A few nights ago, I was having dessert with one of my childhood friends, just catching up with one another. As most of our conversations go, we begin and end with debates and arguments. One of our arguments was on the word “injustice.” He doesn’t like it. I do. Why? Because I experience it all the time.
We usually do not like words because they lack meaning. Not that they lack a definition in the Oxford’s Dictionary, but because they lack emotions and experiences attached to it. A word means something entirely different from person to person. That is what I have discovered. The word “injustice” is the few words I have to describe the circumstances that I live under. I know that there are greater injustices in this world, and I know it has greater meanings, too. But my injustice is real and necessary to me. It means true to me.
I have read, watched, and heard of many stories dealing with the faultiness in the justice system, in the government. I seen innocent people judged guilty, I have seen families torn apart because of laws, and I have seen boundaries put on those who live in the “land of the free.” I fall in the last category, or so I believe.
After fourteen years living in America the Beautiful, I cannot work. Work is a liberty that I wish I had and see so many take for granted. I cannot work not because of ailments, handicaps, or lack of qualifications. I cannot work because of status. No, not financial status or social status, but legal status. I came to the U.S. with a H-4 Visa. Meaning, I am dependent on my father who has a H-1 Visa. He is the only one able to work in our family.
We have come to the United States for religious reasons involving work. My dad works for the Adventist church, (a small denomination of the Protestant religion). He was the most qualified for the job position here in California, so they, the church, moved my family and I to California in 2001. The church has helped us with the Green Card process even before we left Brazil. Before we left, we wanted to be permanent residents and eventually citizens of the U.S. After however many years, we are not citizens. We have abided to every rule, every regulation, every instruction, every procedure on applying for the Green Card. The process is slow and unpredictable. The application process, just to have our case viewed, took three years. After you have been approved, the government then tells you when and where you can perform the next processes. Which include: blood tests, vaccinations, finger printing, medical testing and pictures.
After they have all the information and detail about you, you wait. They set up appointments for when your finger printing with be done and where it will be done. It’s inconvenient for many especially when you are a college student who lives in California, but attends school in Michigan.
Fourteen years in this country, I have declared it my home. I also forgot to mention that when you are being processed for a Green Card, you cannot leave to country. I have missed countless of family reunions, birthdays, Christmases and other special occasions. I have missed my grandpa’s funeral and I am missing out on the lives of my extended family members. Being so far away from your “native land,” it no longer becomes home. I have established myself in the United States. I have made my friends my family members. I have learned the culture and become “American,” although my passport says otherwise.
My family and I have benefited greatly from the country, but we have also given so much back. The autism community has been forever changed by my mom’s and sister’s impact. We, the Vallado family, have tried everything legally to make a living here. With no allowance for travel and work, we have always abided to the parameters making the best of our circumstances. But the injustice comes into play as the years go by.
As I got older, I began to understand financial difficulties. I began to see how hard my dad works because he is the only one who can. We have all tried to lighten the burden by taking small jobs here and there. My sisters and I babysit and that is usually the only “income” we have for ourselves. Birthday and Christmas money has become our “income” as well. It’s small, but we treasure it. Well, we are not money-hungry, but it gives me, at least, some dignity. I have something to contribute to my family.
Where I believe the injustice lies in the justice system, is when America calls itself the land of the free. Yes, slavery has been done away with for almost two-hundred years (not long enough in my opinion), but there are other forms of bondage that restrain America’s residents and citizens from living their full potential. Not being able to leave the country but not being able to work in the country makes no sense at all. If the process was quicker, say, a month or two, I could see the fairness in it all. Studying each case and each application thoroughly is a lot of work. But should it take thirteen years? No. And is it fair to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens if they have lived ten years here undocumented and show good moral and character? (http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/legal-options-undocumented-illegal-immigrant-stay.html) (http://immigration.lawyers.com/immigration/what-is-illegal-immigration.html) No, in my opinion.
I cannot help my parents pay my tuition. I cannot take out a loan. I cannot contribute to society in a way that I reap financially. I have done countless of community service and volunteer work in order to work at the same places as everyone else.
Today I called my university to confirm my Green Card application has been approved for the second time. They were thrilled about the notice, but could not grant me the permission to work, nor to volunteer. I had done all the training required, bought my plane ticket to arrive a week earlier than when school begins in order to fulfill my duties for my job. I took the job back in March because I was told, by the government, I would be cleared to work AND travel in July. Nope. False. Lies.
So here I await to leave on Saturday to a place where I have no work. Here I wait until the government tells me when I can get my pictures and finger prints taken again. Here I wait confined, held back, trapped and limited by this freeing and just system.