Feature photo by Issac Bowen
In the Russian classic novel, Master and Margarita, the Devil gives Margarita a choice: She can rub cream all over her body, stand naked, and play hostess to Hell’s infamous murderers and rapists; in return, she will be granted one wish. Margarita completes the Devil’s request. She greets Hell’s convicts with the grace of a queen. In her selflessness, Margarita wishes for the Devil to release a tortured woman who murdered her child. Then the Devil gives Margarita a second wish. Finally Margarita wishes to live peacefully in poverty with Master, the man she loves. I envy Margarita’s situation.
Dealing with the United States immigration bureau is like going to Hell, but never being able to speak to the Devil’s upper management. Last August I, an American citizen, married the man I love, a South American physician. In December 2009, the post office did not deliver a letter from immigration containing the time and date of an interview with an immigration official. As a result of missing our interview, my husband does not have documents. He does not have a social security number, driver’s license or work authorization. We cannot leave the country. We cannot even leave Chicago.
My husband entered the United States legally, and we married legally. But it doesn’t matter. Nothing does with immigration. They don’t care, even when it’s their mistake. In the first year of our marriage, I have visited countless government offices. I have sat in Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s office and Senator Rick Durbin’s office. I have stood naked with a two-inch pile of paperwork explaining his case over and over again. Both the offices of Congressman Gutierrez and Senator Durbin have agreed that it’s an unfortunate error and have written letters on his behalf. We are waiting. . .
Most Americans against immigration list the following complaints: immigrants do not speak English, immigrants do not work, and they did not immigrate to this country with the intention of becoming true Americans. So let me make this clear, once and for all. My husband speaks perfect English. He passed all of his medical exams in English, and he works harder than any man I know. Even though he does not have work authorization, he still volunteers his time to causes important to him. In his country of origin after he completed a 12- or sometimes 15-hour shift in the emergency room of a public hospital, he would sit down with me and study English until he fell asleep. He watched hours of movies and television, read books in English, and quizzed me about food and customs. He insisted I cook Sloppy Joe’s, pineapple upside-down cake, chili, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, gumbo, and hot dogs. He wanted to know everything about this country, but still it is not enough.
Immigration reform is not about Mexicans. It’s not about South Americans, Italians, Poles, Latvians or Ethiopians. It’s about human beings treated humanely. The immigration system is broken. It does not work for people in compliance with United States laws—even Margarita would not know what to do. Until immigration is reformed, we will all have to live in this hellish situation.