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The Long Wait
Anat Shenker-Osorio explores one way U.S. immigration law punishes even those who play by the rules.

By Anat Shenker-Osorio

I'm not good at waiting. If I could, I'd have this recognized an official ADA condition and get special license plates and an intimidating helper animal to propel me to the front of all lines. The other day, I was complaining about this to Andres -- the busboy at the local cafe my family frequents, a man so friendly my preschooler calls him "el amigo." My husband and kid were away in Honduras, visiting family, and I was doing my least favorite thing: waiting. Their over two week absence felt, to impatient me, an eternity.

Andres knows about waiting. He was counting down the days to the arrival of his three children from Guatemala. "How long has it been since you've seen them?" I asked, happy to have a reason to leave the land of indulgent self-pity. "Six years," he responded.

Andres and his wife are here legally through a complex and opaque designation called Temporary Protected Status. As green card-holding residents, hard working, tax paying members of our community, they petitioned for visas for their children. A right residents have under our laws. But one it takes years, in this case half a dozen of them, to see realized.

My husband and son had a layover in San Salvador, a hub for travelers from across the region, and boarded a plane bound for SFO. Seated ahead of them, three unaccompanied minors traveling for the first time. The next time we saw Andres he said he'd seen us at the airport. Those were his kids seated in the very same plane one row ahead of my family -- all coming home to be reunited, to become whole.

We ask our residents, our neighbors, to follow our rules and immigrate here according to our regulations. And it takes, in most cases, a wait most of us would deem unacceptable. If I had a hard time waiting two weeks to see my son, how do we expect other mothers to wait six years to see theirs? Is it any wonder people are getting out of line and bringing their families together on their own timelines?

With a Perspective, this is Anat Shenker-Osorio.

 

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