US immigration

The current United States government offers so many perplexities and outrages that it is difficult to react or reach out to policymakers about all of them. Or most of them. Even closely following a handful of issues can be daunting as legislation and DT’s mind often change markedly over the course of a few hours.

One of the most critical issues at the moment is immigration. DT has insisted since his campaign began that he would build a wall across our southern border and deport undocumented people. He also wanted to restrict Muslims from entering the country, even though that clearly violates the US Constitution and laws.

As president, he has succeeded in restricting visas from some majority Muslim nations and has been deporting some undocumented people who had been allowed previously to stay. In recent months, problems have intensified for people who were brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers. Then-President Barack Obama had signed an executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, protecting some of the Dreamers until Congress could pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Senate did so in 2013, but the House of Representatives failed to consider it, so DACA stayed in place until DT rescinded it in September 2017, calling on Congress to put a law in place to deal with the issue within six months. At the moment, there is the threat of a government shutdown because the budget still hasn’t passed and a replacement for DACA has been drawn into the negotiations.

It’s actually even more complicated than that, but I’ll spare you any more details.

The general upshot is that the current US immigration system is broken and has been for a long time. Some of the same people who rail against immigrants are exploiting immigrant labor, either undocumented people or those brought in as guest workers. For example, DT’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has for years used H-2B visas to bring in foreign workers, even though there are Floridians available to take those jobs.

Immigration issues are sometimes used as cover for discrimination, prejudice, and racist attitudes. The most blatant recent example is DT’s disparaging Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries while asking why we don’t have more immigrants from Norway, a country with less than 10% people of color.

The vast majority of United States citizens are either immigrants themselves or have forebears who were immigrants. Many of those people came here to escape poverty or oppression in their home countries, the same reasons many current immigrants come here. Others came here to join family members.

It is hypocritical for people in government to disparage current immigrants when people in their families followed the same pattern in settling here.

It is true that our immigration procedures are desperately in need of updating. Processing times are also very slow, partly due to outdated procedures and quotas.

As some readers may recall, my daughter E’s spouse is British. They met in grad school and married and now have a daughter. At the moment, E and the baby are living in the US with us; L had to return to the UK after his student visa expired. They hope that E will be able to get a spousal visa in the UK later this year. Despite the uncertainties caused by Brexit, it is much easier, faster, and cheaper for E to get a UK visa than for L to get a US green card. I’m sad to say that there are some in the US who might use L’s immigration status, even though it would be legal, as a covert means of racial discrimination.

It has been heartbreaking to see families being broken apart as parents are deported away from their citizen children or children leave the only country they know to go to a parent’s country of origin where they may not even speak or write the language.

Congress and the President have the power to show compassion, justice, and welcome to immigrants by instituting a new system with an earned path to citizenship, similar to the path their ancestors followed in setting here.

Enough of the name-calling and threatening and divisiveness.

It’s time to protect the Dreamers, those under temporary protected status, and all immigrants, regardless of current documentation status. As Emma Lazarus wrote in “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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changing constellations

It’s been a bit hard to keep track of who is in residence at our house.

Starting in mid-September with B out-of-town on business for two weeks, we have fluctuated between being a household of three, four, or five.

I was away at my MASS MoCA residency, about which there are many posts, and returned just in time for B to fly to Missouri to meet up with daughter T, whose job as a crew chief for a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants had concluded.

They drove back in T’s car and we had a week together before daughter E and granddaughter ABC embarked on ABC’s first trip to the UK to visit her daddy (our son-in-law L) and his family and friends, most of whom had not yet met ABC in person.

It’s pretty adorable to have a four-month-old with both US and British passports off on such a big adventure! E and L have been sending lots of pictures and videos to us, which we have been sharing with Nana and Paco. It keeps us all from missing E and ABC too much, although it is also a bit of a trial run for the big move sometime next year when E’s spousal visa is approved and she and ABC relocate to the UK.

I’ll think about that more later…

Meanwhile, we are waiting to be a household of five again, for most of November and into December, when we hope that L will be able to join us for Christmas.

At least, that is the plan, although T is job hunting and could need to leave the area again…

If there is one thing I have learned in recent years, it is that change is inevitable and often not under my control, so I will adjust as needs dictate.

From the current household of three,



SoCS: the birth of ABC

Things have been very busy here, so I wasn’t sure I would SoCS this week, but when I saw the prompt, I knew I had to join in.

Birth has been on my mind a lot this year. Our daughter E has been living with us this year. When she and her husband L left Honolulu last December, L’s graduate student visa expired, so he had to go back to the UK. It will take a while to qualify for a spousal visa for E, so she has been living here in New York State with us.

