a brief recap

June 30, 2008

Vancouver is very beautiful. It’s a city where unexpected views of snow-capped mountains rising over the sparking ocean trigger photo ops, most people seem to walk or take public transportation on a regular basis and American-style fast food is not on every corner. Well, Starbucks, yes, but McDonalds, thankfully, no. I learned the other day that Vancouver is the largest city in North America without a major highway running through it. I saw dozens of Smart Cars and many of the taxis are hybrids. Every public garbage station has a slot for paper, a recycling spot, as well as a hole for other trash.

At the downtown conference center, cruise ships dock daily, there is a Chevron station in the middle of the bay (for boats!) and the weather is mild year-round. In summer, the sun rises very early, and sets completely around eleven. It’s clean and historic and has a huge Chinatown as well as a gorgeous, mostly wooded urban park. It is great.

The conference was wonderful. It was different than I expected. Who knew there are 11,000 immigration lawyers just in the American Immigration Lawyers Association? And thousands of them were at this conference. So, it was not at all likely that I would just run into someone from the forum’s attorney. I hung out with Laurel Scott, her assistant and my long-time forum buddy Lynette, Laurel’s new-ish associate Veronica Tunitsky as well as Southern California attorney Heather Poole and her assistants Carla and Mindy. This is a fabulous group of people and I feel so blessed to have met them all.

This was also the first time I have been surrounded by lawyers, or even in the presence of any lawyers. I don’t think I have ever been in a law office in my life (still). There are no lawyers in my mother’s, father’s or stepmother’s family. I don’t have any friends who went to law school. Now that I am in the law school mode, a few people in my real life have mentioned that such and such acquaintance from college or whatever is an attorney, but I’ve just never been around lawyers.

Most of the people I met at the conference seemed very nice. They are, after all, immigration lawyers, and while a fair share of them do business law or other things that are not directly related to families, these are people who commit their lives to helping foreigners come to the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. They seem overwhelmingly cultured and open-minded. There were some people I wasn’t too sure about, but overall they made a good impression on this outsider.


travels well

June 29, 2008

Traveling always kicks me out of the norm, and I love it. I love watching people at the airport. I love walking briskly down the long, wide halls of the airport. I love modern airports with lots of glass and steel. I love the people movers and the flight crews in their matching professional attire, the diverse people, a new languages heard every few yards.

But perhaps my favorite part about the act of traveling is the window seat. I could look at the clouds just a few dozen feet away for days. They mesmerize me. At the same time, flying when the skies are clear, and you can see all the way to the fields and roads and houses and trees and mountains and rivers below – that is also a wonder.

On my way to Vancouver Wednesday, it was cloudy for a while. I was engrossed in a novel, The Dive from Claussen’s Pier (recommended to all novel-lovers let me add) and the clouds were a bit thick and uniform. But toward the end of the flight, I had finished the novel and had nothing else to hold my interest but the view. And quite a view it was – this seemingly endless range of the northern Rocky Mountains, the vista all black and white against the clear blue sky. Snow tossed across the tops of the charcoal mountains, covering the highest peaks, no sign of human life or interference for as far as those of us in that airplane could see.

The window seat is a time for me to ponder how big the world is, how small I am, to get outside of the normal, the day-to-day – driving, going to work, cooking, gardening, hanging out with my husband and family and friends. Those things are good (except driving, I hate driving), but for whatever reason, the act of travel is a de-stressor for me. Besides the occasional combination of carrying my laptop and being in an airport with free wireless, it’s a time away from e-mail and communication and the demands of anyone else. I know I’ve just outed myself as a solo traveler who doesn’t carry a high-tech phone or blackberry, that’s okay for me.

I’ve flown countless times, and it still amazes me. I’m only scared just after take-off. For some reason I think I might die in a plane that malfunctions during take-off and crashes into the ground a half-mile from the runway, but so far so good. Once we’ve been in the air a few minutes, my eyes are glued to what is out there. A big city I’ve never been to, a unique landscape, distant hills, an unusually shaped building or field below. Today, passing over what was probably northern Colorado or perhaps Idaho, I noticed so many perfectly round, green fields, in the midst of dry, brown-tan ones. I tried to figure out how that circle was perfectly green. I also watch rivers, and wonder about their name, about where they start and end, and try to remember to google map them when I get home. I usually don’t remember to do that.

