Last Christmas, I had to look into the eyes of my son, Logan, and tell him, for the second year in a row, his daddy would not be coming home. You would think that would have made me hate God. For me, it is how I began my relationship with God.
My husband, Pedro and I met at a bus stop in 2000. He covered his watch with his coat sleeve and asked me the time in English. I answered him in Spanish. It was love at first sight. We were together 4 years before we got married in 2004. In 2006, our son, Logan, was born. He completely changed our lives by bringing us closer, making us stronger and more confident. We loved spending time together as a family hiking in the woods, camping at the beach, and going for walks together.
We were a loving and close family but we never attended church. When religion came up, I told Pedro there were days I thought God might exist and there were days I didn’t. I believed that religion did so many bad things in history such as destroying cultures, killing people in the name of God and judging them. Pedro started to agree.
In 2009, when my husband was handcuffed by immigration officers in front of our house, our world fell apart. At first, I was naïve and believed they would release him quickly. After all, he was married to a US born citizen and we had a US born child together. We took the 9 ½ hour trek and visited him in Stewart Detention Center, where we could only see him behind glass. Seeing him there, being treated like an animal was heart wrenching. Even more painful was 3 year old Logan trying to interact with his daddy with a barrier between them, kissing and putting his hand on the glass in attempts to have physical contact. After he was detained for a few months, I realized he was not getting out any time soon.
The nightmare felt endless. My energy was spent. I was crying myself to sleep and I began to drink to numb the pain. The alcohol didn’t make things easier. I was emotionally and financially supporting Pedro, raising Logan on my own, taking care of two dogs and trying to keep up two full time jobs: one as a mental health therapist and fighting to get immigration to release my husband. Nothing I did was winning freedom for my husband.
I began to realize I needed something more and I began to ponder how other people survive horrific times in their lives: faith. One day at work, I asked a friend where she attended church. She invited me and I went. At first, I felt some culture shock and mostly disbelief but the music was wonderful and the people were friendly. I began to listen to music about God and have conversations with my friend but the change happened in church, singing, “I believe you’re my healer. I believe you are all I need. Nothing is impossible for you. You hold my world in your hands.” My tears began to fall. I felt peace wash over me.
How could I feel peace in such chaos? It was then that I began to learn more and more about God and meet people in and outside of church that did their best to actually live as Jesus wants; “love your neighbor as thyself” and “love the Lord your God with all your soul” (Matthew 22.34-40). I began to realize if people actually lived those words, immigrants would not be treated with disrespect and disregard for their human rights. Instead they would be treated as neighbors, brothers and sisters.
It was with the strength of my new faith and support of my friends and family that I was able to continue the fight for my husband’s freedom for another year. My new mantra was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13. I began to speak out, do interviews with the media, create blogs, attend rallies, write letters, and start petitions. We had numerous court dates, thousands of signatures on our petition, we won two appeals and spent thousands of dollars on lawyers and travel. Most families that we met in similar situations gave up after a few months
On May 16, 2011, after 596 days of being detained Pedro finally got his day in court. That day the judge agreed that Pedro had good moral character, strong ties to US citizens and the community and granted Pedro asylum. The next day he was released and we were reunited. Our family embraced for the first time in a year and a half. We then knelt down and prayed
Almost 7 months later, as the Christmas season is upon us, I think of the two Christmases our family spent apart. This year after our miracle was granted, we are able to decorate our Christmas tree, praise God together, and appreciate every second we have. I look at our son and tear up when he says, “My favorite thing is to spend time with you and daddy.” As I have my family back together, I think of all the families that continue to be ripped apart, as more immigrants are deported than any other time in history.
The climate for immigrants only gets worse with SB1070 in Arizona, HB87 in Georgia, and HB56 in Alabama. I pray that people here in the United States begin to truly believe “when an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” -Leviticus 19.33-25
Here are some additional links to check out if you are interested in learning more:
Emily works as a licensed mental health therapist. Her husband, Pedro, was unjustly detained by immigration due to a paperwork error. Pedro is now a permanent resident. They live in Durham, North Carolina with their son Logan and their 3 dogs, Wilbur, Marley and Cisco. They are currently expecting a baby girl in March 2012. They continue to speak out about immigrant rights. For more information go to logansdad.org.
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