Amor and Exile Year-In-Review 2013

An Amor and Exile Year-In-Review, 2013 timeline

2013 was a big year for Amor and Exile and for the pro-immigration movement. Brush up on the issues of the past year with this Amor and Exile Year-In-Review for 2013.


Obama administration announces stateside waiver processing, creates relief for some families (Take Two, Southern California Public Radio)


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





  • “Send Amor and Exile to Washington” campaign raises over $12,000 and delivers a copy to every member of Congress, the nine Supreme Court justices, President and First Lady Obama and Vice-President Biden and other D.C. officials
  • A&E featured on the News and Politics section of BlogHer (
  • Nicole and Nathaniel launch A&E on the East Coast with the first public readings at AILA D.C. headquarters and Ukazoo Books in Baltimore, MD
  • Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) calls for relief for exiled/separated families with colleague letter supporting Amor and Exile (
  • Nathaniel launches A&E in Boise at Hyde Park Books, with Nicole skyping in from Querétaro (
  • SB 744 passed in the Senate (New York Times)
  • A&E discussed in “All About Family” (Baltimore Jewish Times)
  • Nathaniel’s work as Idaho journalist and A&E highlighted (Idaho Press-Tribune)
June collage
Clockwise from bottom L: Constituent letters to Congressional reps; Nicole and Nate meet with Rep. Luis Gutierrez; Nicole and Nate after hand-delivering over 100 copies of A&E; Nicole on Capitol Hill; Nicole at Ukazoo reading in Baltimore; Nicole, cover designer Gilad Foss and Nate in Baltimore; Nate and Margi Hoffman mailing books to D.C. officials; and the audience at the A&E launch at Hyde Park Books in Boise, ID.


  • Nicole launches A&E in Mexico with Nathaniel skyping in, starting in Querétaro at the Casa del Atrio (
  • A&E and Nicole’s story covered in Boulder, Colorado (Boulder Weekly)
  • Nathaniel hosts reading at the American Friends Service Committee in Denver with a call-in by Nicole
Top: Nicole at La Casa del Atrio reading, Querétaro, México; Nicole and friends of A&E at the Querétaro reading
Top: Nicole at La Casa del Atrio reading, Querétaro, México. Bottom: Nicole and friends of A&E at the Querétaro reading


  • Reading in San Miguel de Allende, home of J.W. Lown, profiled in A&E
  • Edgar Falcon marries on the border in highly publicized wedding on the El Paso/Mexico border (Texas Tribune)
August collage
Clockwise from top: San Miguel de Allende reading, Nicole with supporter at SMA reading, U.S. citizen Edgar Falcon marries Mexican citizen Maricruz Valtierra at U.S./Mexico border in August.



  • HR 15, a comprehensive immigration reform bill largely based on SB 744, is introduced in the House of Representatives (
  • Nathaniel shares A&E at the International Institute of the Bay Area on October 24th
  • A&E and Nicole and Margo’s story featured on PRI The World (PRI The World)
  • Rift surfacing between some immigration reform activist groups (
  • House Reps Pearce (R-NM) and O’Rourke (D-TX) sponsor the American Families United Act (AFU website)
Amor and Exile in October 2013
Nathaniel signs copies of Amor and Exile at reading at the International Institute of the Bay Area in October.


  • Nicole and Margo’s story featured alongside series of profiles of SF Bay Area immigration activists (SF Bay Guardian)
  • Town-hall discussion of A&E and immigration issues at Rediscovered Books in Boise and Baltimore event co-hosted by Chizuk Amuno and Beth-El congregations (
  • Illegal Immigration and Marriage,” discussion of A&E with Nathaniel and Nicole on “Midday with Dan Rodricks” (
  • Pre-Thanksgiving Reading of A&E in (Nicole’s hometown of Syracuse, NY (Post-Standard |
Amor and Exile in November 2013
Clockwise from upper L: Nate on the air with Nicole on the Midday with Dan Rodricks show; Nicole skyping in from Mexico with Deyanira and Ben at Rediscovered Books reading; the audience at the RD Books reading in Boise; the audience at the reading at the Jefferson Clinton Hotel in Syracuse, NY; Nicole and her grandmother, Thelma Kinney, at the Syracuse reading, the day before Thanksgiving.


