Christmas evening

December 25, 2007

A lot has happened this month. I took the LSAT, finished my application for Marquette law and got an insane job offer from the person I would most like to work for in the world – in Houston – and after serious thought, had to turn it down. If I were single, living in an apartment and had not gotten so attached to my life in Milwaukee the last few years, I would have gone, but besides the opportunity to work on something I am passionate about, all signs pointed away from moving. I got my LSAT score – not amazing, but hopefully, probably good enough for Marquette.

Fermin and I decided to go to Mexico in January. Then I convinced my avid traveler friend Britta, who runs a personal chef service called Private Palate, to come to Mexico too, and we bought tickets to go for two weeks and spend a solid week in Oaxaca (see amazing Oaxaca photos by one Scott L. Robertson here), learning about traditional food and soaking up some much desired sunshine.

The holidays are in full swing – and this year I ate turkey and tamales and drank eggnog and ponche. Next weekend we’ll cook Mexican at my mom’s house for our belated Christmas and spend New Years’ with dear friends in Madison. I know I’ll spend the rest of January dreaming about two weeks in Mexico in February. Then we’ll be approaching spring.

I’m cautiously optimistic that I will have the opportunity to start a 16-hour per week class schedule come August, and concerned about the discipline it will take to pull that off while working full time. I do realize I need to value my free time now as much as possible. Once I start school, things are going to be more than a little intense.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – see you all soon!


the story of los guerra

December 13, 2007

I hear a lot of family immigration stories. Between my near-obsessive activity on and the fact that random friends, family and acquaintances tend to share the immigration stories of their friends, family and acquaintances with me – well, it’s a lot of stories.

Yesterday, for example, one of the sales representatives I work with in New York initiated a three-way call to her friend and I (at work) so that I could chat with the friend whose Swedish husband is stuck in some sort of visa purgatory in Europe. That was a first! The fact that I have not tired of these stories, and truly enjoy directing people in any small way I can, helps me realize this is a subject that is with me for the long haul.

It’s rare though, to hear a story quite as compelling, interesting and terrible as the one I am about to share with you all:

In 1997, Carlos G. was a 15-year-old high-school student in large, modern Monterrey, Mexico. He studied electronics at a competitive school with aspirations toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering and time abroad in Japan. Then his parents split, and his mom decided, against Carlos’ will, that they were going to live in the U.S.

So they went, and along the way, his mom forced him to go through a border checkpoint using the birth certificate of his U.S. citizen cousin. Carlos was caught and “thrown back” at the border, only to have his mom arrange for another family member to assist him in crossing with his brother’s valid border crossing card a while later. He remained in the U.S. until this year.

During the following years, Carlos started an ESL program at a U.S. high school, quickly learning English, and later Italian, Catalan and French. He again became a top student and went to college. He met and fell in love with Amy, a fellow Chicagoan and U.S. citizen, and the two married earlier this year. Tired of living as an “illegal” immigrant, they sold everything they had and left the U.S., originally planning to live in Spain, but later deciding to return to Monterrey to settle temporarily. At some point, they started researching their immigration options, and quickly realized they were stuck, very stuck.

Very few people know this, but on the short list of things you can never overcome in U.S. immigration, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship is the worst offense. When the couple showed up on, however, a number of us wondered whether the fact that he was a minor and not the one responsible for the decision, might give them a chance at a waiver for the misrepresentation and unlawful presence.

According to attorney Laurel Scott, who specializes in family immigration matters and particularly inadmissibilities and waivers, “For the moment, minors – regardless of how old they were at the time, sometimes we’re talking about babies – are held responsible for misrepresentation committed on their behalf by another. Many attorneys have postulated that misrepresentation requires “intent” and that children under a certain age cannot form that intent. As strong as this argument is, we’re still losing on this argument at the consulate. Remember, consular decisions are non-appealable, so even if you think the consular officer is wrong, generally speaking, you lose.”

It’s difficult to believe, but apparently true, that if a foreign-born infant is admitted to the country with a U.S. citizen passport or birth certificate, they might live their whole childhood in the U.S. believing themself to be a citizen, only to find out that not only are they not a citizen, and that they never, ever will be.

As Amy G. stated on recently, “What angers me is that he had no choice – when your parents force you to move illegally and you’re a teen, what are you supposed to do? Disobey your parents, run away and try to live alone in Mexico? It’s not like he wanted the future that faced him in the US, but he knew he had no shot on his own in Mexico.”

Carlos and Amy are getting settled in Monterrey. They are handling the situation like pros, making the best of it in every way, from traveling all around Europe to blogging and adapting to their new lifestyle. I’m envious of Amy’s courage – even being fairly cynical about my own country – it would be very difficult to imagine never living here again, and never having my spouse visit with my parents, friends or relatives ever again.

