Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Great Immigration Post

Great as in volume, certainly not in excellence.

I'm not going to share every detail of our immigration journey because, to be honest, it's personal and long. 

A little while ago we received some discouraging news. It turns out that on our immigration journey, we missed a court date. We didn't know about it, otherwise we would have gone - obviously. But because we missed the court date, my husband now has a 5 year ban, no waiver, before he can enter the country again. The ban was triggered when we left the country. As my friends and family know, our tentative plan was to return to the States in two more years after moving down here to care for my extremely sick mother-in-law. Since we've already been in Brazil for 6 months, that means we are forced to stay here for another 4 1/2 years or return without my husband and the little expats' father. Splitting up the family is not an option. I won't do that to our marriage or to my kids. 

We could file a motion to reopen the case and repeal the ban and we would almost certainly win. But the Catch-22 is that the courts are so backed up, that by the time the ban is repealed, we would be close to the end of the 5 years. It would also cost us a minimum of $3,500 in lawyer's fees. No thanks.

I had a nice, long cry when I got the news. Because the system isn't fair, but even more so because I know the system isn't fair and I should have expected something like this. My husband has never been in any criminal trouble (or any trouble) and was an outstanding resident while in the US. He voluntarily built houses for low income families, was (is still) annoyingly helpful to anyone who needs assistance, regularly bought meals for the homeless he encountered, and taught himself English. I could go on and on about how he's exactly the type of immigrant you'd want in the States. But it really doesn't matter. Because the United States has a broken immigration system that doesn't care about families or its own citizens. Whatever your political affiliation, if you understand how immigration works, you understand that it's broken. We have children being deported to countries they don't know and families being torn apart.

On the positive side: our house is almost sold and we have no debt. We have no mortgage or rent payment here and our car and motorcycle were purchased in cash. All we have to do is basically survive for the next 4 1/2 years. (Unfortunately jobs and money are not easy to come by in Brazil and we didn't plan to be here that long so... we're definitely stressing out about money). The kids love it here and they'll still be young when we move back to the States. And to be honest, I don't mind living in Brazil. I love that the kids are getting a world experience and my and Maicon's Portuguese has improved considerably. There are a lot of things about Brazil and Brazilians that make me crazy, but there's a lot about this place and its people that I love

We're a perfect example of how a technicality within the system hurts immigrants and their families. I'm not exaggerating any details - my husband can not reenter the country for 5 years because he missed a court date. (That he didn't know about). You can look online and find family after family in the same situation. Missed court date for one reason or another. A date translated incorrectly, a notice never received, whatever, it doesn't matter to "the system." My disappointment and anger towards the lawmakers that refuse to touch immigration policy like it's a poisoned apple is too immense to describe in a single blog post. So my family will live in Brazil for another 4 1/2 years. And we'll have a cultural experience that many others can only dream of. But even when we return, I won't be able to forget that there are still hundreds, thousands, of families fighting to be together and a system that's abandoned them.


  1. I'm sorry that's happening cuz :(

  2. This leaves such a sour taste in my mouth. I sympathize with you. My problem is with the Brazilian system though. After a shitload of papers I have been refused the Brazilian driver's license (I only need to exchange it). So now I'm driving with no papers, the Canadian license is about to expire and it's starting to stress me out.... I will probably write a post about it at one point, but right now I'm still too pissed about it.

    1. Oh boy. I just ran out of the 6 months to use my foreign driver's license with passport stamp. So, I'm also driving with no papers! Thankfully I'm pretty confident that both of us drive better than 99% of the rest of the drivers here. My husband was just refused an exchange for his US -> Brazilian license, so I don't have great confidence about exchanging mine. (Which involves a 5 hour trip to Belo Horizonte for us). ALSO, I just picked up my foreigner ID card yesterday... which had my maiden name on it. So now I have to return with two more photos and a copy of my marriage certificate so I can wait two more months for them to issue me the correct one. On the plus side, after six months, my husband and kids have all of their documents! (And that's the last one I'm waiting for).

      Is returning to Canada to renew your license an option? Mine doesn't expire until Dec 2017 and I plan on being home around that time and renewing it during the trip. (I have a virtual license with my bank account which will allow me to renew it with my old address. It will work, but that's a bit of a grey area in terms of legality).

  3. I did all the paperwork for the exchange in SP when I was visiting my in-laws in November. We used their address and thought it would be all easier in SP because they have more experience with foreigners (so we thought). Plus my MIL is a sworn French translator, so that was one less thing to run around for... But when my father-in-law went to pick up my document, he was told that I had too many different names on my documents (some have my maiden name, some have a combination of both my maiden and married name). Apparently the marriage certificate is not a proof that I'm the same person? (WTF?). Anyway, I was asked to show my Canadian passport which is expired and which would prove NOTHING since I entered the country with my French passport, and I already showed that document... It doesn't make any sense. We are going to try to do the exchange again here in GO, at least we will be able to argue in person if they give me shit again. And no, returning to Canada is not an option. We don't have any address there anymore.