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August 29th 2016 – The Day We Felt Hope

Rami and I were finally approved for our I-130 in August of last year after almost two years of waiting – even though the normal processing time is generally only about six months. Lizz, our lawyer, had been repeatedly asking for news from the immigration office in California, but the only answer we’d get is that we were under “additional security checks” with no end date to the waiting period. We were worried that this was where our application would be stopped completely, but then on August 29th 2016, Lizz’s email came through.

Subject line: AAAHHHH!!! Approved!!!!

The next step to this whole process involves two forms and another visa application that costs over $500 to submit and requires more time collecting documents. Once we pay the fees and submit everything (this takes about six months of prep work), the US Embassy in Italy will schedule an appointment, normally in Naples, where Rami will have another visa interview (we know how well those have gone in the past) and a medical exam (think Ellis Island just not as brutal – or so we hope). Unfortunately up until now this entire process is just going through the paces of the current immigration system that was upheld throughout Obama, mind you.

Because of Rami’s ban in 2009, it’s almost guaranteed that this visa application will be denied. It has been three years. We have done everything legally. We aren’t even close. Please keep in mind, Rami didn’t do anything illegal. He never overstayed his visa. He didn’t overstay even on the visa waiver program. He simply did what the US Consulate and his school told him to do. This is just how the system currently works. Once we’re denied at the visa application, we can finally start the actual waiver we need to get into the US.

But with a dark cloud looming over politics as autumn hit, we started to wonder if paying the fees and moving to an interview was even worth pursuing, or if it would just be wasting our time and money.

November 8th 2016- The Day the World Saw Red

We were too tired to keep up with the numbers. Rami and I sat on the couch watching a movie that I can’t remember. My computer was on the coffee table – glowing brighter than anything else in my world. Blue and red popped back and forth across the states on the map of the US. Votes were starting to be tallied.

When I closed my eyes that night, my country had started to bleed bright red.

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I woke up and checked the news.

“He won…” I said into the pile of sheets, gently nudging it. Rami didn’t have to work until that afternoon. I had to be in the office at nine. An ambulance passed on the street. The siren echoed off our shuttered windows that kept the light out, but not the noise.

“Rami.” I nudged again. He roused himself halfway off his pillow, barely comprehending.

“You’re joking,” he murmured.

In the dark of our studio apartment, a light went out that had never been lit.

Once upon a time I was anti-politics. Once upon a time, I had the privilege to be that way. When you’re a white, middle-class teenager growing up in New England with a good background in athletics and a family that can hold itself together, political agendas aren’t high on your priority list because they don’t affect your day to day.

I was a Sophomore at UNH when Obama won in 2008. I had voted for him, but truthfully it was for the sole reason that my Dad had predicted it.

In 2004, my father stood in front of the TV with his arms crossed, watching “some politician” (remember, I didn’t care for politics then) making a speech in Boston. The name on the banner at the bottom of the screen read: Barack Obama. I’m not sure why I was coincidentally in the living room that day, and I don’t even know if he knew who Obama was before this speech, but something about that voice captured your attention – and we both ended up listening.

What I realize now is that that speech at the Democratic Convention was personal. It was a concept that a teenager could understand, something the general public could understand, something more real than typical politics, something everyday for everyone. Obama spoke about the American dream, about immigrants, about hard work and every American getting a chance. It sounded like every speech my teachers had given – every lesson I learned in school about my country, every reason I had ever been told about why my home, the US, was the best country in the world, why we were better than everyone else. I had that already, though. I was already gaining status in my high school as a good student. I was getting recognized as a promising player on the varsity soccer team. I didn’t need to worry about anything else. So this speech was just a speech to me, an interesting one, something that I agreed with and believed in, but still just a speech. It wasn’t until later that I remembered this moment, and that is why I drew that thick felt-tipped line on the ballot. I still wasn’t involved when I did it though, it was more of a connection to my father. 

At the end, to the applause of the television my Dad turned around and said “That man, will be President of the United States one day,” and Senator Barack Obama stepped down from the podium.

Thirteen years later, President Barack Obama stepped down again.