Friday, May 27, 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel

Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how I feel right now. I registered with Offender Connect after I wasn’t able to talk to Alberto last night when he called 5 times, and today my account showed the credit available. I should have been about to talk to him when he called me in the afternoon during my lunch break, but for some reason the call wouldn’t connect. So I called Offender Connect and they stated that I had the wrong number attached to my account. Considering how precise I am when it comes to things like this I highly doubt it, but the CSR I talked to said that she would fix it however it could take between 2 and 24 hours to be effective. I did check my account online 4 hours later and there was no phone number whatsoever attached to my account so I added my cell phone again. I finally got to talk to him when he called at 8 pm, so at least that was something. Apparently they brought Alberto before a judge again yesterday who told him he could wait 90 days or he could wait 10 days for the sheriff to send someone to go and get him. I guess I’m not sure what that was about or what was the difference, but I’ll make sure I find out tomorrow since he chose to wait 10 days. Lance is of the opinion that this will quash the warrant, so the criminal matter will no longer be blocking our immigration proceedings. I wonder what Brian, the criminal defense attorney, will say about this new situation.

Yet another irritating thing that happened today was when I was making phone calls to find out who made the arrest on Tuesday and where I could get a copy of the record. I called the police first, and they said to check with county. I talked to the county and they said to call the police. When I spoke to the records department in the police station they couldn’t pull it up by name, so I had to call the county back and get the case number. After I had the case number I called the records department of the police again and was told they cannot tell me anything about the record, I would have to go down and get it a copy of it in person. At this point I was pretty irritable and said that this feat would be quite impossible since I was in Minnesota, not Texas. I was then told that was not her problem and I would have to send a written request by mail only with a $1.50 to receive a copy. I hope for her sake the police report states that Alberto turned himself in and that he said he had no intention of entering the United States illegally.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do the ends justify the means

I firmly believe that the employees at the consulate willfully employ psychological warfare tactics on the people they see every day. If you want a job where you can insult and belittle people on a daily basis, this may be the place for you. On another day I’ll talk about his first appointment at the consulate so that you can make up our own mind about the workers in the consulate. Anyway, yesterday was Alberto’s second appointment with immigration officials at the consulate in Ciudad Juarez. He arrived at 7:30 am for his 8 am appointment and spent the next several hours waiting to be seen. When Alberto was finally seen by an official, he was told that he needed to travel to the Zaragoza Bridge and retrieve a copy of the arrest record which began this fiasco in 2007. Alberto contacted me after leaving the consulate to ask me what he should do. We were in agreement that the likely result of this trip would be his arrest in relation to the warrant for his arrest. He asked me to contact both attorneys to see what each said about this situation and what advice they would give.

I contacted our immigration attorney first and was dismayed to discover their phone system was set to the answering machine in the middle of the business day. After calling several times, the receptionist returned from her lunch break only to tell me the attorney was currently out to lunch. I made her promise to have the attorney call me the minute he returned to his office because I needed to talk to him as soon as possible. I received the call approximately 30 minutes later and spoke with Lance. Lance said that based on our situation and the problems we have been experiencing with immigration; we would never get the opportunity to fix Alberto’s legal status without resolution of the warrant and criminal case. Lance was also of the opinion that the idea was to have Alberto arrested and extradited to Minnesota to stand trial. Lance also stated that there was the potential, given a favorable conclusion of the criminal case that Alberto would be allowed to adjust status from within the United States. Since Lance was not handling our criminal case as that is not his sphere of expertise, he said that he could not advise us as to what Alberto should do. My next contact was to speak with Brian, our criminal defense attorney. I last spoke to Brian a few months ago about our case and what our chances were if we went to trial. Brian is still of the opinion that they don’t have a case against Alberto and we have a good chance of getting this taken care of without having to take a plea bargain. To make this 100% clear to everyone, Alberto did not do what they’re accusing him of. However, if for some reason a miscarriage of justice were to occur and he were to be found guilty of a felony, he would NEVER be allowed reentry into the United States. Hence the option of plea bargain is on the table if it looks like we could lose, with the idea to reduce the sentence and severity of the crime to misdemeanor level. Because family come first, as it always should.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Consequences

Tonight is pretty much guaranteed to be horrible and there’s not much I can do about it. Tomorrow is the next big appointment for Alberto with immigration and anxious does not begin to describe how I’m feeling right now. I’ve tried to push this from my mind all weekend, and thankfully we had a family get together that helped me do just that. I was never able to go and get that pedicure with Lizzy that I was counting on for relaxation, but I’ve gotten pretty good at handling mild anxiety these last few years. I swear I wasn’t a basket case like I am now even 4 years ago.