There are a lot of problems in the immigration system, and a whole load of them have to do with inefficiency. I encounter dozens of people complaining about the laws that keep their spouses out of the U.S. every day, but many of us realize on some level, even if we personally disagree with how the system works, that there is some logic to the waiver system. I’m not saying it’s a great system, but I think it’s relatively fair, with exceptions, like the 9(c) law, but that’s a topic for another post.

However, how can a supposedly just system punish minors for immigration violations performed by their parents? There is no justice in that. Another loss for the U.S.

life and liberty

December 6, 2007

I have a great calender hanging on the beige wall adjacent to my computer monitor at work.  I picked the calendar carefully, knowing it would provide, besides whatever I view on the web each day, the only source of art during the many hours I spend at work. After perusing the racks of my area bookstore, I decided on a Graphique de France black & white photograph calendar of New York City scenes. It’s significant because I have never been to our nation’s largest city, very much want to visit, and the majority of people I speak to while doing my job live and work in New York City and the surrounding boroughs. This year I have looked at a 1950s photo of the Brooklyn bridge for one month and a gorgeous shot of the inside of Radio City Music Hall on its opening night in 1932.

Monday morning, December 3, I was feeling stressed. I was thinking about waiting three whole weeks to hear about my LSAT score, and wondering if I might have scored terribly (or rather, far worse than what I am hoping for) and trying to balance that with feeling like the test went fine. It’s a little bit of a crazy time at work, and I was thinking about needing to complete my Marquette application, and what my “optional” statement should be about, and what if there was a typo on the resume I submitted to UW-Madison, and why am I doing this anyway? I have a great, relatively easy job that I am good at and earns me a nice living. While Fermin is totally supportive of me going to law school he doesn’t really understand my desire to have a career that assists other people. He feels that no one is ever going to appreciate the stress I will eventually feel over my cases, and that it’s not worth it to lay awake at night, as I was telling him my attorney friend does, worrying about other people. Obviously I disagree, and that is fine.

So Monday morning I looked at the November photo of the Flatiron building at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, just a block from a doctor’s office I would talk to later that day, and got up to switch it over to December. I didn’t know what the last photo was, and encountered a close-up with the face of the Statue of Liberty, my favorite representation of what I wish America could be. It reminded me of why I want to pursue law, and that I’m too young to be so cynical, and that having a job that makes a person feel like they have accomplished something good in the world, even if that’s just helping relatively few stay together, one immigrant at a time, will be totally totally worth it.

It’s time to get a new calendar for 2008, but I think I’ll cut out lady liberty and leave her up as a reminder of the values I want my life to be about.


December 4, 2007

A few of you have asked how my LSAT went. Overall, I think it went fine. I’m not exceptionally confident, but during many practice tests I felt like I was doing poorly and actually scored very well, so I’m not going to stress about it too much. I should get my score within three weeks, and that will give me a good idea of my chances at UW-Madison. I’m not too worried about Marquette, but you never know.

After spending the better part of the last six weekends preparing for this LSAT, it was wonderful to just hang around in hiding from the first “real” Wisconsin snowstorm of the year, cleaning my house, making chicken soup and watching old Harry Potter movies. Future weekend plans involve baking cookies, creating an office in our upstairs random junk room and planning to re-do our kitchen this spring.

Yesterday morning at work I was feeling a little tired, stressed, confused. I’ve been dreading all the craziness of Christmas shopping. I went to the mall for a little while two weekends ago to buy a shower gift for a good friend adopting a child, and I just wanted to get out as soon as possible. I love giving gifts, particularly when I have a great idea for a friend or family member. But consumerism is losing it’s thrill for me as I approach my third decade of life, and I’d rather not buy things for people that I don’t know they will use/enjoy/love. And half the time, that’s what we get people for Christmas anyway — something temporary, that might be fun or cool for a short time, and then just takes up space.

Midday Monday, my mom e-mailed about not doing gifts on her side this year. Fabulous. Certain people in my life have been cutting back on the Christmas gift culture for years, and I’m definitely in the place to want to do that as well. I suppose being married to someone who has very different Christmas traditions, and particularly experiencing those traditions last year, has furthered these feelings. Spending the week before last Christmas in Fermin’s town of Libres, Puebla, Mexico, the nightly activity was taking a walk in the almost-brisk “winter” air around 8:00 or 9:00 pm, wandering the designated street for that night’s posada, accepting a cup of hot fruity ponche (something like a cider) from a random family’s doorway offering, watching people gather in the street between two homes, waiting for a piñata, held from the roofs of two facing homes, dropping down as children batted away, waiting for the pop and burst of dulces to fall to the street.