Amor and Exile goes to Nayarit, Mexico

Nicole Salgado will present Amor and Exile on Tuesday, February 4, at 11 am in La Penita de Jaltemba, Nayarit. Nathaniel Hoffman will Skype into the conversation. 

The reading/discussion is sponsored by Writers Who Love Mexico, and will be held at the Xaltemba Restaurant and Gallery in La Penita de Jaltemba, near Rincon de Guayabitos, Nayarit. Hoffman will be available for questions via Skype. Books will be available for sale or to be signed. We hope you will join us! For inquiries about the event, please email Susan Cobb at susan@susanjcobb.com. Visit the Writers Who Love Mexico Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Writers-Who-Love-Mexico/176439342391052 for more information.

For attendees who would like to obtain a Kindle version of the book prior to the event, visit http://amzn.to/11dNDPd

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Migration Talk at ITJ Campus, Querétaro

Margo and I visited the Instituto Thomas Jefferson, an American school in Querétaro, on Monday, January 27th. We went to discuss our experiences migrating between the United States and Mexico and the Amor and Exile project. Our talk was part of a bigger cross-curricular unit for the fourth graders at ITJ, headed up by my friend and colleague Heather Ruark.

Some stats on the talk:

  • 104  4th grade students
  • Throughout the migration unit, students are asked the following driving question: What is it like to move to another country?
  • The unit includes the following topics:
    • Geography, specifically Mexicans who move to the States, and human migration in general;
    • Writing – non fiction, biographical essays;
    • Reading – The Circuit, a juvenile autobiography by a former migrant worker in the fields of California.
  • At the end of the unit, students create a final project consisting of a photo essay gallery of Migration Stories to and from Querétaro

Margo and I had given a similar talk to high school students at the PrepaTec de Monterrey (ITESM Campus Queretaro) prior to the publication of Amor and Exile. But I was particularly impressed by these young students’ level of interest and thoughtful reflection on the topic, particularly considering their age—ten and eleven years old. The kids really enjoyed the book trailer, and had dozens of questions for us, ranging from what our favorite foods and colors are, to what the name of the law that prevented Margo from legalizing in the U.S. was—we had a field day spelling out the IIRIRA of 1996. 🙂

Heather commented that it was a really great experience to be able to get into the subject in such depth. By inviting many speakers from different countries who live in Querétaro and by allowing the students to explore both sides of the issue, they enable students to analyze the complex reasons for illegal immigration and the societal impact of migration in both directions. She also mentioned that the unit is well received by parents, even to a extent greater than she imagines it might be received in the United States.

We were glad to have this opportunity to share our story on a personal level with the students at ITJ, and help foster awareness of this complex issues amidst our next generation of global leaders.

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Nicole and family after ITJ Talk, January 2014

Recent events and press for Amor and Exile

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Deyanira, Ben and Nicole at Amor and Exile reading at Rediscovered Books in Boise.

Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders has been featured at several public events and earned media spots across the U.S. in the last month.

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 7.23.22 PMIn September, Amor and Exile received a positive review from immigration lawyer Teresa Statler in AILA Voice, a quarterly publication of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (September/October 2013 issue, Reader’s Corner, pg. 17). In her review, “Love in the Time of Deportation and Many More Heart-Wrenching Stories,” Statler had this to say about Amor and Exile: ‘Salgado movingly speaks of her own and of other Americans’ ‘disenfranchisement’ and exile abroad due to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act… Hoffman’s legal information is very accurate, thanks to several AILA members with whom he consulted while writing this book… Let us hope that in this time of potential immigration reform, members of the House especially read these gripping personal stories of immigration and feel moved to make changes in the law that are long overdue.’

In events, on October 24th, Nathaniel joined the International Institute of the Bay Area in San Francisco, CA for a wine and cheese reading and discussion. Nicole skyped in long distance from Piedra Grande, Edo. Mexico, where she was leading a volunteer training for Peace Corps Mexico. Both authors dialogued with the audience about the challenges of life in exile and the hopes for immigration reform.

rediscovered2Prior to the event, on Tuesday, October 22, Amor and Exile went global on PRI The World, a program of the BBC, when Jason Margolis, a reporter with PRI released his story featuring Nathaniel and Nicole’s work in: “American citizens, in love and in exile, are waiting for immigration reform,” a 5-minute radio spot with accompanying transcript. Immediately following the SF event, Nathaniel was also interviewed  on KQED, a local San Francisco NPR station, about his work with Amor and Exile.