She and L were expecting their first child on July first or so. It was hard to be apart, but it meant that I got to help out with things like going for ultrasounds. L was allowed to have a 90-day visa for the birth. He arrived in mid-May in time to attend an all-day blitz childbirth class. At one point, they had thought that he should go back to the UK and return in mid-June for the 90-day stay, but they decided to just have him remain after the childbirth class.

This turned out to be a good move as their baby girl arrived on June 6, three and a half weeks before anticipated. I wrote about this emotional time here.

It was great to have E, L and Baby ABC here with us for those first two months. Now that L is back in the UK, they visit often by skype. We are looking forward to a visit from L in October and another in time for ABC’s first Christmas.

We are trying to savor every minute as we expect that E and ABC will re-locate to London early in 2018. It will be bittersweet as we want them to be together full-time as a family, but it will be so hard to have them so far away.

ABC already has two passports, though, so she is all set to travel! Of course, she will need to bring at least one parent along!
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “birth/berth.” Join us! Find out how here:


Visits and baptism

On Sunday, July 16, we celebrated ABC’s baptism.

We were blessed to have L’s mom visiting from the UK. I will call her Lola here, which is Tagalog for grandmother. She was here for a week and a half, during which we gave her as much cuddle time with ABC as possible. When all the necessary documents go through and E and ABC join L in the UK, they will be living with Lola and Lolo (grandfather), so the visit was the beginning of what will be years of cuddling and babysitting.

We were also excited to have daughter T home for a long weekend. Besides meeting her niece for the first time, T also became her baptismal sponsor. T’s own godmother served as a witness by proxy for L’s sister, who will be ABC’s British godmother.

Sorry for all the initials…

The baptism took place after Mass with the deacon, himself a grandfather several times over, presiding. ABC wore the same dress that Nana had bought sixty years ago for my older sister’s baptism, which was also worn by me, my younger sister, and both of my daughters. Here is a picture of all those who have worn this little dress.
baptism dress six

Paco was able to come down to church for the baptism, but Nana wasn’t well enough to join us. After the baptism, we convened at Nana and Paco’s apartment for a feast of Filipino food that L and Lola had prepared. Brent and I made pies for dessert. Everything was delicious!

We were very grateful that Lola got to meet Nana and Paco. It felt like they had known each other much longer than a few hours! I love this photo of Nana and Lola.
Nana and Lola

ABC is blessed to have many people praying for her. There was even a physical reminder of the support of E and L’s parish in Honolulu, where they were married and served in music ministry. The blanket Ada is napping on in this photo was made by a choir member there.
ABC in her baptism dress


More on refugees

I am very grateful for all the judges who have heard various cases on the administration immigration/refugee/travel ban. Their rulings have resulted in a stay on implementation, so refugees and visa holders are once again able to enter the United States, having already completed visa requirements, which, in the case of refugees, are extensive, taking 18 to 24 months to complete, after having gone through initial United Nations resettlement clearance.

I was heartened by our church service this morning. As it happens, our gospel readings in recent weeks have come from the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we heard the Beatitudes; this week, we heard about not hiding our light under a bushel, but letting it shine for all to see. The hymns, which were chosen weeks ago to accord with the readings, were striking about all finding “a rightful place.” Given the refugee crisis, I was especially glad to sing this text from “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell (published by OCP, 1993, 2011):

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Our regular pastor was ill, so a priest from another area parish came to say Mass. In his homily, he directly asked the President to look again at the refugee situation and told us that our bishop in Syracuse was also dedicating a Mass this morning in solidarity with refugees and exiles. There was a statement from the Bishop in our church bulletin, denouncing the executive order on refugees as un-Christian and un-American.

(Of course, if I were a deacon preaching today, I would have gone further into other encroachments on human rights that fly in the face of social justice, but that is a much too long and complicated story for a blog.)

I realize that we are in for more difficulties with DT’s executive orders and appointments and goals and plans, but the outpouring of people from all faiths, backgrounds, and parts of the country standing up for our Constitution and our moral and ethical values gives us strength to serve and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable.

Refugees definitely fall into the category of most vulnerable. The Syracuse diocese looks forward to welcoming the 220 refugees initially affected by the executive order as soon as new travel arrangements can be made. Other parts of the country are preparing to welcome thousands more.

We are living out the mission to which we are called by our country and by our convictions.

doomed to repeat history – or just doomed?

I haven’t been using most of the (optional) prompts that have been provided for Just Jot It January, but I will start off using today’s, which is history.

It begs the question, “Does DT know/understand any history?”

If he did, would he be spouting the slogan “America First” which has disturbing connotations from the World War II era?

Would he have signed an order to ban Syrian refugees on Holocaust Remembrance Day, inviting comparisons to the shameful and cruel turning away of Jewish refugees trying to flee Hitler?

