Why Don’t They Just Apply for Citizenship?

This post is based on question posed to me by a white person I know.

Mario and I came to the United States last March. We had spent the last year and a half in an immigration limbo, not sure of where we would be from one month to the next. When we got here, I was really excited to show Mario what life in the U.S. was like. I was not thinking about the state of our country or potential political problems. I was really excited!11008793_714451911831_8719257411067050066_n.jpg

This election has shattered what was left of my bubble. I am from a small town, but I had lived for years in Spain and moved to a blue bubble in a red state. I was surrounded by people who were affirming my views that Donald Trump was not the right person to lead our country. I did not think it would happen. The whole time, I was not seeing or hearing how scared people of color, immigrants, refugees, LBGTQ people were. My whiteness allowed me to skirt by those issues. I was not actively ignoring it, but I still was not hearing it. That all changed on November 9. I have had to engage with a country I now know is deeply racist. Most of all, white people—white women, even—voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic person instead of thinking about others. What they said to marginalized people was, “I just don’t care about you.”

With Trump’s announcement that he plans to deport 3 million “illegals,” I have begun to reflect on the whole process of immigration. Mario, a white European, had many great advantages in his immigration process: he is married to me, he’s white, he’s Western European, he has a university degree, etc. I thought then that the process would be relatively easy and straightforward.

It wasn’t. It took us a year and a half and over $3,000 to do it all—and that’s without the help of lawyer. I am a native English speaker and I’m pretty good at researching things on the Internet. I also have a university degree.

It wasn’t “easy” for us. But it wasn’t necessary either. We chose to get married, we chose to live in Spain, and we chose to come back to the U.S. There was no necessity; we were not in danger in any way. For most of the immigrants and refugees in the U.S., especially the undocumented, there is no “choice.” They move to protect their families, to seek a country that will allow them to enough money to support themselves or their families, or some other reason.

In some small ways, I understand the struggle of immigration. However, I will never understand what my colleague with an undocumented mother is going through. Right now, she is fearful that, one day, she will go home to find her mother gone, never to return. I am frightened for the future of our country, the country to which we decided to move in January of 2014. I wonder sometimes if, had we known about Trump’s victory, would we have moved here? Maybe not. But then, we always had a choice.

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