Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How I Married A Mexican: Part II

The follow up to Part One is continued here.. Get your ding dongs and a soda guys. This is a long one.

Now I know all of you were just dying to know the end last time...I left off with all the drama of a daytime soap opera/telenovela. Will she die? Will she find out her love is really her long lost Siamese twin detached at birth and then sold to the gypsies so her mother could finally afford that new glass eye? Well, I hate to disappoint you. I just said yes. Even though there was no ring, no romance, none of that stuff I said yes. Hey sometimes a man is just so overcome with emotion that he flat out decides to ask you while your both falling asleep on the floor. Or at least that the benefit of the doubt I gave him.

I made him ask my mom and dad for permission to marry me. I know - old fashioned but I knew they would say yes as they adored him already. He did and they of course said yes after an appropriately tense conversation and questioning. I am a southern girl so I decided to play by protocol at least with this one to win some brownie points with the parents who not long before were probably wondering if I would ever get it together.

So with their approval I went on my merry way, no longer destined to be the Scary Cat Lady on the corner. I was planning a nice spring wedding in my mind... The Knot web page was made. Lets see when are the tulips in bloom? When is the wisteria draped from the trees so the smell can waft down over us? Who will I ask to be my bridesmaids? So off I went thinking I had a good 12 months or so to plan. This was around April 15th or so when he asked me. (I have never been one of those women who remember the date of the first time they went on a date and the first kiss and all that stuff. I am doing great knowing my own birthday.)

Now some background information for you. Alex was an illegal alien. Now I know some of you have never met anyone who has done something so horrible - bear with me. Yes, he was an illegal immigrant. I could tell you his story but that is his blog not mine. Suffice to say, he risked a lot to get here and he made the most of it. I had no idea what this meant as far as our marriage went. Neither did he. We were both pretty clueless, you know, in love.

One day at work while one of our friends, a Columbian immigrant, was congratulating me she mentioned something interesting. The Life Act of 2000 was something we should look into because she was pretty sure it applied to us and Alex's immigration status. hum. I googled it on my lunch break. I had no idea what the heck it was after trying to decipher it for I don't know how long but I knew two things, it looked like the only way we would be married with no long term trouble and this law was about to expire and with it, my happy marriage.

After talking to some people down at the local Latino assistance office I knew I needed some help. They recommended a good immigration lawyer - I called my mommy. I didn't have money for a lawyer. Let me explain some rules of the Life Act. We had to meet certain qualifications:

  • Alex had to be able to prove he had been in the country as a resident before the law was enacted.
  • We had a ton of confusing paperwork to navigate.
  • We had to come up with a lot of money.
  • We had to be married.
  • We had to turn all of this in by April 30th.
There was more than this of course. Mainly the second to the last one was what I was worried about. By the time I sorted all of this out I think I had about 11 days left to make it all happen. Me. I seem to remember Alex was limited help, bless his heart. I say seem to remember because those two weeks are even more cloudy to me than my first 2 postpartum weeks with my first born. I remember few details. Sort of like how you block out child birth.

As I busied myself getting untold amounts of paperwork filled out, copied, certified, translated, certified again, scanned, photos and somehow coming up with all that money I was all the while wondering what the heck I was doing. It takes a lot of faith in one person and more faith in God for a girl who witnessed two divorces to rush into a marriage in less than two weeks. Especially when she never thought she would get married in the first place. Faith and maybe a little foolish romanticism and I am guessing a lot of youthful stupidity. I was 21.

The faith comes in here though... My mom, as I said earlier, loved him and supported me when I called bawling my eyes out attempting to explain all this. In retrospect I wonder what that phone call sounded like because I know it must have happened but I don't remember it. What I do remember was another phone call. The one to my pastor.

Again the details are fuzzy but I do know I called and I think I led off with something like "I know you make everyone do premarital counseling before you will marry them but I don't have time for anything like that! You have to marry me this weekend!" He didn't know i was dating. I think I also said something like "You can call my mom and she will explain everything, please?"

