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The Invisible Wall

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 (Photo Credit: Amanda Font/KQED)

President Trump has yet to get funding for his wall on the southern border, but for Liza Raynal, her family and many like them, a kind of invisible wall between them and legal status may be even harder to overcome.

My husband and I met and fell in love in his native Trinidad. At an outdoor concert, backlit by lights, his curls were a halo. I was introduced, shook his hand, and thought, ”What just happened?” In 2013, we tied the knot at San Francisco’s City Hall. Proud of progress, we wanted to celebrate where same-sex friends had done the same.

I figured we send the marriage license, his US passport comes in the mail. But a full year has passed since he was eligible for citizenship yet he cannot apply because he’s still waiting for permanent residency. As a white woman, much was invisible to me before I loved and lived with a black man. Now, I’m learning there are worlds invisible to me as a citizen, too.

In November, a letter came from Immigration. Instead of a green card, it was a “Request for Evidence” that ours is a “good faith marriage,” that we are not defrauding the government. Financial documents, photos, affidavits from friends were already submitted. Twice. My husband has lived here for legally for more than 15 years on multiple visas. Maybe because we had a civil ceremony? Because I didn’t change my last name? Because he’s brown skinned and dreadlocked, they red-flagged our file? Home in our pj’s like married people, we asked: How else do we prove this is our life?

Applying for a green card means entering a Kafka novel peppered with Lewis Carroll characters. It makes us nostalgic for the DMV. Yet in all but my darkest moments, I believe we will get his papers. We don't live with the fear of Dreamers, mixed-status families, refugees. I am afraid, however, that since this administration can’t erect the wall, they are building an invisible one instead. Debate about the border is public. In our story, private paperwork hangs us in limbo. Letters of delay say our love requires more proof.


I imagine my great-grandparents whispered encouragements. They understood what it took to become American. And now, so do I.

With a Perspective, I’m Liza Raynal.

Liza Raynal is an independent school administrator on the peninsula. She and her husband just celebrated their 4th anniversary.

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