Well, I’m writing this from the Denver airport, but I can’t post it until I get home, maybe tomorrow. No Wi-fi here (sigh). But that gives me more time to walk, wait for my delayed flight home and take in the people and the buzz of the airport.

meeting my rockstars

June 24, 2008

Tomorrow at this time I’ll be on my way to Canada for the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference. I’m thrilled that I get to go, especially now that I know that my lawyer friend intends to “corner” some government officials to grill them on the questionable ways they are interpreting a particular tidbit of immigration law. Also because I get to meet some amazing women I admire greatly and hopefully all sorts of other people that will eventually be my peers.

In a week or two, after the conference is over, I plan to give notice at my job of two plus years. It’s been a good run. Overall I’ve had a successful time here. My job as a general manager for a fast-casual restaurant was sucking my soul; I was way too young to be that stressed-heading-rapidly-toward-burnout. I needed out and when I interviewed at this local medical supply company with a national vaccine division I could see relief. This job has been a blessing, most definitely a relief – a period of relative boredom and a dearth of workplace challenge that allowed me to find a passion for law. Ironic. I’m not the first person to be bored into finding their passion here. My now-close friend worked here for a year before heading to Europe for months and then starting her own personal chef business.

It will be sad to leave though. I have made two good friends here, and gotten to know a number of great people. I sit sort of between my two friends, and some days we have exchanged 100 e-mails about frustrations, vents and funny things that have happened. It’s a strange aspect of modern office life I suppose to make jokes entirely in writing to people sitting 5-10 feet away from you.

I’ve also been thinking about how this might be the last 35 or so days that I work for someone else. I imagine I will do at least one internship during law school, and will definitely work (in a coffee shop or retail or as a paralegal) during school at certain points, but that’s different somehow. Those will all be temporary stints leading up to the day I hopefully open my own little law practice. And from there, I will wear jeans when I want. I will play the music I like and bring any children I might have to the office, which might very well be my living room for a while. It’s immensely freeing and satisfying to envision this future.

I do realize there are huge obstacles to making it happen, but getting into school was one of the biggest, completing my 1 L year alive will be the next.

immigrate2us.net forum down

June 12, 2008

I have a surprising amount of hits today, probably because immigrate2us.net is down and people are wondering what is going on. If that is your reason for stopping by, they are working on the problem and it should be back up in a day or two. Don’t panic!

terrible terrible terrible

June 5, 2008

Does everyone remember my immigration journey? If not, and you have a little time, refresh yourself here and here. If you are unable to invest a few extra minutes – Fermin was an undocumented immigrant when he met. He had been working in the U.S. for six years — never arrested, no trouble with the law, worked steadily, often at two jobs, spoke English, went to technical school, held a driver’s license, etc, etc.

After we married and some time after we filed a petition for his legal residency, he returned to Mexico for a visa interview (because people who enter the U.S. without inspection are generally not allowed to adjust their status inside the United States). He was found ineligible for a visa based on unlawful presence but eligible for a waiver of the ban. In order to get a waiver approved one has to prove that the U.S. citizen half of the relationship will suffer extreme hardship if the immigrant spouse is not allowed to return to the U.S. for ten years. Our waiver was approved nine months later, and he got his visa and returned to the U.S. a total of eleven months after he left.

I’ll admit it: Those were not good times. I managed, I think better than many, because I’m very independent, stayed busy, was enjoying my new job and got to do a lot of writing that year. But I also wasted a lot of money, ate too much, exercised too little, constantly wondered if our waiver would be approved and constantly wondered what we would do it were not approved (move to Mexico for ten years until he could reapply…. yeeah).

But “not good times” doesn’t begin to explain the travesty of an immigration journey I just read on immigrate2us.net today:

“Sunflower,” (forum name) a U.S. citizen, and her husband, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, started the same petition process more than four years ago. Mr. Sunflower was a minor when he entered the U.S. for the first time. He stayed for at least one year and was still a minor when he left the U.S. and then re-entered a second time without inspection. I don’t know how young he was but it’s entirely possible his parents brought him from Mexico into the U.S., then took him back to Mexico, then brought him here again. I’m not sure. Mr. Sunflower had his initial immigrant visa interview in the fall of 2005. Just like Fermin, his visa was denied, but he was allowed to file a waiver for his unlawful presence.