So with all that out of the way and everyone in agreement that even though this was pretty much insane, we would make it happen. Not everyone was able to be there. Those calls were pretty strange to make too. "Hey umm, so what are you doing around 2:00 on Sunday? I was hoping you could make it to see me get married!"

Friday we went to the Magistrate's office. This had all the romance of any trip to the Jail. Yep, I got married in the jail house baby. How many people have that to tell their kids? Me, Alex, my roommate and his uncle and aunt made our way to the jail house. We squeezed into a 8x8 foot office with Mr. Personality himself. Without looking at us once, he asked if we would like the short version or the long version. Me, not wanting to cheat any of the potential romance from the day, opted for the long version. I think it was about 30 words. I assume the short version was something like "Do ya? Do ya? Good, yer married" because the long version was not much more.

We proceeded to go get a country biscuit at this little corner whole in the wall place that I think is still standing, but may very well have caught fire due to all the grease. Romance I am telling you. This was Friday. I am sure Saturday was spent checking over all of the paperwork obsessively for the millionth time. I think that is also when we bought our wedding bands, our one luxury. Sunday rolled around and we headed down to the church. I don't remember much of that day either. I know I went to Walmart that morning for a couple roses just so I would have something to hold onto. I have to say, for Wally World they were actually pretty. I wanted nothing remotely wedding like to happen that day. I wanted simple, bare bones because I was still planning "my wedding".

We were married and as is tradition after the ceremony, we went to Mi Casita - the local Mexican joint. What - you didn't do that? Bad food after we got married was tradition for us at this point. We said our goodbyes to those who made it and headed to Charlotte for the honeymoon.

I will say at least we stayed in a nice place that night, a beautiful Hilton. Too bad we didn't sleep - not for the typical honeymoon reason. We were so strung out. We had to be at the INS no later than 4:00am. We had to get in line. Many people just camped out there overnight. This was no Wii they were waiting for.

Seeing all those people from many different countries all lined up, knowing most of them had been through so much more to get there than just 2 weeks of stress, it hit me. This was big. It was the rest of our lives being completely changed. What ifs started hitting me. What if he had asked me 2 weeks later. What if we had missed it. The real impact of that law's expiration is only still hitting us now. This was pre - 911. There is no way now for someone in the US who is in the situation we were to have the happy ending we have. I am so thankful for the events that had to take place and I know why they happened. It was not coincidence.

We waited in line all day behind hundreds and hundreds of people. We switched out standing in line so the other could go to the restroom and get food. We helped check people's paperwork for them one last time. We commiserated with others. We entertained bored children. We waited. We were some of the last people admitted. There were hundreds behind us. When we got to the desk to submit the paperwork it finally all hit me. I really cried. What amazed me is that that woman behind the desk had no idea what small part she was playing in such a big thing for so many people. The next day over 600,000 more cross the country doing the same were on the news. Amazing what power those 8 little numbers of a social security number have.

We finished there and waited more and waited more. After 911 things changed and we waited more. There were so many more steps left. As we were learning to be married we also wondered if we would be deported. When you step up and admit you are there you have this terror in the back of your mind placed there by so many out to get the people who are different. It is easier to hide sometimes. We finally had to contact our state representative to get something done.

Three years later we were approved. The usual waiting time is about 6 months.

We never did have our wedding. I planned it and had a date and place reserved but it seemed silly to spend all that money when we were just getting started. We still talk about it every now and then. One day. I would love to do it when my kids are still little and can be flower girl and ring bearer. Shoot - I still want my romantic proposal and a ring! I know one thing, as terrifying and unromantic as it all was it was so worth it!

Also, if you have any legitimate questions about illegal immigration and the issues surrounding it my husband and I would be happy to answer any candidly. I think it is important to see Undocumented Immigrants as people with stories and histories not just faceless numbers as is true of ANY people.


Mamagran said...

Well FAITH plays a big part! Very sweet stuff. We rarely make our parents mistakes, we make our own, forgive ourselves and others. Then put one foot in front of the other and do the best we know that day.