This week we’re exploring the meaning behind the words, “No matter what the future holds.” But the thing is, sometimes we face obstacles in our relationships that hold our futures hostage, leaving us at an impasse and unable to move forward. And when it feels like everyone around us is making plans while we’re standing still, that can be a lonely place to exist. So today our own Editorial Assistant, Emily, is giving that experience a voice as she and her husband Ian wait to find out the status of his citizenship. Now, if you’d like to join me, I’m going to go cross my fingers and send good Green Card vibes out into the universe with the hope that through solidarity and sheer willpower maybe we can help the USCIS and USPS along a little faster. In the meantime, I’ll leave you to Emily.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
In the beginning of November, we got a phone call from our lawyer’s office at nine p.m. letting us know we had an interview with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services first thing the next morning. The purpose of the appointment was to decide whether or not my husband should be granted a Green Card. We had stopped checking our mailbox for the notice for a couple of days—dreading the growing collection of election mailers, mostly—so if it hadn’t been for a dedicated paralegal, we may have missed the interview entirely. (And there’s no hotline to call to reschedule. You make your appointment or they can dismiss your case.) Needless to say, this short notice sent both of us into a panic.
So how did we get here? Well, Ian is originally from Kenya. (I’m originally from Texas, which is also a foreign country, depending on who you ask.) We met in North Carolina in 2005, at college, and got married in Louisiana in 2010. We’re geographically complicated. We got married because we wanted to, but I knew that if we wanted to live in the U.S. we would have to go through the process of making him a citizen, which starts with getting a Green Card. When we said our vows, I thought this process would take months. Now that I’m in the middle of it, I know that it takes years, even in the easiest cases. And, for reasons that would take an entirely separate post to delve into, we don’t have an easy case.
Five minutes after the paralegal hung up with Ian, I was sitting on our living room floor with dry heaves. “I’m fine,” I kept saying in between gags while Ian was trying to get some papers together. It was his final adjustment of status interview, and there were only two outcomes: approval, which meant a Green Card, or denial, which meant he couldn’t stay. The epic nature of both of those options was too much to deal with emotionally. (Hence the dry heaving, I suppose.) I texted my best friend the news, because I was traveling to see her the next morning and I had to change my flight. “What are you going to wear?” she asked.
It’s difficult to explain what it’s been like to not feel safe for the first two (going on three) years of our marriage. At any point, the person I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with can be ordered out of the country and never be allowed to return. It sounds dramatic, and it is a worst-case scenario, but it’s not completely crazy, because we have a backup plan if that happens. (Plan B is Canada, and Plan C is the UK. Both involve going through all this immigration nonsense again, but with officers with different accents.)
It’s not something we ever talk about, the precariousness of our living situation. It’s not one of those things that is helped by talking, because so much is out of our control. Sometimes the anxiety comes bubbling to the surface at the strangest times. Before we moved into our current apartment, we went furniture shopping. We picked out a couch and were about to buy it when I had a meltdown. I started crying right there in the furniture store. Ian shepherded me into the car and we drove around for awhile. “I’m just not sure that I’m ready to commit to a couch right now. What if something happens to it?” I think we both knew I wasn’t really that upset about a couch. But we didn’t talk about what I was upset about.
In a way, this whole immigration process has stunted our growth. We know how to talk about our problems. We’re not afraid to say, “I think it’s your turn to do the dishes,” or, “You really hurt my feelings when you said that.” But we don’t talk about what will happen if the USCIS doesn’t approve our petition. We don’t talk about how it makes us feel, because neither of us are sure enough about the outcome to comfort each other. Couples we went to college with are buying houses and starting to have children, and we haven’t even talked about that stuff. We’re spending all of our time worried about our basic survival.
I ended up wearing the dress I wore to my father’s funeral to the interview. (Our lawyer advised us to dress up, hence the wardrobe question from my friend.) There were very few questions; it was much easier than the first interview that determined if our marriage was valid. (Our marriage had already been approved for several months. When I allowed myself to smile about that in the interview room, our officer told me bluntly, “Don’t get too excited, this doesn’t change anything.”)
Our lawyer told Ian to bring his passport so they could stamp it immediately after the interview. Our officer told us that she had to have her supervisor look over a few forms, so she sent us to lunch and told us to come back. We did just that, only to be told—just kidding!—she couldn’t do it. Her supervisor was busy, and there were a few final background checks to run. A decision would be in the mail within three to four weeks. Well it’s been four weeks, and guess what there’s no sign of?
I think if you asked him, Ian would say that he has faith that he will get his Green Card eventually. Most days, I do, too. It’s living in limbo that’s the difficult part. (And I’ve only been in this for three years; he’s been dealing with it for ten.) For now, we are taking it one day at a time. We buy groceries and feed our cats. We hang family pictures on the wall. We check the mail every day. And we hope that soon we won’t have to.
Photo by: Moodeous Photography (APW Sponsor)