Quique (pronounced Key-Kay) was eight the first time I met him. I didn’t know, until recently, that he had walked across the desert for five or six days just a few months before to enter the US. (Can you imagine walking days in the heat with three kids?) I asked if he remembered the journey. He nodded, because he doesn’t talk much until you hang out for a long while. At eight, he lived in a small camper with his family: mother, father, sister, brother and himself, a quarter mile or so from us. (I cannot say I have had much conversation with his family because of the language barrier, but also because they are very unassuming. They don’t ask for anything. They have shared vegetables from their garden before and I have taken small pints of raspberries from my raspberry bushes to share, but that is the extent of our relationship.) A few years later, Quique and his family moved 15 miles away, and we didn’t see him again.
(I also didn’t realize he didn’t understand anything I was saying to him all those years ago, he would just laugh at us and go along with whatever we were doing. So my attempts to manage our little visitor when we took him to church were not usually successful.)
Fast forward a few years. New neighbors moved in to the trailer that adjoins our yard, essentially living in our backyard. I noticed a teenage boy in a black hoodie waiting for the bus every morning when I left for work. It took a few weeks (maybe months) for me to realize that he was little Quique, all grown up, and now going by Rick (name changed to protect identity). I was excited to see him again, and we began to converse in the yard occasionally. He started going to church with us again and becoming one of ‘my kids’. Not long after Rick moved back, my son turned 16. As we were going through the “learning to drive” process (aka my kid is going to wreck my car and kill us both process), I asked Rick if he was going to get his license. In his hesitant way, he explained that he couldn’t. If you’re an illegal, you have to purchase a fake driver’s license and fake documents to work, social security cards etc. This made me so sad. This boy, with high grades in school, who would help my grandparents plant flowers, who would keep me company as I worked in the yard, his future was stunted by his birth in a place he can hardly remember living. I spent quite a bit of time in prayer over this. One night, I awoke in the middle of the night with the thought Your brother in law is an immigration attorney… How I failed to remember this, I don’t know, but the next day brought on a new journey that I never knew I would take. The task: Get Rick a License!
I don’t remember the conversation with Daniel, but somehow I learned of DACA for the first time. I learned that was the only way for Rick to get a legal status to be here (unless he wanted to get married), to drive, to work, to not have to worry that he could be deported for trying to live a normal American life. He didn’t ask for help. He and his family didn’t receive any form of government assistance. His father worked in a mill and a second job as a farm hand to support their family of five. He wasn’t looking for handouts. He wasn’t looking for a hand up. He was looking to do what God has designed every man to do: work. I realize the thought that work is to be avoided has permeated our society. However, Solomon would disagree with the notion that work is to be avoided. Check out some proverbs about it.
So DACA… It isn’t easy to qualify for DACA. We had to provide proof that he was in the US before age 16. School records helped a lot (thank you Mrs. Baird for your assistance in this), but we had to produce bills, phone records etc. from 10 years earlier. I don’t know if you know this, but when you don’t have a social security number or credit cards, and you don’t read English (so you can’t write checks if you have a checking account) you pay cash, FOR EVERYTHING. You don’t have a plan at AT&T, you buy minutes at Walmart. When you’ve moved around, you don’t have random stacks of old bills just laying around. We had to get a copy of his birth certificate from his grandma, in Mexico. Then we had to translate the birth certificate. Thankfully, a friend at church was willing to do this for us. (I don’t understand this. It’s not like there aren’t people at homeland security who can read Spanish, but I don’t make the rules!). He had to send in a photo ID. I mentioned that you can’t get one of those without legal proof that you can be here, right?!? I think we may have ended up sending in a school ID. After we gathered the correct documentation, passport photos, a urine sample, hair DNA testing (I may be exaggerating on the last two), we mailed it all in with the proper forms and a $400+ money order. Then we waited. I don’t remember how long it was but, later we got notice that we screwed something up and had to send in more documentation. Finally, Rick got a letter that he had to go to Nashville on a set date two weeks in the future. I was scheduled to work that day. I tried to call to change the appointment, but there was no number on the letter, no email address. We could send a letter to Washington DC requesting a change of appointment, but if we failed to appear at the appointed time it could make things more difficult in the future. I changed my work schedule, and we made the two hour trek to Nashville. When we arrived, there was a sign on the door announcing no phones, electronic devices or purses were allowed inside. We had to go through security (the security officer was nice enough). When we got there for the finger printing, we were told we needed a transcript from the school proving he was a high school student. I asked for a fax number or email address where they could send the documentation. We found out they don’t share such information, nor do they tell you their names. Remember, I couldn’t bring my iPhone or my iPad in to show an email of the documents. I don’t remember how we solved that problem, but it worked out. Finally, after months of work and waiting, the ID showed up in the mail.
