Familes in Exile due to Immigration Laws Unite: American Families United

birthday in Mexico
Nicole, her husband Margarito, and their daughter at her 2nd birthday party in Mexico.

For the last few months, I have been involved in the surge of political activity surrounding the ongoing debate about immigration law. I’ve been very grateful for the support of my fellow American women in exile or separated from their spouses in our Action for Family Unity working group. In further virtual “travels” through the online political organizing world, members of a particularly active group, American Families United (AFU), reached out and let us know about their wonderful work to lobby Congress to include families like ours in legislative reform. To that end, I quickly learned that AFU is working hard to pass waiver reform legislation. AFU is a volunteer-run organization with a paid lobbyist, so it depends on an active membership and annual fees in order to keep its work going forward. I’ve joined, and I urge others in our situation and our extended family members and friends who want to see us back home to also join.

Nicole and her daughter at her brother’s wedding, Margarito was unable to attend.

For those who are new to my story, this is it: I’m from Central New York, but since 2006, I’ve lived in exile in Central Mexico. My husband and I met 13 years ago near San Francisco. He was a builder, and I had recently graduated from Cornell. I knew he had an immigration record, but I was certain marriage would solve any problems he might have. In fact, my husband’s only chance for legal status was to leave the U.S. and wait 10 years to apply for reentry. Two years after we married, we moved to his hometown of Querétaro, México and can apply for a waiver in 2016. Culture shock, the economy, stress-related and local illnesses have turned my life upside down. But I also built a home, began to teach, had a baby and became a dual citizen. I coauthored the book Amor and Exile with Nathaniel Hoffman from 2011 to present. The book documents the issues faced by Americans married to undocumented immigrants. Despite all the hardships I’ve faced, I haven’t lost hope that someday we’ll obtain my husband’s legal right to join my daughter and I in the U.S., and for thousands of other families like ours to reunite in their homeland.

I think that groups like AFU are our best hope right now to get the chance to come home through this latest round of legislative debate. I can’t think of any more effective voice that is doing this type of work, specifically for our family situations. If anyone is aware of any other organizations doing this type of work, we’d love to know about them, in order to build our alliances and gain as much broad support as possible.

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