Friday, March 19, 2010

Immigration from Mexico to USA

By Lindsay Hale

Bemidji State University

This week here in Cuernavaca, we had the great opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers, one of them including Giselle Stern-Hernandez [1] who spoke of her struggle as a deportee’s wife. Her father is an Eastern European descendant living in New York and her Mother is a middle-class Mexican woman. Both parents had an income which left them cozy but not wealthy.In 1966 it was a snap to renew her mother’s visa and in 1990, she applied for U.S citizenship.Giselle had always considered herself an American but that image would slightly change when she met Roberto, an undocumented worker from Mexico.

As the relationship progressed and eventually resulted in marriage, Roberto and Giselle would face numerous struggles with immigration, deportation, and acceptance. Roberto and Giselle were married right before the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) 245 deadline was placed. Filing these papers did not come at an easy task.

United States Embassy in Mexico

In our visit to the United States Embassy in Mexico City, prices of visas and the time and effort that it takes never came up in any of the conversations we had with the representatives. To me it was perceived as an unanswerable question and was avoided.

Finally after struggle to get through all this they see an INS officer. Giselle handed him every piece of information she had: a marriage certificate, her passport, etc. and they were told that Roberto would not be able to enter the United States for 20 years. “Don’t these documents mean anything?” Giselle watched as her husband was led away in hand cuffs. She was sent home to pack a bag for Roberto, “what do you pack for your husband who is going to be deported, something funny that will make them laugh, or something serious to tell him that you love him?”

“The United States immigration does not work in the complicated areas.” What I took away from our visit to the U.S Embassy regarding immigration was that obtaining a visa was easy and anyone who applies and has the correct paperwork is able to receive a visa. However Giselle and Roberto (like many others) did not experience that in motion. So in reality, much of the information obtained in our visit to Mexico City is not reiterated from life experiences here.

Giselle with CGE-Mexico Director Anita right after monologue

Throughout the monologue that Giselle shared with our group, she generously shared her passion, grief, and anger that have proved to be challenging to her marriage and to fellow Latinos. She revealed points of racism and classism, power and positionality. It was shocking to be pulled in a story such as Giselle’s and be blindsided by reality. This does happen. Applying for a visa is very difficult and time consuming, unlike what the U.S Embassy described to us.

As an American, I feel guilty and angry for the way our government is handling their affairs. So I will leave with a final quote in the hopes that you will reflect on the reality of struggles that many immigrants face. “Who will be next; who in your life will be next; who in this room will be the next deportee’s wife?”

ALSO visit Giselle´s website and BLOG (find out MORE about her monologue!)

1] Giselle Stern-Hernandez, A Mexican-North American writer and performer of the monologue “The Deportee’s Wife;” Performance in Cuernavaca, Mexico on March 11, 2010.


  1. This is Leah from Augsburg and I dont understand how policy is this way when it comes to immigration. I also dont understand why the embassy you visited would make it seem a lot easier than it really is, considering the debates going on right now on the issue. Why it is so hard to come of from one direction more than it is from another is also an unanswered question that think a lot of us ask. Its not like he was dealing drugs or involved with some type of gang, he just wanted to live a life with his wife and start a family in a place where there are more opportunities. These policies and processes need to be seriously looked at.

  2. I know that this is not even close to what these people experience, but I think getting a visa to the States is way more complicated than it needs to be. I'm an exchange student here and the process of getting a student visa (which is only 4 months + 30 days) took a lot of time and money.

    You have to have lots of papers from the school you are going to, there is a lot of other papers you need to fill out and bills to be paid. This takes time and when it's finally done you need to go to the American Embassy in Oslo to answer a few questions. This means you have to travel all the way to Oslo, stay at the Embassy all day, answer the same questions you've answered 5 times on different applications and pay another fee. This "interview" takes less than 5 minutes.

    If you see this in a bigger perspective it is not a big deal. I can not imagine how it must feel for the couple you are talking about, and for everyone else who is trying to get in here.

    Just wanted to share my experience with the States and Visa process :)

  3. Hi there.

    I don't really understand the whole process of the states and visa, but it seems to me that the government are not telling us the whole process to make us to understand it more.

    The couple, I feel sad for both of them. Having to seperate for 20 years is a long time. I also agree with you Leah, on the whole thing about how he did not do anything wrong like sell drugs or was in a gang. He was just trying to live a life with his wife.

    Pang Khang

  4. Thanks for the postings on the experience of immigration and the rural homestays and preserving the indigenous resources of Mexico -- thanks also to the students in Minneapolis for thoughtful comments!

  5. I appreciated your blog post because it reminded me of a similar situation my bestfriend's family dealt with. My friends father was working in the United States with a visa for some years and dealt with the stuggles of trying to get his family across the boader for over 3 years. My friend was a baby at the time but her siblings, mother, and father remember the event which had lasted so long very clearly. Her father specifically said that "getting a visa was a JOKE!" He described it as a nightmare because he constantly would go back and fourth to and from Mexico.Paper work would get "lost," questions would go unanswered for months, etc. This family just wanted to live together in the United States where there are more opportunities. Its unfortunate the distress people must go through to live the life they desire.


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  7. It is really astonishing how much time, energy, and money is spent on deporting individuals who are not causing any undue trouble here in the states. This story is indicative of just that- an individual who just wants to live and work with his family, and cannot do so. It seems to go against our roots as a country, which is to be open and welcoming to those who wish to come here.

    -Alycia Dahlen