I'm the proud father of two children and wildly in love with my wife. We've been married for over nine years now, and we had been happily living the American dream. I was advancing my career and working on my master's degree while she was caring for our school age children, making sure we were eating healthy and taking adult school classes to learn English. On the surface we lived like many other American families, but a broken immigration system was haunting us.
Ever since I met my wife, we set out to rectify her immigration status by working with the system. Surely the wife and mother of American citizens would have a path to legal status. Unfortunately, thousands of dollars and over five years later, we learned that our experienced immigration lawyer had not performed due diligence and that my wife had no remedy. We were left in limbo by an outdated system that doesn't respect the foundation of American society: family.
The following years as we searched for alternate solutions and tried to continue with our lives a tragedy occurred. The widely criticized and vague ramifications of the Secure Communities Act turned a routine traffic stop into my wife's removal proceedings. It was indeed the beginning of a nightmare that my family continues to live. Our journey since then has included detention centers, dishonest ICE officials, confusing immigration proceedings, a heartless court process, more money and time lost and worst of all, separation of my family and severe emotional trauma.
One saving grace was the support I received from American Families United. I was lucky enough to be introduced to AFU several years ago through a close friend. Their representative I met was beyond understanding, as she was also forced to live in the shadows to protect a loved one. AFU and its members are a wonderful and supportive group. Most of them have suffered through experiences just as mine, and they know the ins-and-outs of the immigration system along with many contacts who are experts in the field. They have an ear to the ground for any and all legislation that may finally relieve the suffering of American families like mine. They have the political experience and network connections to help push this legislation forward. The more of us that come together to show how widespread this issue is, the sooner our government will set aside the political strife and get back to helping re-unite our families.
Apart from the direct benefit of advancing legislation, being a member helps in ways you may not expect. Joining AFU has brought me closer to others facing similar hardships. Working with other members eases my pain and gives me a sense of greater purpose. We must strive not only to save our own families, but the families across our entire nation who suffer.
AFU gives a face and a community to those who believe in fair immigration reform to keep families together and allow our country to move forward. I thank AFU for their moral and political support, and also for giving me a place to participate in this worthy cause.
In January of 2009 in Philadelphia, an acquaintance told me about an organization that planned to go to Washington DC to talk to legislators about reforming immigration laws to keep families together. I was immediately interested and called to find out more about American Families United.
On the lobby day in DC, I met other Americans feeling the strain on their families by unjust immigration laws. It was a relief to connect with other people who had been down the same road. I felt empowered to speak with my legislators about the issues concerning my family and encouraged by the positive response from some lawmakers who planned to introduce bills to support the reuniting of families.
I have since moved, but I connect with American Families United through the forum, e-mail blasts and an occasional phone call with other members. They keep me informed about new bills and laws, and other efforts to support our cause. The group is also a circle of support when a member is going through a difficult time. Now that there is a members' website, I plan to use it to connect directly with AFU members who live in my region.
American Families United is the only organization that invests all of its efforts into combating family separation due to unfair immigration law. I cannot be in DC year-round, but AFU can, with our support. I am in the Circle of Hope, making a small donation to AFU each month, because keeping my family together is priceless.
February 2, 2009: Melissa joins other members in 2226 Rayburn Office Building