Three years ago, Shanell escaped with her first child from an abusive relationship, and met her husband, an undocumented man, shortly after that. The father of her second child, her husband not only supports their family of four, but works a second job to support the rest of his family that remains in Mexico. Reform with a path to citizenship would mean that Shanell, her husband, and their two young boys can sleep easily at night knowing they can stay together.
This story is about my husband and our family, but I know and love so many others in similar situations.
I married my husband in April of this year; it was a small, quiet wedding exactly what I wanted. My family has been dealing with immigration issues for years, but I thought that after we were married we could get his papers, he’d be a legal resident, and I wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
When I say worry try to imagine not being able to sleep at night when your husband is working late because you don’t know if he’s still there or if ICE took him. Every time he leaves the house I’m terrified that he won’t come back and I won’t know how to find him. He could get pulled over for a broken tail light and wind up in Mexico. I thought this nightmare would end soon after our wedding. But due to a flawed system and horrible immigration laws, he has a permanent ban from being deported ten years ago and returning. This could be how I live for the rest of my life if something doesn’t change.
I want to take you back and tell you what kind of man my husband is and what he means to my family.
My first son was born in June, 2010. His father and I never had a good relationship. I thought I was stuck with him and I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t want to raise a baby on my own, and he made me feel like I couldn’t get out. On January 31, 2011 (I remember because it was the morning of my mom’s birthday) his father came home from a party at 3AM absolutely wasted, started a fight, and woke up my baby. This fight slowly escalated. By 5AM I was being beaten and literally thrown around the house. He had managed to get the baby in his car seat and was trying to leave with him. I had to use strength I didn’t even know I had to keep this from happening. I managed to barricade ourselves in the room and call the police. To show you how drunk this man was, he had no recollection of these events. He had no idea why he had to spend three days in jail. Needless to say, I got my stuff and left the second the police were gone.
Fast forward two and a half years, his father comes around about once a month to see his son, I expect this to dwindle down to even less frequently. It’s sad, but it could be much worse. My son has a dad. He has known my husband since he was eight-months-old. He absolutely adores him. He doesn’t understand these grown-up situations yet all he knows is that Papá gets up with him every single morning because Mommy leaves for work at 6AM. He knows that Papá puts him in bed every single night; he knows that Papá will feed him when he’s hungry, change him when he’s wet, and hug him when he cries. He knows that this is the man who takes care of him, his brother, and his mommy.
He doesn’t yet know to worry about a day when this may not be the case.
My younger son was born in April, 2012. He looks just like his daddy and acts like him too. My husband had wanted a child of his own for a long time. He knows just how blessed he is to have his baby and he shows it every single day. This little boy is spoiled beyond belief with attention, love, and affection. I have been sad and cranky lately because my own son doesn’t ever want to be with me. If Papá is home, my baby won’t let me hold him for even a minute. He screams and cries and basically jumps out of my arms to run to his daddy. If Papá is not at home, the baby is cranky and cries most of the day. I feel very un-loved by my littlest son right now, but that is not the point.
The point is, my littlest boy loves his father more than anything in the world. He knows when he’s gone and he hates it. I can’t even imagine what he would feel if his daddy got sent back to Mexico and he didn’t get to see him for a long time.
I love this man—obviously, that’s why I married him. He is honest and hardworking. He would do anything for his (very big) family. This is what brought him here in the first place.
Mexico is a very poor country. If you are lucky enough to find work, it is almost guaranteed not to pay you enough to survive. My husband started working when he was 12 years old. He’d get up bright and early with his dad, work through the morning, then go to school in the afternoon. Soon this was not enough. His mom stayed home taking care of his four younger brothers and younger sister, but he and his dad couldn’t make enough to keep them fed and clothed.
So at 16 years old, my husband risked his life to cross the border with his uncle to find work in the United States. Up until a few months ago, he held two jobs. One job supported him (and eventually all of us) and the other job supported his family in Mexico. He is still the main provider for his family down there. But now that family also includes four little nieces and two sisters-in-law. His father is in the United States too, but he has been in jail for over two years on a drunk and disorderly charge. An American citizen would probably get one night in jail and a slap on the wrist, but because he is an undocumented immigrant and doesn’t speak English, he has no rights. We have been struggling to provide for multiple families waiting for the day that his dad can go home and start working again.
My husband is a good man. Over the past few months, my medical problems have rendered me basically disabled. He stepped up and took over everything. He has been working and then coming home and taking care of all of the household chores, plus doing everything for our two toddlers, and even carrying me up and down the stairs when I am unable to walk.
He doesn’t complain that he can’t seek medical attention for the constant pain in his ribs. He wishes he could go back to school and earn his diploma and a degree, but he doesn’t whine about having a terrible job with no benefits because he can’t get a visa. He is simply grateful that he is able to go to work, provide for his family, and come home to his wife and children each night.
Every single day that we get together is a blessing. So many families aren’t nearly as lucky. I need you to understand that this is happening all around you. Every single day families are being ripped apart because of ruthless, discriminatory laws. These aren’t just people far away that you have no connection to. These are people you know. People you work with, your friends, your FAMILY. It is happening right here all around you.
If my husband, like so many others, gets sent back to Mexico I will lose my home, my kids will lose their father, and our lives will be torn out from under us.
You can help Jessica and her husband, and hundreds of thousands of families like theirs, by calling 888-787-9658 to speak with your own representative and tell them to support comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship.