After careful consideration and consultation with her husband, the author decided against publishing this article under a different name. While publicly declaring her spouse to be an undocumented immigrant runs the very real risk of attracting unwanted attention, the author and her family felt it was important to show others that living in fear will not be tolerated in the United States.
Thirteen years ago I walked down the beach, stood next to my high school sweetheart and vowed to spend the rest of my life with him. I was 18 years old, he was 23 and we were so damn naive. No, not just because we were young, but because we assumed that this country, which was founded on freedom, would embrace our marriage. It hasn’t and in Donald Trump’s America, we are living is a constant state of frustration and panic.
You see, my husband is from El Salvador. He came to America when he was 17 to escape his country that was still reeling from the impact of a bloody civil war that the U.S. government gleefully funded. When we said our vows in July 2003, he was under temporary protective status, but it was revoked shortly after and he was suddenly thrust into a class of people the GOP loathes: the undocumented.
About a month after we wed I started filing for his green card, but I soon learned he would not receive permanent residency unless he went back to his country and waited for a visa there. The problem with that was the moment he left U.S. soil, an immigration official told us he would be banned from returning for 10 years because he’d entered illegally in 1997. By the time we were informed of this ridiculous rule, I was pregnant with our son. We could not fathom the thought of our child growing up without his father so we stopped the process and hoped Congress would pass immigration reform. Over the next decade we built a life together and our son grew into a well-adjusted, smartass pre-teen with both of his parents by his side.
However, the fear of deportation was was always there, lingering in the back of our minds. As happy as our life was, we couldn’t do things that American couples take for granted. For instance, we could not travel. My husband wasn’t allowed to legally drive. Flying was always a risk and taking a bus was not an option as those are often stopped by ICE. And for a long time, he didn’t have identification so we couldn’t even go out and have a couple of drinks. But, we were together, our son was thriving and that’s all that mattered.
When President Obama took office in 2009, we were hopeful that a reform bill would pass. But it didn’t take long for us to realize the obstructionist Republicans were not going to allow that to happen. Then, in 2015, the president changed our situation and issued a directive expanding a provisional immigration waiver that would prevent our family and families like ours from being ripped apart. The only problem, we didn’t have the money to file. The process is extremely complicated and very expensive, in part because you really need a lawyer to complete the paperwork. It’s not safe to do it alone because if you make one tiny mistake it will be denied.
Over the next year we saved the money to file, but I’ll be honest, we weren’t really in a rush. After all, Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, we had time–or so we thought.
Our world was turned upside down in the early hours of November 9, 2016 when my husband and I watched as Donald Trump thanked America for electing him president. To say that we were terrified is an understatement. Two weeks after the election we walked into an attorney’s office and gave her all of the money we had in our savings: $4,000. Unfortunately, even though the waiver was still available, our attorney explained that it was going to be awhile before we could file because of all of the information that had to be amassed. Over the last few months we have been gathering everything that we need, but that fear that was always in the back of our minds is like a siren now. Imagine your smoke detector going off all day, every day and that is what our life is like.
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, we have been in Hell. Every night we sit in front of the nightly news on Univision and watch deportation story after deportation story. Every morning when I log on the computer to work, I see the faces of the latest casualties of Trump’s war on immigrants. It is inescapable. Everything in our lives have suffered as a result of the unrelenting stress of living in a country where our family does not matter. Everything except for our son, thankfully. We have somehow managed to shield him from all of this but now there is a new fear: what will I tell my child if his father doesn’t come home one day?
I am a writer and still I cannot find the words to describe what it is like living with this hanging over our heads. Until Trump was elected I was always able to separate my political beliefs from my everyday activities, especially since I live in a deep red county in the South, but I am no longer able to do that. Everywhere I go I wonder how many of the people surrounding us fucked our family over when they cast their ballots, or didn’t cast a ballot at all. When I see someone wearing a Trump hat or shirt I become enraged.
I literally hate millions of people. I do not want to leave my house because I know that when I do I have to breathe the same air as these people and it pisses me off. I have shamed his supporters in the supermarket; two years ago I couldn’t imagine myself doing something like that. I hate that I exist on the same planet as Donald Trump and the Republican Party. It depresses me to learn that the so many people in this country have not learned any of the lessons history has taught us. I am furious that my child has to grow up in a country that wants to take his father away from him, that he walks among people who think he is less valuable because of the color of his skin. And I am sad that at 12-years-old he learned just how terrible people can be.
But most of all I am ashamed. Right now I am ashamed to be an American and for that, I will never, ever forgive the people who allowed this man to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office and terrorize millions of families who just want to live their lives in peace and safety.