Noemi in CDJ contacted me around 10pm to tell me that Alberto had called her husband Agustin from the bus station. Agustin left immediately to go get Alberto from the bus station because it is not safe to be out after dark in Ciudad Juarez. If you need an example of just how dangerous CDJ is consider this: on March 13, 2010 the spouse of a consulate worker was killed while his two young children in the vehicle at the time were wounded, only minutes later an employee of the consulate was shot and killed along with her husband while their infant wailed in the backseat. If you consider the first victim was a Mexican National, you cannot simply say this was a demonstration of violence against Americans. I’m afraid for the safety of my husband, and more than a little angry that the USCIS thinks nothing of causing me this extreme level of anxiety.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A jumble of thoughts in text format

I talked to Marcos yesterday.  He says he doesn’t remember hitting the pedestrian/cyclist, but he does remember talking to be about the bill I received from the insurance company.  He claims that he was in a dark part of his soul those days and his actions were inexcusable.  Finally someone can admit that they screwed up besides me!  I explained the facts of the matter to the best of my knowledge.  After I reviewed the letter of collections and compared it to what I know now about personal injury law, I would say the insurance company paid a liability claim to the victim.  Since there was no insurance on the vehicle at the time of the accident because we had not purchased any yet, the insurance came after me for reimbursement of the claim they had paid to the injured party.  I prepared a cover letter in Spanish along with all the documents I needed to support my claim for repayment and mailed it to Marcos.  Hopefully he decides to make good on his debt because we really need the money.

I know that my blog posts are defying the concept of chronological order, but since when does anything in life have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end?  My stress level is through the roof right now and it will only get worse until Monday morning when we have a decision from immigration officials in Ciudad Juarez.  In response to my elevated level of anxiety, I have had a tension headache all week.  I am hoping to be able to get away with Lizzy for a pedicure at the local nail salon this weekend.  I can’t go by myself or I’ll stress myself out even more about a situation that I can’t do anything about.  I hate having to ‘wait and see’.  This is our lives, our family that is hanging in the balance not some stupid telenovela where no one is ever happy!  What am I going to do if they say no?  Do I just pack up and leave the only life I’ve ever known, leave my family, and friends?  Go to Mexico where instead of Alberto living in fear of the USCIS here, we can all live in fear for our very lives?  How is that remotely fair to me and our daughter?  Don’t we have any say since we are US Citizens?

Alberto is planning on leaving his house for Ciudad Juarez on Saturday.  He will be taking the bus, which he said is about a 24 hour trip.  I feel sorry for him because of how long the trip will take, but it was his decision on how to go.  We discussed the difference between a flight there and the bus so apparently the place ticket was just too much to handle.  We have to see this process through to the very end.  We’ve invested so much time in the whole process, but the Attorney definitely got the lion’s share of the money.  The Attorney is a subject that I should just avoid talking about, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

I know a few people that are pregnant right now, so a popular topic has been baby names and pregnancy oddities.  It’s too bad that all the popular names are the ones I like the best.  Alberto is the one that chose Ashley’s name; I had wanted to name her Bianca.  I thought it was very difficult to find some names to start with where I didn’t personally know someone with that same name.  Another difficulty is making sure that the initials don’t spell anything, and the mean kids at school won’t have an ugly nickname to call your child.  Initials like C.A.T, or names like Richard paired with awkward last name like Player who then become ‘Dick Player’ to all the mean kids at school around puberty.  Cravings are a good conversation starter (chocolate chip ice cream and buttered popcorn) and weird situations (like the time I almost knocked over a display of pots at Macy’s because I lost my balance while walking) often get everyone laughing.

This is a good time to reiterate that I am not using anyone’s real name in this blog.  EVER.  Not my own name, my husband’s name, our daughter’s name or anyone else’s name.  I’m just making up the names as I go, and if you don’t like your blogged name, submit a change request with a $15 dollar fee and your requested name. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stress and Oranges

This week so far has been more stressful then I would have liked, and it’s only Tuesday.  Alberto’s interview at the Embassy in CDJ on Monday, so yesterday I called Noemi who rented him an apartment during the last appointment to reserve room for him.  Noemi and her husband Agustin were so kind to the both of us during the first appointment in December, I feel lucky that we found them.   Noemi told me she would have the apartment ready for Alberto on Sunday, but if he was coming before that he should call her.   She also told me that Alberto should call Agustin when he arrives in CDJ, and he would go and pick him up from the airport or bus station so he wouldn’t have to get a taxi.  I think she heard the emotion in my voice when I thanked her so she told me that they would pray for us.  This woman that I had never met before is going to pray for us to find resolution.  It gives me such hope that someone who I’ve never met is going to pray for us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A day of cleansing pain and whirling thoughts

Today was difficult to say the least.  This morning was the meeting of our Support Group for women who are married to Hispanic men, and it was my turn to tell the story of us.  I had prepared a story, thinking that if I could detach myself even a little bit I would be able to stay composed.  I minute I looked at the story typed neatly in my hand, I promptly burst into tears.  I told our story through a torrent of tears and emotional pain that I had no way of controlling.  I felt as though I was exposing my damaged soul for all to see, and for once I was not judged.  These women did not shut off their minds at the mention of undocumented immigration, or the situation that ultimately caused the dominoes to begin to fall.  They saw me as a survivor of a succession of shattering events.  They saw a family separated, a fatherless child.  They saw us, the Mendez family.  The simple kindness I was shown as gone a long way to restore my faith in people, and I have to thank my case manager for leading me to this group.

One of the women brought her son who was only 7 weeks old.  He is such a beautiful little boy with big eyes, and Ashley spent a significant amount of time kneeling and watching him.  Every time I looked over and saw Ashley, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Ashley was that size when Alberto left the United States. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A lesson learned and something to consider

Life continues to catch me off guard at the oddest times.  On Tuesday my sister-in-law Aide told me that her abusive ex-husband is back in Minnesota again.  My first thought was ‘I hope you’re not planning to go anywhere near him without protection’.  I did ask her why she’s mentioned it, and Aide said that it was something I should think about.  We had been discussing how to raise money to pay for the remaining immigration appointments and travel arrangements, but it took me a moment to remember that Marcos owes me a fair amount of money and a sincere apology.  It’s an interesting story that may serve as a warning to any women in my position to not allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
Back in January of 2005 Alberto purchased a van that he was going to use for work.  He bought the vehicle from his boss, who insisted that someone transfer the title before anyone else drove the vehicle.  Being that I trusted Alberto, I signed the title when he asked the favor of me with the understanding that he would be the only person to ever drive the van.  Marcos was working with Alberto at the time and for some unknown reason began a slander campaign between the boss and Alberto.  Marcos told Alberto that the boss didn’t want to work with him anymore and that he should stop coming to work.  Alberto who is really a trusting soul, believed everything Marcos had said to him and so he left the van at the boss’s house after the last conversation. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preparation involves a trip to the past

Preparing for the support group meeting on Saturday has got me thinking about the journey that led us to where we are today.  It helps me to put thoughts and ideas in writing, so I’ll invite you along on this trip down memory lane.  My story begins with some old journal pages I found this evening which talk about events at McDonalds that I don’t even remember.  It’s interesting to read what I had written 10 years ago.  I realize now just how na├»ve I was at 16 when I thought I knew everything.
The Mexican crew at McDonalds was essentially composed of two families: the Mendez family and the Bahena family.  From the beginning I gravitated towards the Mendez family, particularly two sisters named Rosa and Yesica.  I was comfortable with them, as they made a sincere effort to teach me Spanish.  During the summer of my first year at McDonalds I started to work the closing shift which gave me more time to immerse myself in the language.  The cultural differences often caught me off guard during this period of time.  For example the Mendez women had a habit of grabbing my hand or arm whenever they walked by me.  I eventually got used to their concept of personal space, but it definitely took a while.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life goes on

