resource Center clueless, scared and concerned about our future.

The general advice I’d received from almost every hospital nurse that I’d talked to was to tell my pregnant and undocumented wife to hang in there, take prenatal supplements and then dash to the nearest hospital ER when her water broke.

As far as we were concerned, there was no way in Hades we were going to do that to our unborn child. So we ignored their horrendous advice and began looking for a center that would counsel us and point us in the right direction.

After some googling and calling around, we came across the Hope Resource Center and made an appointment with them . We arrived at the Resource Center on the appointed day with many questions, fears and reservations. Our trepidation was laid to rest when a very sweet Nurse came up to us and asked to see my wife. Later, she came and asked me if I wanted to join my wife in her office.

I jumped at the opportunity because I had a question. It seemed to me like every other second, my pregnant wife would complain that she was tired. So I asked the Nurse if this “tiredness” complaint would be there through all three semesters.

The Nurse smiled and instead of calling me a moron for saying semester instead of trimester, she assured me that it was natural for pregnant women to be tired. “Her tiredness” she said, “is because, among other things, the baby inside her is growing by leaps and bounds.”

About a week later we returned to the Resource Center for a free ultrasound. Nothing really prepares you for that very first image of your unborn child. Though hazy and still not really defined, I saw my child in all its glory. It was at that moment, it really dawned on me that I was going to be a father!

The staff at the center couldn’t have been nicer. They rejoiced with us as we watched the ultrasound of our baby and, before we left, they gave us hugs, gifts and promised to pray for our immigration situation. Their compassion and genuine love for us made up for all the hate, spite and insensitivity we’d received over the course of this past year.

After receiving ultrasound photos of our unborn child, a handmade shawl and a devotional book, my wife and I hopped into our ride and drove to the other side of town to meet with our immigration lawyer. We’d just left a place that was full of hope, love and support and were heading into the real world; a world that seemed to care less about us because of our immigration status.

The Immigration Reform Battle Goes On.

Whenever people talk about the Undocumented or “illegal” immigrant, they are in fact talking about me. You see, I’m an undocumented immigrant and it really irks and hurts when I hear hate and lies being spewed about the Undocumented by anti-immigration proponents. These xenophobes claim that we the Undocumented are criminals and parasites who need to remain in the dark, get deported, or magically wished out of existence.

A few weeks ago, the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was on the Senate floor where it was discussed and debated upon. The loudest mouths in the Senate also happened to be foes of immigration reform. Senators like Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions, and Chuck Grassley, among others, stood up and railed incessantly against the bill. When the time came for the Senate members to vote on the Gang’s bill, it was passed with a vote of 68-32.

This bill is far from perfect. If it gets passed in its present form, about 4 of the 11 million Undocumented won’t meet the criteria for legalization and will either get deported or driven deeper into the shadows.  Those legalized are bound to fall out of status if they become unemployed for more than 60 days. With this bill, E-Verify will become mandatory and communication between ICE and local police will be more streamlined, making it easier for them to target people who look, act, or sound “illegal.”

Now that the Senate has passed the bill, the ball is in the House’s court and what will happen to it from here on out is anybody’s guess. So far, Speaker John Boehner who is the speaker of the House doesn’t seem keen on passing the Senate bill. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republican members of the House don’t have much of an incentive to pass it. More than 200 of them have less than 25 percent Latinos in their districts.

Ultimately, the passing or the killing of the immigration bill will boil down to whether the Republican party cares more about appeasing their Caucasian constituents, rather than winning the next presidential election. Many believe that this bill will not pass unless Speaker John Boehner commits career suicide by passing it in the House without the full support of the majority who for the most part happen to be conservative House Republicans.

Looking at the facts, it is quite clear that the path ahead for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill won’t be easy. Some even believe that it will downright take a miracle for the bill to pass. I believe in miracles and I’m confident that immigration reform will pass this year, simply because it’s about time a bill legalizing 11 million Undocumented Americans, like me, was passed.