The further we got into the process , the more I realized he couldn’t do this without me. We live in rural Kentucky. He doesn’t have the transportation to Nashville. He wouldn’t have known how to get the documentation. His family couldn’t have communicated well enough to help him. I never realized how oppressed many immigrants in our nation are, not because someone is trying to keep them down, but because of language barriers, because of laws and practices that those of us born here just don’t know and have little reason to think about or understand. Because we don’t know or understand, we don’t do anything to change them. Reading through Facebook, we spend a good deal of thought (or at least opinions) judging immigrants for not doing what we do or not “getting in line” to enter the country. What we don’t understand is that there isn’t a line, and if there were, most couldn’t afford to be in it. We have NO concept of the life they are leaving when they risk their lives to come here.
I remember visiting Cancun with my mom when I was 19. We rented a car for a day and got a little turned around. We ended up in a neighborhood that tourists aren’t supposed to see. I vividly remember seeing a man riding a bicycle with his family on it with him, his wife and three kids! The homes were mostly made of tin sheets leaned together. I had never seen anything like it before. The part of Mexico Rick is from is notorious for its drug lords. I think that is why his sister is so scared of being deported. What would she have to do to survive in such a place?
Writing this blog has me thinking a great deal of my immigrant heritage. Today, I visited my grandparents to ask questions about immigration. I wish (I could figure out how to add that audio here!) My paternal great grandmother, Martha, immigrated from Germany in 1888. I asked my grandfather what he knew about that. His grandparents had family who had migrated to Iowa and they decided to join them. Before Martha was two, her family went to the river bank in Germany to find a boat to take them to America. The family had to wait a time (I assume camping) until space was available for the clan. They came through Ellis Island and went through the process of becoming Americans. Apparently, at that time, the government was giving away land; if you worked the land for a certain period of time, they gave it to you.
My grandmother’s great grandmother came over from Germany with six children. Her husband died the day they embarked in New Orleans. She and her brood traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and joined a group of Lutheran Germans with an orphanage. She put four of the children in an orphanage while she worked as a domestic until she was able to marry and old widower. She then retrieved her children from the orphanage. She had another child after marrying him, and that was her grandmother, Lizzie. I’m attaching my Grandmother’s writing to her daughter on the subject.
Back to Rick
So you ask… Did he get his license? Well, I took both boys to take their permit test the same day. In Kentucky, you don’t just have to have proof of who you are, you also have to have a social security card to get a license. We had been told we didn’t have to have a social security card with the ID card he had, but apparently we were told incorrectly. So, that started a new journey… getting a social security number. That, my friends, is a pain in the a❤️❤️! I won’t bore you with the details, but because he has a social security number, he can work, he can pay taxes, he can pay for health and dental and vision insurance for himself. He would like to go to school, but that is going to require a little more saving and taking the actual driver test (He has his permit and is a good driver. He can even parallel park.) so he can drive to class, and purchasing a car. I don’t know if you can tell, I am especially proud of my friend, and the way he has faced difficulties without any resentment. He has persevered with great gratitude and great attitude.
Though Rick is reserved, he’s quick witted, with a goofy joke always ready. He asks deep questions in a quiet unassuming way. His calm demeanor and gentle smile is a nice change from the loud banter that accompanies my brood at Sunday afternoon lunch. I know as he continues into manhood I will see him less and less.
His family no longer walks through my yard to go fishing at the local pond. Rick has since moved from my back yard. The owner of the trailer his family resided in passed away and it will soon be torn down (its over forty years old and falling apart more with every rain storm). They are living in a nicer home now, I hear, and with Rick working, a lot of pressure has been taken off of his family. He is a saver. He has a good bit of money saved to pay cash for his first car (some good habits – like not having debt- can come out of hardship). He goes to work every morning between four and six with his dad, and gets off in the evenings between three and five.
Regardless of your opinion on immigrants, here is the truth. We have a group of people who have lived here most all of their lives. Many, like Rick, are bilingual, but significantly more fluent in reading English than their native language because that is what they were taught in school. They are a significant, important part of our society. For a time, many have had legal status to work and behave in American society as a contributor. DACA is being receinded. It is in Congress’s hands to decide the fate of these young adults. My hope and prayer is that they will make a path to create a more perminant legal status for people who have been trained by our schools and cultures to be Americans. My hope and prayer is that they will create a path to citizenship for those who would like to be a part of our nation. My wish, is that we had as extensive of a vetting system for those of us born here, and that there was a place to deport some of them! (You think I’m joking, I’m not.)
There’s a part of me that wants to tell Rick to spend the next six months continuing to save. Then to pay a woman to marry him. He would make a great husband. He is kind, and funny, and never harsh. He works and cares well for his family. The problem is, we believe in God’s design for marriage: one man, one woman, no divorce. Fortunately, God loves Rick and his family. He will never forsake him. God has greater plans for Rick’s life than either of us can imagine, just like he does for all of my kids. So, I can only encourage him as I do all the others. Obey God, and get ready to be blown away by his goodness and providence.
Please, contact your legislators and encourage them to make a path for these people who trusted our government, trusted DACA. These people are vetted, they must renew every two years to the cost of over $400, background checks, finger printing and (for us) another trip to Nashville. This isn’t a free loader program. It’s also not a permanent solution, and we need one that benefits both our economy and these people stuck in a situation they neither created nor can control.