  • Immigration reform officially “dead” for 2013 (Hispanic News Network)
  • Fight for comprehensive immigration reform shaping up for 2014 (Grand Island Independent)
  • A&E available on Kindle in the Amazon Prime Lending Library
  • A&E has sold over 1,000 copies and hosted 14 public readings in the U.S. and Mexico in its first six months.
  • Giveaway days planned in January to coincide with the start of the Congressional session, to help elevate the debate on immigration reform—stay tuned!

Recent events and press for Amor and Exile

The Rediscovered Reading, Boise
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.

More answers on proposed immigration waiver changes

The Obama Administration announcement last week that it wants to allow some mixed immigration status families to remain together in the United States while they apply for hardship waivers was briefly turned into media debate fodder and then, apparently dropped because it is just too difficult to explain. But the few conservatives who cried foul, including Texas Republican Lamar Smith who wrote the 3- and 10-year bars into law in 1996, have very little ground to stand on here. As I reported last week, it has been in the works for a long time, it’s highly technical, it’s been suggested by multiple government and NGO reviews of the waiver process, it does not change any laws and it does not provide any new benefits for undocumented immigrants.

Houston immigration attorney Laurel Scott, who has written extensively about waivers, said the proposed rule actually improves compliance with the law. The waivers were originally intended to prevent the hardship of family separation, she said, and the proposed process would minimize the time that immigrant spouses and children of American citizens must spend abroad.

Still, the timing of the announcement and its provenance from the White House is clearly political and the pundits briefly made hay from this latest administrative decree. The moment in this news clip when CNN anchor Erin Burnett asserts to former American Immigration Lawyers Association president David Leopold that anyone who legitimately marries an American citizen can get a green card (then looks down, bites lip, blinks) highlights a huge problem for advocates of immigration reform.

Watch the clip at 2:12 for that moment:

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and crusading attorney who helped draft anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and for state legislators across the country, skillfully puts the onus back on “illegal aliens, whether they decide to marry a U.S. citizen or not.” And Leopold is not quite able to counter what Moderator Burnett declares to be quite rational.

If the news that the Customs and Immigration Service will now process some “family unity” or family immigration waivers stateside accomplishes one thing, it should demonstrate to the American public once and for all that hundreds of thousands of American citizens have been living in the shadows with their undocumented spouses for the past decade.

Here’s the weird thing: Burnett is mostly right. Immigrants who marry U.S. citizens ARE generally eligible for a green card. Our national immigration system remains, technically, family friendly. BUT if they are in the United States illegally or face any of more than 60 different “inadmissibilities,” that green card may remain just out of reach.

There has been a lot of talk about this “catch-22” in the past week. USCIS puts it this way in the rule notice:The action required to regularize the status of an alien, departure from the United States, therefore is the very action that triggers the section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) inadmissibility that bars that alien from obtaining the immigrant visa.

Here it is in plain English: In order for an immigrant who entered the country illegally and then married an American citizen to get a green card, he or she has to leave the United States. But leaving triggers, in most cases, a 10-year ban (that Congress approved in 1996). To salve this catch-22, Congress crafted a series of pardons, or waivers, available for many, but they are complicated and time consuming and a bit risky to get. Applicants must show that if they are not granted a visa, their American citizen spouse or parent will suffer “extreme hardship.” Three quarters of the immigrants seeking waivers to enter the United States are from Mexico and require a visit to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; I traveled there last January to see the process first hand.

Because these waivers are difficult to understand and a major financial and emotional and legal burden for many of the couples who need them the most, many, many couples choose to stay in the US, under the radar, rather than applying for green cards and facing the ban and subsequent waiver process.