The first week in November, Amor and Exile was featured at the Krieger Schechter Day School Book Fair in Baltimore, Maryland (map). Later that week, on November 7th, Nathaniel and the staff of Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho hosted a town hall style discussion of immigration reform featuring the stories of Amor and Exile and others like them (map). Nicole joined the discussion via Skype from Mexico. Also in attendance were Ben and Deyanira, one of the couples from the book, who recently returned to Idaho from a 3-year exile in Mexico; Leo Morales, communication director of the ACLU of Idaho; and Ashlee Ramirez, a representative of American Families United (AFU), an organization that supports HR 3431, the American Families United Act. Ramirez was in Idaho meeting with Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador, a Republican who is seen as key to any progress on immigration reform in the House.

A few weeks later, Rebecca Bowe, a reporter with San Francisco Bay Guardian, profiled Nicole for an article she was writing about SF Bay Area immigration activists. Nicole’s story was included in the series of profiles of undocumented activists because although she herself is an American citizen, she is a former SF Bay Area resident now in exile due to immigration law, now “agitating from exile.” The article, “Undocumented and unafraid,” came out on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, and Nicole and Amor and Exile are highlighted on pgs. 1, 6, and 7.
This Thursday, November 21st, Nathaniel and Nicole will participate in the radio show Midday with Dan Rodricks (WYPR), a Maryland-wide, live public-affairs talk show, to discuss the book, and promote the Chizuk Amuno reading on November 24th. The show will air from 12 to 1 pm EST, with callers and email questions and will be streamed live at the link above.

Be sure to check out, share and/or comment on one of the above articles and learn more about recent activity in Congress regarding family reunification oriented immigration reform. And view our Events page to catch one of our upcoming events.

Dear Colleague, Re: Amor and Exile, From The Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez

We are honored that Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Chicago) is recommending Amor and Exile to his colleagues in the House, all of whom received a copy within the last week… copied below is a memo that went out to members of the House this morning:

Subject: Immigration, Judiciary: Dear Colleague: Amor and Exile Tells the Story of Families Separated or Exiled by Immigration Laws

Amor and Exile Tells the Story of Families Separated or Exiled by Immigration Laws

From: The Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez
Date: 6/21/2013

This week, a remarkable book was delivered to your office that I hope you will read, share, and learn from.  Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders, tells the story of U.S. citizens who fall in love with undocumented immigrants only to find themselves trapped in a legal labyrinth, stymied by our nation’s immigration laws.

Journalist Nathaniel Hoffman visited both sides of the border to document the lives of couples split apart by borders or exiled from America.  His coauthor, Nicole Salgado, provides her firstperson account of life in the U.S. with her husband while he was undocumented, her decision to leave the country with him, and their seven years of exile together in Mexico.

I had the opportunity to visit with Nathaniel and Nicole in my office earlier this week and have found the stories they write about — and the story Nicole still lives — very powerful in conveying what is at stake in our nation’s immigration debate.  They raised the funds from supporters in 28 states to be able to provide copies of their book to every Member of the House and Senate so that we come to know and understand the American citizens whose lives we are talking about when we discuss immigration, deportation, and efforts to reunite families.

I hope you will take a look.

For more information, see http://amorandexile.com, http://facebook.com/amorandexile or http://twitter.com/amorandexile

Sincerely,

Luis V. Gutiérrez

Member of Congress

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Nicole Salgado and Nathaniel Hoffman, coauthors of Amor and Exile, with Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, June 2013

Waiting and demonstrating

We’re rewriting part of Amor and Exile‘s conclusion and epilogue this week to reflect the rapid movement on immigration reform so far this year. “Finishing” is tough, especially since things are developing so fast.

Our book is one of multiple narratives—many stories. Nathaniel and I have kept that structure intentionally, and we happen to like it that way. We could have each chosen to write separate stories, follow a single narrative of a life torn apart by family separation or exile, but that would not entirely reflect reality. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author of “Half of a Yellow Sun,” writes: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” And so we continue with our crazy vision of telling many stories at once.

That isn’t to say that we don’t have common threads throughout the stories in our book. Quite the contrary—there are several themes that tie the stories together.  One is the idea of waiting. It’s what all the people whose stories are told in Amor and Exile‘s tale have had to do, for years. It’s what thousands of Americans in exile or separated from their families by immigration law are doing. It’s what I’m doing at this very minute. The waiting could be described as nested at different levels, some common to others in my situation, other bits of waiting my own. Waiting for my opportunity to go to Congress and tell them why my family needs to be included in immigration reform. Waiting for word from a publisher. Waiting to get our message to enough people that it will actually make a significant difference.

Luckily, life in Mexico itself is one of carving deep reserves of personal patience—due to the uniquely different pace of life and bureacracy here as compared to U.S. culture. It prepares me well for the exhausting patience required of having half a life on hold, the American half of my life. It’s also allowed me to practice patience while getting a leg up on making the desired results happen.

