Some of you may be familiar with the large-scale deportations that happened a few years ago. Families were torn apart, futures were ruined, and the government was doing their job. Well, five years ago we were amongst the many families whose lives would be torn apart.
Let’s back track a little. I graduated in May, 2001 from Barnard College (GO SEVEN SISTERS!) which is the all girl’s school affiliated with Columbia University. I had a bright future ahead of me, and I marched, no sprinted, toward that future. By September I was starting my career in marketing at a globally renowned consumer electronics company. A year later I was promoted, and then a year after that I was promoted again becoming the youngest manager ever at my organization.
Then, I had my first baby, Leila. Beautiful, amazing, cherished Leila. The first granddaughter of both my husband’s and my parents’ (though his parents have four older grandsons). She was also the first child to be born in America from both our families. I, of course, am a naturalized U.S. citizen, but was born in Korea.
My life was finally settling into its picturesque path after a very hairy courtship that ended in a Romeo & Juliet style secret elopement with my husband (more on that later!). Leila finally mended our family, and legitimized my marriage. For nearly a year, I successfully balanced home and work with the help of the strong and capable hands of my newly turned stay-at-home-dad husband. THEN life decided to jar us from dreamland and test our newly formed family in a way that many families have failed to pass through successfully. My husband was deported.
Please note that deportation does not mean he was arrested for any criminal activities. Many years ago he made the unfortunate mistake of ignoring immigration laws, and staying in America beyond his allotted period of time. He didn`t sneak in under a fence at a border, or stow away in a cargo boat. No, he came in a plane from Paris to JFK airport in New York City. Very undramatic (actually it was quite dramatic, but again, more on that later!). Nonetheless he did overstay his visa which ultimately resulted in him having a standing deportation order against him, unbeknownst to him. When we got married in 2001 we tried of course to have him legalized as he was now married to a U.S. citizen, but we had two very unfortunate things happen to us. Number one, 2 years prior (to the date of our marriage) there was an apartment fire that destroyed all of his original documents including passport and alien number. Number two, the laws were changed after Bush was elected so that spouses of U.S. citizens no longer had immunity from deportation. So we worked for four years to try to get my husband legalized before his ultimate deportation. Two lawyers, thousands of dollars, and countless hours of waiting on hold with immigration officials later… nothing.
Long story short (the longer story will come later), I suddenly found myself without a husband, business trips to attend, and an infant to take care of. Luckily my mother could step in to take care of Leila, but it’s hard work taking care of an infant, especially when you have a slew of medical conditions that make you much less energetic than you were twenty years ago!
Luckily, after I took care of some important things at work, I was able to take family leave that was part of my maternity benefits at work. This gave me six months to go to Lebanon with my husband and hash out the immigration problems, and return with him and back to work without a glitch. His deportation officer was very much on his side, and reassured us that it should be just about four months, and then he could return. Four months was not a problem – an extended vacation! And, he could finally introduce Leila and me to his family. I had a very optimistic, silver-lining, naïve perspective. I couldn’t have been more wrong, or more stupid!