Enter Candidate Obama. The USCIS is now proposing a tiny tweak in the process that could reassure many couples. They will be able to apply for the pardon BEFORE they leave the US to pick up their visa. This proposed rule (at this point it is still a notice of intent to publish a proposed rule) would provide provisional waivers to some couples so that when they return to the US Consulate or Embassy in their home country, they will be able to get the visa more quickly and efficiently and in fewer steps.

There are lots of waivers for lots of different violations. This rule change would apply to a VERY limited set: only people who “entered without inspection” and have a US citizen spouse or parent could get the provisional waiver. So if your fiancé is a citizen, you have to get married first and if your mom is a permanent resident, you won’t qualify for a provisional waiver.

Also, if you are like Nicole, whose husband has a permanent ban, and who is already living abroad, you won’t qualify. Bear in mind that the difference between a 3 year, 10 year and permanent ban is not that great. If you have been here illegally for 6-12 months, you get a 3-year-bar and if it’s more than a year you are barred for 10 years. In both cases you would be able to utilize the new provisional waiver before leaving the US to get an immigrant visa. But if you entered the US twice, say, after a trip home to see a sick grandparent or even to introduce your wife and kids to your family—even if not caught—you are banned permanently without an opportunity for a waiver. (In the case of this permanent bar, an immigrant may be able to reapply after waiting 10 years abroad, but only a few people have to tested this procedure to date.)

It is impossible to know how many couples in the US are currently eligible for a waiver of some type. Minneapolis immigration attorney Michael Davis said today that he’s gotten dozens of calls in the past week but many of the couples inquiring face a permanent ban and so the provisional waiver would not help them.  Still, Davis thinks that processing the waivers in the US will encourage many couples to apply, once the new rule is finalized, which is supposed to be  by the end of the year.

“I think it’s going to be an incentive for a lot of people to come out and do it,” he said.

In FY2011, USCIS received 23,262 I-601 waiver applications and approved 17,790, roughly a 76 percent approval rate. The approval rate in Ciudad Juarez was closer to 90 percent last year, according to a USCIS spokesman. More than 100,000 people have applied for waivers since 2006. But there are many more people out there who are unaware of the benefit or have been unwilling to take the risk and expense of applying.

One question that remains is what will happen to applicants who are denied a provisional waiver. They will still be in the United States without papers. On a USCIS stakeholders call yesterday, immigration officials did not answer this question, instead seeking suggestions from the public, but an FAQ on the USCIS site does adress the issue:

Q. What would happen to individuals who are denied waivers under the proposed process?

A.They would be subject to USCIS guidance and law enforcement priorities for issuing Notices to Appear (NTA).  For example, convicted criminals, public safety threats, and those suspected of fraud will receive NTAs.

In other words, many of the people denied, if not priority cases for ICE, would just be back to square one—undocumented and married to Americans. But at least they would be with their families in the States rather than separated or forced to move under duress. Going into 10 months of political campaigning, I am glad that Obama is at least signaling a willingness to discuss the deep relationships that Americans have with the undocumented population. While families and family values are a fine starting point, I continue to hope that the candidates will examine their own relationships with migrants, with Mexico in particular and  with our national stake in immigration reform.

Brave New Vargas

The suffering economy. Crime levels. Apathy about our country’s seemingly unending involvement in foreign wars. All this bad news only serves to further polarize the political environment in which we can discuss an issue that’s at the heart of our nation: immigration. But immigration is getting hot. Yeah, yeah, you say, it’s like this every few years. But since the 1986 amnesty, no comprehensive immigration reform has been enacted by the U.S. government. However, we have seen the absorption of the Immigration and Naturalization Service into Homeland Security/ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the passing of rather anti-immigrant laws in southern states such as AZ, AL, GA and now SC. An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live in hiding in the U.S., not to mention their citizen family members. It seems that despite the attempts to pass meaningful reform that addresses an increasingly complex immigration situation in the U.S., reactionary xenophobia threatens to overshadow our country’s diverse and worldwide roots.

It’s easy to get cynical in this atmosphere, especially when you’re someone like me whose life has been so profoundly impacted by this simple situation, as described by Jeff Hawkins, in America’s Shameful Moments on June 24th, at

“At times in the past, the U.S. did not restrict the number of immigrants. If you got here and were in good health you were let in. Currently we restrict the number of immigrants each year. We expect people desiring to come to the U.S. will respect these restrictions and wait in line. That hasn’t been the case and we find ourselves with about 10 million adult immigrants living and working in the U.S. who came here illegally.”

And yet, those inspiring moments do come now and then. Hope re-surges in me that Americans are capable of recognizing immigrants’ humanity, be they documented or undocumented. Or of having a rational discussion about our economic dependence on them. The moments come when I see individuals speaking out for their loved ones who are undocumented, as in Tony and Janina’s Wedding. Optimism fills me when I see authorities such as Paul Bridges, Mayor of Uvalda, GA, suing his own state over a new immigration law, challenging what he feels to be ill-fated policy not just for his town but the entire nation. Or when I post to this or my other blog, Succulent Seer, and get responses from equally inspired individuals.

Perhaps the person who inspired me the most recently was Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who came out as an undocumented immigrant in My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant in the New York Times magazine on June 22nd. Although I won’t summarize the article here, and his situation is different than my husband’s (he was sent to the U.S. as a child, and then chose to continue the life for about 14 years once he found out he was here illegally), there is a certain kinship in that there finally came a time when Vargas realized he couldn’t maintain a secret life anymore. For us, this moment came when we decided that all legal options were impossible, and we would have to move to Mexico to stay together. Knowing the risks which Vargas is putting himself at by outing himself, is inspiring in itself. Seeing that a publication likes the Times was willing to run his article, and that Rachel Maddow brought him on her show in a sympathetic manner is similarly heartening.

However, observing the knee-jerk reactions by some of his “fellow” journalists was offensive. One even went to so far as to say Vargas has disqualified himself as a journalist by being straightforward about his status, as quoted in The Media Deportation of Jose Antonio Vargas, by Daniel Denvir. So is that to say that any individual who’s ever formerly engaged in any illegal activity, such as adultery, drug abuse, traffic violations (pick your poison) disqualifies themselves from their profession? The argument about Vargas being a habitual liar just doesn’t hold up. Most everyone has some dirty laundry in their closet they’re not quite ready to hang out. Come on guys, I’d expect more objectivity when you’re bashing subjectivity.

This is when I can feel the heat of the debate all the way down here in sunny Mexico. Comments like these, although I try hard to ignore the chaff, are strong enough to pull me out of my writing of our book to talk about what’s going on. It concerns me that people are willing to get so high up on their holier than thou horses that they can’t see the forests for the trees. It affects how I write my story. I get nervous about how people are going to react to me telling a story, how it could be construed that I was harboring my husband, no matter how much the immigration lawyer we’re working with assures me that that’s unlikely. Ultimately, I worry that we have strayed so far from our own humanity that we don’t recognize that of others.

But then I think of the brave ones. Like my husband himself, who said, “I never hid who I was.” It’s true, he didn’t, and he also had a lot to lose by voluntarily deporting (as did I, by accompanying him). However, he didn’t have the same exposure as Jose Vargas, who’s essentially making himself a high-profile guinea pig of the new ICE mandate that “law enforcement resources should be aimed at those who would do the country harm, people who threaten national security, violent offenders, and drug dealers,” as described on the American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA) blog. Vargas said, “We have not had a credible conversation about immigration in this country.” How can we, when everyone is too afraid to see the truth, much less speak it? It’s a big risk he’s taking to speak the truth of his own life, a risk that people with pre-conceived notions about undocumented immigrants won’t sufficiently appreciate, but one that *will* inspire a lot of people, including me. I think I speak for millions when I say thanks, Jose, for sticking your neck out.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – 13th century