Jessica: My skin color shielded me from suspicion, but I still lived in fear

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Jessica: My skin color shielded me from suspicion, but I still lived in fear

As a white, college-educated Canadian citizen with no criminal record or bars to immigration, I thought that getting a green card to come and live with my American husband in San Francisco would be relatively easy. As a law student, I had even been hired to do research …

As a white, college-educated Canadian citizen with no criminal record or bars to immigration, I thought that getting a green card to come and live with my American husband in San Francisco would be relatively easy. As a law student, I had even been hired to do research and produce website content on the legal issues involved in bringing a foreign spouse to Canada by an immigrant advocacy group there.

I was utterly unprepared for the mind-blowing incompetency and confrontational attitude of every single person I spoke to at USCIS. I was shocked when the person I spoke to could not tell me whether a USD money order drawn from my Canadian bank was suitable for payment of my first round of fees. I was given bad legal advice by one obviously over-worked legal aid organization and mislead by a well-meaning but out-of-date lawyer friend.

After nine months, having given up my job and apartment, living apart from my husband in my dad's house, I was at the end of my rope. I came to the US illegally and lived as an undocumented immigrant for two and a half years. Luckily, my skin color and the fact that I speak English without an obvious accent shielded me from suspicion, but I still lived in fear. People, assuming I was American, would say incredibly hateful, ignorant, and racist things to my face about "illegals," and I, scared they would report me if I spoke up, kept my mouth shut.

I am very lucky that after two and a half years, my mother was able to lend me the money to hire an immigration attorney (which itself was more challenging than it should have been). I finally received my green card in March of this year, and I am ecstatic that I can finally speak up about my experience.

I feel that putting a real face on the "illegal immigration problem" is extremely important.

 

from Jessica
submitted to Define American on July 6, 2011 at 16:47

We hope to share more stories that "define American" and beg critical questions about the state of immigration in our country. Submit your story here. Names are changed to maintain anonymity.

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