Sunflower waited in the U.S., her husband in Mexico, for nearly a year before their waiver was denied for not proving enough extreme hardship. (Lots of people submit very emotional letters and don’t include documentation, which can result in denial.) One month after receiving the denial Sunflower filed an appeal of the denial. They waited 18 months before hearing that the appeal had been approved this past March. But in order to actually receive his visa and return to the U.S., Mr. Sunflower had to return to the Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. And because it had been more than a year since initial his consular interview (waaaay back in 2005), he had to interview a second time. Here’s the kicker:

Sometime either late 2007 or early in 2008, the Consulate in Ciudad Juarez suddenly altered, without notice to attorneys or anyone, their interpretation of a subsection of the law which deals with multiple illegal entries into the U.S. Generally (and there are some exceptions) if a person enters the U.S. illegally, acquires more than a year of illegal presence, then leaves, then re-enters without inspection another time, they are not eligible for a waiver until they have spent ten years outside the U.S. Well, hypothetically, because Mr. Sunflower did this, he’s not eligible for the waiver. But because he was a minor when all that happened, it was not counted against him. All they took into account at his interview in 2005 was that since he was 18 he had been in the U.S. illegally. And since he had not left and re-entered since he was 18, he was eligible for the waiver.

The suddenly-instated interpretation. however, no longer applies the exception for minors. This means that no matter how old someone is, if they lived in the U.S. illegally for more than a year, then returned to Mexico (or wherever), and then re-entered again without inspection, they have to stay outside the U.S. for ten years before they can be eligible for immigrant visa. Ridiculous but all-too-plausible example: Let’s say Fermin’s parents had brought him here illegally to the U.S. when he was three. Then, when he was 10 and had already half grown up in the U.S., they decided to return to Mexico. They make it in Mexico for a year, and then decided they have to go back to the U.S. They take their son back across the border when he is 11 or 12. He continues to grow up in the U.S. Ten years later he meets me. We date, marry, file petitions for him, etc. He goes to his interview in Ciudad Juarez and is completely honest about his history. The officer bans him for life with the chance to file a waiver after he’s been out of the U.S. for ten years. For a decision wholly made by his parents. This is utterly, completely possible, and the very real scenario for a number of completely frustrated and stuck people from immigrate2us.net.

Worst is that there absolutely no way around this interpretation of the law. It doesn’t matter if you have a U.S. citizen spouse and three U.S. citizen children. It doesn’t matter if the U.S. citizen spouse is completely unable to move abroad because he or she is in the military or has medical problems that require treatment in the U.S. There is no overcoming this besides waiting for ten years.

Back to Mr. Sunflower – after three years outside the U.S., thousands spent on fees, petitions, medical exams, a waiver and an appeal, the consular officer at the interview looks over Mr. Sunflower’s history in March 2008 and determines he is not eligible for the waiver the way they interpret the laws today, and therefore, cannot get his visa. They retroactively apply their new interpretation of the law to this poor family, essentially leaving them no way to live together in the U.S. for another six to seven years. I fully understand that the law is the law, and I’m not going to even get into the intricacy and basically unclear wording that “justifies” their no longer forgiving minors their illegal presence. But trust me that it is RIDICULOUS. It is beyond freaking ridiculous.

I am pissed today, let me tell you… It’s not pretty. I wish there was something that could be done for this family, but with immigration, and all of this happening outside the United States, there is essentially no checks on their decisions. There is no one to even complain to. It’s a travesty.


June 2, 2008

In three months I should officially be a law student. Crazy!

And that timeline has gotten me motivated to spend my weekends doing work around my house that I have wanted to for years. It’s funny to even have lived in one place for “years,” but I think four qualifies.

So, not much to blog about lately. Still trucking on with law-school prep, forum activity, work and gardening.

Hopefully inspiration will strike soon.