I have begun to realize as the days and weeks march on just how much Alberto means to me. As I compose this post, I am desperately fighting off a rising level of anxiety caused by my inability to talk with my husband. Part of me understands that I am being irrational as my mind fabricates a list of cockamamie reasons why he is not answering his phone. My rational side insists that I should know by now that the cellular service in Mexico is sporadic at best with many dead zones and frequent outages. My irrational side responds that someone could have stolen Alberto’s cell phone again, there could have been an attempted kidnapping where he lost his cell phone, or that a roving brand of miscreants asked Alberto for a ride then abandoned him miles from any towns in the desert. I’m nothing if not creative when anxious.
Setting aside that train of thought, I am so glad that Monday is over. The only problem is that tomorrow happens to be a Tuesday. Just a few weeks ago during a particularly bad Tuesday I said, “It’s Tuesday; the mechanical, electrical, mental, financial, and emotional epic fail day.” I’m sincerely hoping that Murphy’s Law takes pity on me for a few weeks and gives me some peace. This is simply not a good month for the systematic meltdown of law and order.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Immigration Timeline and Mother's Day

*** Immigration Timeline ***
Aug 1998: Alberto Entered the United States without Inspection
Nov 2007: Arrested and turned over the Immigration for Removal Proceedings
Dec 2007: Bailed out from ICE, Discovered Pregnancy, Married, Hired Attorney, Submitted I-130 Petition & I-129F Visa Application
Oct 2008: Petition to reopen immigration case submitted due to legal problem, Alberto took Voluntary Departure as ordered by Immigration Judge, Petition was approved, petition was then rescinded per Alberto was already out of the country
Mar 2010: Notice of Action 3, I-130 Petition Approved, Second trip to Mexico to see Alberto, Visa application delayed for lack of funds
Sep 2010: Visa Application Submitted to CIUDAD JUAREZ
Dec 2010: Visa appointment at CIUDAD JUAREZ for Alberto, USCIS Requesting Additional Documentation before will consider for Waiver

Feb 2008:  First Immigration Hearing, requested continuance
Mar 2008: Notice of Action 1, Received I-130 Petition, Resubmitted I-129F Visa Application
May 2008: Notice Of Action 2, Case set to Bloomington service center for interview
Aug 2008: Daughter Ashley was born.
Sep 2009: First letter to MN Senators and Representatives & President requesting assistance
Dec 2009: First trip to Mexico to see Alberto
Feb 2010: Second letter to MN Senators and Representatives & President requesting assistance, Inquiry made by Senator Franken to USCIS
Oct 2010: Notice of Visa appointment in CIUDAD JUAREZ for Alberto
Mar 2011: Additional proof and documents submitted to CIUDAD JUAREZ
Apr 2011: Contacted Senator Franken’s office for assistance, Phone call from CIUDAD JUAREZ to make second appointment for Alberto, Response from Senator Franken’s office, case was stalled as of March 30th for lack of information
***May 23, 2011 is the next appointment for Alberto in CIUDAD JUAREZ***

It is amazing to me just how long we have been battling immigration.  Every once in a while I wonder just what might have happened if we had already been married and filed the paperwork when Alberto was arrested.  Alberto had always said that he didn’t want to get married because ‘everyone’ would say he married me in order to fix his status in the United States.  My point of view was that we had already been dating for 6 years and living together at that point, so who the hell really cares about what other people think?  I have been dealing with the rude comments, stares, gossip, and inevitable dirty Mexican jokes from the very beginning.  People are cruel, and sometimes family more so than mere acquaintances.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A fairy tale? Probably not...

Once upon a time, in the land of ten thousand lakes, there was a mostly unhappy teenage girl.  Although it is fairly common to be an unhappy teenager, this particular girl could not remember ever being mostly happy.  This girl had always felt alone, even when in the company of the few people she considered friends.  She was a target of school bullies for being overweight, socially awkward, and tall since the very beginning of middle school.  The worst part is that this mostly unhappy teenage girl was me.

In effort to get me out of the house during non-school hours, my mother suggested that I find a part-time job.  The options were limited near our house for someone my age; however I applied and was hired at McDonalds while I was in September of 2000.  I had no idea just how much that battered brick building was about to change my life.