Action for Family Unity brochure
Click to download copy of our flier.

Now, the personal and political have to a large degree become indistinguishable, and the waiting is infused with action. One group I’ve become active with, Action for Family Unity, is hoping that the reform plans being unveiled in the House and Senate will include families like ours. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of groups that represent interests like ours in Washington, like American Families United, some plans come close, but so far, we have no guarantees. Demonstrations are coming up next week. I won’t be able to attend—many of us exiled in a foreign country will be unable—but I made a flier for Act4Fams members in attendance to copy and hand out.

We need coverage of the upcoming demonstrations that will call attention to the plight of those of us—American citizen families—who have for too long slipped through the cracks of immigration legislation. We need to shift public opinion and influence reform plans. Those of us who can will hit the streets this weekend and next week to make sure our stories are known, to help advance our group’s interests. If you support our mission and want to attend a rally and take a copy of our flier, join us on Facebook and visit actionforfamilyunity.org.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep demonstrating my resolve, and continuing to carve my patience, from thousands of miles away. I’ll wait for the day that all this becomes unnecessary.

Welcome: Action for Family Unity

Action for Family Unity collage of photos of families separated or in exile due to immigration law

Our stories just keep coming out, and out, and out. The farther we come out, the more scary it feels, but it also feels so wonderful to read and hear the words of our supporters as they join the call to legislators to help bring us home.

These past two weeks have been really amazing. Just last month, I was thinking it would be hard to get families like ours (in exile or facing exile due to immigration laws) organized into a cohesive political force to be dealt with. But then I put out a call asking if anyone knew of specific organizations dedicated to lobbying for our issues. There aren’t many—our presence on the media map is very sparse, despite our large numbers. There are a wide variety of organizations doing great advocacy work and coming up with exciting solutions, too many to list here. But if you’re interested, Prerna Lal, one of my favorite immigration bloggers, suggested a list of sites to start with here.

One thing happened after another. A fellow exile blogger, Raquel Magaña, got back to me with a few ideas of people to be in touch with. The first was Ellin Jimmerson, director and producer of The Second Cooler, a moving documentary that focuses on how immigration is a human rights and workers’ rights issue (Thank you Ellin).

Next thing I knew, I was messaging like crazy with other women in exile—in the U.S., South America, Mexico, South Korea. This was nothing new for many of them—they’ve been in touch with each other for a while—a long time for some, and attracting press to put our issues on the map. But my efforts on activism have been isolated to advocacy back in 2006 (the SF marches) and getting my memoir out over the last 2 years, with the occasional petition signature, and I hadn’t been a part of any online forum before.

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But I also got the sense that the call for action was burning really bright for some women. We’re supportive of the broad movements, we’re supportive of the more specific ones, like those of the DREAMers. But we’re also afraid of getting left out of upcoming reform (Some might say we’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell, but we’re going to try anyways). So suddenly, we formed a group. It has a name and plans for action and collaboration and everything. It all happened so fast. We submitted our pictures and a beautiful mosaic image of them was made. We shared our stories, some intensely personal and not for public eyes. We began building trust in the best way possible without having met our colleagues before, while making up your own rules. We did a petition.

Raquel summed it up well with this comment:

“You will find that every one of these women has a story to be told… and those stories will be told, with heart, with passion, and with the truth of how their individual rights have been overlooked. These ladies will conquer the truth in this history made in their pens and that should promote a government official to execute some relief NOW. When threatened to be overlooked, there is organization. Family unity…there are too many to ignore.”

I am totally floored by how we’re managing to collectively surf this wave of energy we all have, to DO SOMETHING on behalf of our families and others like ours. I have no idea where all this will lead. This is purely voluntary, we all have day jobs, and no financial base to grow from. But I do know that I am feeling a hell of a lot more inspired than I was a month ago, when I wasn’t sure of what I could do beyond writing my story.

I believe in the power of the critical mass. And I wouldn’t be ashamed if we didn’t “make it” this time. As I’ve said before, I’m in this for the long haul.

Most importantly, we’re coming together. For action. Which brings me back to the petition. I wrote it with the help of others and I think it’s very powerful. It sums up our goals pretty well. All the comments I’ve read by my friends, family members, people I don’t even know, bring tears of joy to my eyes. And we hope it will continue to get signed like crazy. Help our group out with that, would you? And stay posted, as this probably won’t be the last thing you’ll hear about it.

Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/petitions/president-obama-and-congress-bring-home-american-families-in-exile#

Only some can share the dream…

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…

*             *            *

December 2011

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?