This is an edited version of something I wrote seven months ago…when my daughter was a newborn, when I still blogged on Yahoo, and Nathaniel and I had yet to begin coauthoring Amor and Exile. Since then, I wanted to remove my daughter’s personal information until we make our final decision about whether her real name will be included in our book. But since Yahoo discontinued their blogs,the best they could do was delete the entire post. I didn’t want to lose it entirely since it was a disappointed reflection about the failed DREAM Act on the reasons why some people are able to get legal status while others aren’t, now pertinent since the act stands to be resurrected in the upcoming immigration reform period. Since posting this, my daughter and I have traveled for our first time together up to the States and back, giving us an ever deeper appreciation of the privilege of binational status. In fact, I too may have it soon—my application for citizenship was approved although the paperwork is still yet to come in. I hope to write reflections on our trip and my own impending naturalization in my next posts, but in the meantime…
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These past couple weeks, we’ve been so sick…the long nights up with the baby have taken their toll on our immunity. During these dreary days of illness I received news about her U.S. citizenship. Although she was born in Mexico, since she is my daughter and I am a U.S. citizen, I can confer mine to her. So seven weeks ago, we packed ourselves and 100+ sheafs of paper; including, but not only, copies of our every possible ID, lab reports and prescriptions from my pregnancy, ultrasounds, transcripts from my high school, college, and MA, our marriage license, my birth certificate, an affadavit of my precise whereabouts for every day of my life since 30+ years ago, photos of the birth, before, at the hospital, and after; and drove out to the U.S. consulate in San Miguel de Allende to apply for her Consular Report of Birth Abroad and U.S. passport. At the office, my meticulous organization paid off but the passport photo was a little too D-I-Y. They didn’t mind that Margo was the background holding the infant, but the inkjet job was a bit off color. So we took a taxi over to a real photo studio and had my digital images printed out on her laser.
Six weeks later, I emailed to find out if her documents were ready, which they were not, and Margo wondered aloud if a U.S. government office in Mexico would in fact operate on Latin time. I said, nah…but in reality, I was worried about a little more than schedules. Although they’d accepted our documents, they couldn’t tell us at the time whether she’d receive her papers or not- that was for them to decide at the Embassy in Mexico City. And of course since I don’t believe things until I see them, I couldn’t help but be paranoid as to whether or not they’d actually grant her citizenship. It’s not that my documentation wasn’t impeccable, it wasn’t even that her dad is Mexican or that he was in the U.S. illegally at one time. More than anything, I think my anxiety was a byproduct of many years of me applying for visas here in Mexico, and fearing that obtaining the baby’s citizenship was too easy compared to what it might ever be for her Dad (near impossible). There had to be a hitch. And so I crossed my fingers tight and put it out of my mind. Of course my daughter will get her papers. Right? Then I got the email from the Consulate.
When I saw the words addressed to my 5-month old: Para comunicarle que su pasaporte americano se encuentra listo en nuestra Agencia Consular en SMA (This is to inform you that your American passport is ready at our Consular Agency in San Miguel de Allende). I breathed in deeply and grinned. So it shall be, my Mexican-born daughter is now a U.S. citizen. That night, as Margo held her on his lap, I told him the good news. What do you think, I asked. I’m jealous, he responded. I threw back my head and laughed at the irony. It had been lost on me that Margo might feel bad about the ease with which we were able to obtain citizenship for her as compared to him. No kidding, I said. Well be prepared, I replied, because there’re going to be many things that she’s going to have that you never did. He smiled. Yeah, he mused, looking thoughtful, she’s going to be able to do many things I never was. I realized he had only been joking, and that there was no hint of resentment in his voice, rather, it was filled with pride.
Our daughter is one of the lucky ones. By virtue of her mother, who had sufficient orientation and economic resources to shuffle a few papers, she can now be a legal citizen on both sides of the border. But is she any more American than children who have grown up their entire lives on American soil, even though they were born in another? Although her womb was American, so to speak, she will spend a good part of her childhood in another country. Individuals who would have stood to benefit from the DREAM act which narrowly failed to pass the Senate this morning will now have to continue either a clandestine life in the only country they’ve ever known, or embark on a new life in a foreign land, to avoid discrimination and apprehension by the law. It was innocuous enough of a bill, meant to reward young men and women who, of no choice of their own, were raised in a country “not their own,” and despite this, perservered enough to begin an education or join the military. They now will not legitimately be able to pursue these goals, are not accepted with open arms by the society that stands to benefit from fruit of their labors [note: unless of course another version of the DREAM Act is passed]. It’s not that I am not grateful that my daughter is able to obtain U.S. citizenship, because I am. It will make doing things in the States much easier, even if we can’t be accompanied by her Daddy. It’s just that in a time when so many Americans by birth fail to recognize the very privileges they hold, it seems like we ought to expand our definition of who’s an American to those who truly desire to be so. Don’t we all have a right to DREAM?