My Marriage to an Illegal Immigrant (Part 3) – by Terry Howard

For native born U.S. citizens life is full of challenges. But, as “Nadia” shared during my interview, life for those in mixed status marriages like hers has even more difficult challenges. She shared a few:

ME: Tell me about some of the biggest challenges children in mixed-status homes face.
NADIA: The impact on children is the most heart wrenching. Immigration raids and police checkpoints targeting undocumented immigrants in their homes and communities, or having to visit a parent in a detention center all can be psychological damaging. One of the most difficult issues in our life is that occasionally a friend or family member will be arrested and deported. It’s very difficult to explain to children that uncle-so-and-so was not a bad person, he wasn’t a criminal and yet he is in jail. The idea of immigration laws are very abstract to children.

ME: You hinted earlier that driving a car poses unique challenges. Tell me more.
NADIA: Undocumented immigrants in most states are not allowed to get driver’s licenses. Also, four arrests for driving without a license in a five-year period will get a person a felony conviction. Because of all of this my husband is unable to drive. Thus, I drive everywhere. I take him to and from work at both of his jobs, do all the grocery shopping, take the kids to the doctor and drive myself to work too.

ME: Speaking of work, I imagine that your husband’s illegal status impacted that as well.
NADIA: Absolutely. He’s completely at the mercy of his employers who are aware that he is an undocumented worker. He doesn’t get raises and is in a very poor bargaining position when it comes to his treatment at work. He has to take what he can get. Our financial security is completely dependent on these insecure situations. Our state passed a law a few years ago that every employer who hires new employees is required to use an electronic verification system that tells employers whether the applicant is legally authorized to work in the U.S.
ME: Would furthering his education have helped?
NADIA: When my husband and I started dating he was enrolled at a local community college. Shortly after we got married, the governor of our state signed an executive order forbidding any school that received state money from providing any sort of educational services to undocumented immigrants. The teacher was required to ask for immigration paperwork from all students, so my husband simply stopped going to class in order to avoid the embarrassment.
ME: Clearly you live in a household with incredible challenges. What do you do to avoid additional headaches?
NADIA: We don’t do things that may get us arrested like drive without a license, drink and drive, carry weapons or illegal drugs, and don’t associate with people who do these things. Also, we consciously pay our taxes and don’t commit tax fraud. Any of this is just not worth the risk.

ME: Hearing your story has been enlightening. Any parting thoughts?
NADIA: This might sound like a confessional, but for the past several years I feel like I’ve been living a double life. At work I’m an American. I do all of the regular things that Americans do. When it comes to social situations however, I am overcome with stress and anxiety. I have lived for all of these years absolutely terrified that everyone will “find out” that my husband is undocumented. I have to make excuses and sometimes even lie to my friends about why we can’t do something or go somewhere, why my husband can’t drive, or any number of things. I am afraid about what people will think about me. So instead of facing these challenges head-on, I hide. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

ME: Sorry but I’m now at a loss for words.
NADIA: Hey, I just appreciate your willingness to share my story.



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