Jose got the long-awaited news from the consulate today. It is much worse than we expected.
We won’t be able to go home for three years. Apparently, Jose was ineligible for the waiver the consulate approved him for in August. They approved him at his appointment, and we didn’t hear anything more, although they changed the decision on September 8th. While we traveled around Mexico (luckily having a great time,) thinking that we would be home soon, we were in fact no longer eligible for the waiver we were preparing. While three years is hard for us to accept, it could have been 10 years just as easily, so we appreciate that it is on the lighter end of the punishment spectrum.
The consulate kept Jose’s waiver packet until today, but we got a chance to look through it this afternoon. We are confident that it would have proved “extreme hardship,” which is what the consular officials look for when deciding the need for residency. Every letter sounds like we are the building blocks of our community and family, the medical records seem like many are in serious danger with us in Mexico, our school records show us both to be geniuses, and overall the packet proves that it is an outstanding life we are leaving in the United States. In my humble opinion, each of our claims is true and visa worthy.
The percentage of cases approved fluctuates, with no warning or explanation by the government. Our biggest concern about committing to this trip was being trapped here if the percentage changed for the worse. When we left the United States, 55 percent of all cases were being approved for the Pilot Program, which allows applicants to return to the United States with a visa less than a week after their second appointment. If we had gotten that, we would have been going home tomorrow. Instead, we got the news that we have to wait three years, before returning to start almost completely over with this whole process.
As we had feared may happen, fewer cases have been approved in the past month. Ruben told us that almost everyone he hosted in the months before we came were approved and returned to the U.S. legally within a few months. However, starting just a week or two after our first appointment (notice how this coincides nicely with Jose’s ineligibility,) Ruben saw an obvious change. Almost everyone he had at his house in September and October were given a minimum 15 month wait. In the past, we heard of the acceptance rate dropping to 20 percent, and it sounds like it is around that number again.
Needless to say, we have countless difficult emotions to deal with. I really thought we were going home. Because I truly believe we deserve to go home now, I got ahead of myself, and was already planning on celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with a newfound respect for my easy life in the United States and my endlessly supportive family. I don’t know what the holidays will be like this year, but I know that this has at least taught me to have greater respect for things as basic as just being alive.
Jose and I are doing okay. My mother says that we are strong and brave, but I’m not sure that we haven’t just been in survival mode. I am looking forward to leaving Ciudad Juarez tomorrow morning, and getting back to family and Cholula in Mexico City to regroup. I think our true strength will come out in the next week or so, when we have gotten back to Mexico City and can finally stop watching our backs all the time. It will be good to drop our guard enough to see what’s really happening inside our hearts and minds. Maybe we are just handling this with strength and bravery, and maybe we are feeling our true emotions, but I just can’t believe that I have that much strength in me. If it turns out that I really do, it is strength that I never knew existed.
We will be posting frequently in the near future with updates and plans. What will we do with these unexpected three open years? Mexico? Canada? Europe? Anything.
We have almost an entire world open to us!