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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Closure.

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!