Rodriguez: Real-life immigration narratives ‘look past the poll numbers’

Dr. Dyanne Rodriguez, RN, is first-generation graduate and U.S.-born American citizen living in Massachusetts. (COURTESY DYANNE RODRIGUEZ)

Immigration is no doubt a major issue in the U.S. Recent polls in Massachusetts raise a concern that immigration is a “problem but not an emergency.” When we look at family-based immigration, it is an emergency for U.S. families separated by this complex immigration system. The U.S. immigration system consists of harsh regulations for American families who have family that are from abroad.

Real life narratives can be a way to look past poll numbers. Lived experiences provide a voice beyond the numbers and provide details to each person’s unique situation. As a first-generation graduate and U.S.-born American citizen, I have lived the narrative. Not knowing that our broken immigration system elicits harsh penalties that American citizens must face that are driven by the U.S. immigration system when marrying a non-American citizen. Dealing with family separation in hopes of overall family reunification and overcoming immense hardship is not the America that I know. I am the wife, daughter, granddaughter, and what the media identifies as the “hero.”  My elder mother requires assistance but due to the U.S. immigration system I am left without my family being united. I have dedicated immense time in my education and have held positions as educator, nurse, and other roles in public health. I have outreached to many communities in collaboration in health promotion efforts. I am, in many cases, the voice of others who rely on public health advocates. Yet, I see unfair and unequal treatment living as an American citizen. Living day in and day out now knowing when I can be fully reunited with my family puts immense heaviness and despair on each day and does not support me to flourish as an American citizen.

Filing paperwork to follow through with the family immigration process has turned into a tragic path leading to the unknown. Bringing your spouse to the U.S. can be done by initially filing the I 130. This process that was initiated in 2021, continues to be in the dark with lack of transparency. This long process has not only caused family separation, loss of family time, hardship, grief, and despair.

When I learned about American Families United, I also learned that I am not alone. Reading stories and watching videos about families separated like mine. I realized, citizens like me are living without their spouse because of the harsh immigration regulations. These regulations can separate spouses and children for years and even a lifetime. Just this past November, thousands held a rally in Washington in support of U.S.-citizen families. The rally included families and congressmen and was a positive contribution towards advocating for humane immigration regulations.

The article, “Poll Shows Voters Locked in on Immigration,”  does bring noteworthy poll results, including support for work visas. I urge congressmen to continue to assist as a voice in support of American Families to remove barriers for families to be united. Keeping American families together is emergent and must be brought to the forefront to be addressed. As our election is upcoming quickly, I kindly ask that you keep advocating for American families to remain united together. Reach out to your representative to bring this to light and help to uncover these issues of immigration from its silence!

Dr. Dyanne Rodriguez, RN, is a 2022 Brain Health Equity Fellow and her work as a public health nurse leader includes a focus on education, healthcare systems, health promotion and outreach. She earned her MPH from the University of Alaska Anchorage and DNP from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Rodriguez is an active community member and Massachusetts resident.

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