Those who know me best know that I've had an interest in the United States' immigration policy for some time now. I've worked with immigrants -- of all shades of the "legal" spectrum -- as an English teacher back in Chicago. I spent nine very painful months writing my MA thesis on immigration. Since I've been in Mexico, I've heard stories from dozens of brilliant people who, for lack of other options, came to the United States without the proper papers and were unceremoniously deported. Artists. Doctors. Lawyers. Students. So I continue to follow the headlines on US immigration policy with hopes that someday, maybe in the not-so-distant future, my country's government will be able to work out a way for folks who want to come to the United States to make an honest living will be able to do so without having to put their lives on the line to cross the border "illegally."
But I digress.
Knowing how difficult and even unfair the United States' immigration system can be for many people, I feel a bit unjustified in blogging about my recent problems with the Mexican migra. But the last couple of days -- actually, every day since I've arrived at my new home here in Oaxaca -- have been a big lesson for me in what a headache the process can be, even on the other side of the border.
To make a very long story short, I don't have the proper papers to begin work at my new job in my new state. I have to wait for papers to come from my old state. And until I get the papers, I have to sit and wait. I can't begin work. I can't make money. I can't really do anything. And I have to keep going back and forth to Oaxaca City -- the state capitol and home of the immigration office -- until I get my 'em. It's a six-hour round trip to the city, one that involves sitting in the back of a suburban as it winds through mountain roads. Carsick, anyone?
I fully recognize that this is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to what many of my Mexican counterparts must go through to be able to work in the United States. They'd most likely happily trade a bit of carsickness for what is often their only option, which involves paying coyotes obscene amounts of money to lead them across the border, into the desert, where some either starve or freeze to death. And while I'm allowed to wait here in Mexico -- with a place to stay, money to buy food, even access to internet -- for my papers to come through, many of my Mexican counterparts would have already been deported.
I know that I'll eventually get my visa if I wait long enough. The reverse isn't always the case.
In essence, I'm getting the royal treatment. I fully recognize this. So I'll sit here and wait as patiently as I can until my papers come through. And I'll be happy about it. I'm learning a valuable lesson. The best medicine doesn't always taste good.