Thursday, 19 April 2012
This post was submitted anonymously.
As physics dictate, the questions surface eventually: Oh, you have a boyfriend? Does he go to school here? No? What school does he go to? Oh, he's working instead? Doing what? As a waiter? In a Mexican restaurant?From that point, it's zero to full-on fascination in two seconds flat. More decorous individuals usually don't press for additional information, but some inquisitors tack on the final query: "Is he... you know... illegal?"
I resist the temptation to qualify their statement ("He, as an individual, is not illegal, but no, he doesn't have permission to be in the U.S."). I just say, "Yes." Cue the wide-open stares. From that point on, whenever undocumented workers come up in class, in social discussion, in the news, the looks begin.
I get that illegal immigrants have been a hot button topic for a long time, a topic that has grown exponentially since the recession and inflamed passions around the world. So I understand the reactions that come my way... with an estimated 13 million illegal immigrants in the United States, I'm far from the only one who receives them.
But yes, I'm dating an illegal immigrant. No, I will not lie about it. I'm not ashamed by it. I'm not ignorant about the ramifications of his status on our relationship or the treacherous legal hurdles that face our future. We have deftly researched our options and we have broken them down to the few essential friends and family that need to know.My boyfriend, J, attempted to cross the border two times--both when he was a minor--before he succeeded on his third attempt three years ago, at the age of eighteen. Of course, each time was as dramatically awful as they always are. Nearly dead of dehydration in the desert, seeing the bodies of less healthy men, women, and children who had succumbed to thirst, betrayed by family when immigration officers caught up to them, beaten by the less noble of those officers, J still undertook the same risk two more times.
These are facts, not a political viewpoint or an attempt to garner sympathy. His parents were in debt because of a failed bank and lived off of a meager income from owning a small store. His younger siblings could not afford the uniforms necessary to attend school. Amidst this reality, he and his older brother headed north to work fifteen hours a day, six days a week.
There are thousands and millions of stories like J's. That's not really what this post is about. This post is about a relationship--our relationship. Yes, J is illegal, and yes, that means he cannot drive to see me at school, much less fly to visit me when I'm abroad.
He hasn't seen his parents in three years, and his little brother and little sister are growing up without him. His older sister has children that he has never met. His good friends are getting married and having babies and he isn't there. So yes, it's a big deal.
Being undocumented, however, is not what defines him. And it's not what defines us.
I'm applying to PhD programs around the country, with his full-blast support. I'm going abroad again for five months; he knows it's what I want to do (he tells himself it's for six months, so it'll seem like I've come home early). I tell him about the fellowships I want and the professors I have and my future career plans and dreams.
He's recently sent enough money back home to build three small stores which his parents can rent out, giving them additional income. The construction of a small block of apartments will go underway in the spring. We've been together for almost two years.
He's ambitious, driven, hilarious, and supportive. We fight. We're not engaged. His e-girlfriends make me uncomfortable. We talk about the future. And yeah, he's illegal, so the future is scary. But you know what? It's our future.
Have you, or anyone you know, ever dated an illegal immigrant? What happened? How did people react? Is it possible to focus on your relationship without letting outside opinions affect you?