Does he understand the separation of powers in the United States Constitution? In some instances at the airports, executive branch personnel refused to carry out the order of federal judges. There will be numerous lawsuits filed challenging the legality of the executive order. US immigration law prohibits discrimination due to national origin, which this executive order clearly violates.

It also disturbs me that DT reneged on the promises made to visa, refugee, and green card applicants. A local example: A staff member at my parents’ retirement community is a long-time US resident and green card holder. He planned to leave in a few days to visit family in Iraq. Now, he won’t be able to go. Even if he can get to the Consulate, which is several hours away, and is granted a waiver, he may be leery of leaving the country because the administration has already shown that they are not honoring his green card as equal to that of someone from France or China – or Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists originated.

I have written often about my fear of Trump, which I am trying to mobilize into energy to fight for social and environmental justice in the face of his threats and actions.  These last two days make it even more difficult to not be afraid. Does DT think that he is above the laws of the United States? Does he think he makes the laws? The legislative and judicial branches need to assert their independent authority, as our system is designed. Sadly, only a few Congressional Republicans have spoken out against the executive orders on immigration.

Again, people power has been a source of hope. Protesters appeared at the airports where travellers were being detained despite their having valid visas and passports. Lawyers skilled in civil rights, Constitutional law, and immigration law rushed to help the affected people and filed emergency suits to keep them from being deported.

And this is only the second week of the administration.

I feel like a firefighter who is being summoned to multiple locations at the same time.

So much work to be done. So many people to try to protect.

Not knowing whence the next alarm comes.
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Retro with a twist

I posted this New Year’s Eve poem which is about an empty nest celebration, but that is not what our New Year is in 2017.

Rather, we are starting 2017 with spouse B, daughters E and T, and me all living under the same roof.

Which I never expected to have happen again.

It’s a wonderful – but most likely short-lived – opportunity.

And, like the entirety of 2016, it’s complicated.

I have been making vague references about re-organizing the house and about Christmas being quiet and such, but now I am at liberty to fill in some of the background story.

E and her spouse L have been living in Hawai’i and, this fall, they announced the exciting and happy news that they are expecting their first child! Baby will be the first grandchild for us, the first great-grandchild for my parents Nana and Paco, and the first grandchild for L’s parents who live in London, England.

E and L wanted to live closer to family for the birth of their child and, while Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful locations on earth, it is also one of the most remote. The problem arose, though, that E is a US citizen and L is a UK citizen who had been living in the US on a higher education visa. Leaving Hawai’i meant leaving the University, so his visa expired at the end of the year.

E and L also decided that they would raise their child in the country with the most supportive social and family policies, which is definitely the UK. So, L flew out New Year’s Eve to join his family in London. He will continue to apply for jobs; after six months of work, he can apply for a visa for E to join him.

Meanwhile, E will live with us, work remotely for her employer in Honolulu, and get ready for Baby’s arrival, sometime around July first. Obviously, it is not optimal for them to be separated during E’s pregnancy, but she will be able to visit a couple of times during her second trimester and L plans to apply for a spousal visitation visa to be here for Baby’s birth and early weeks.

In case you haven’t gotten the subtext, it is really, really difficult to observe all the immigration rules of the two countries, but E and L want to make sure not to break any laws to preserve their future rights to live and work in both countries. Baby will be a dual citizen.

So, to prepare for E’s staying with us for these next months, we have spent the last few weeks in major household re-organization. The most important change was for B and me to move to one of the upstairs bedrooms so that E could be on the ground floor and not have to navigate the relatively steep and narrow stairs while pregnant and while carrying Baby. The re-organization also gave the impetus to incorporate some of the furniture that had been Grandma’s into our home. An attic and basement insulation project gave us some additional storage capabilities and we also made some donations to area charities.

This all took many, many hours, so that is part of why my writing time has been curtailed lately. (Given my track record, I will refrain from any promises about posting more; the one constant in my life is surprises!)

So, E and L arrived the day after Christmas. We had a few days of family visiting. E and L were able to meet the local obstetrician who will be caring for E. And, on New Year’s Eve, L flew off to London.

At seven o’clock Eastern Standard Time, B, E, T, and I celebrated the arrival of 2017 at midnight GMT with a sparkling Niagara grape juice toast in our once-again family-of-four living room.

It won’t last long. When a job offer comes in, T will move to wherever she needs to be. In early summer, L will arrive and, on some currently unknowable day, Baby will arrive.

And, when her visa comes through, E and Baby will move to the UK.

Next New Year’s Eve is likely to be back to empty nest.

All the more reason to cherish the moment now.
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! You can find out more here: . Prompts are provided but are entirely optional. And any post of any length on any January day is eligible. Hope you’ll jump in and have fun with us!