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As many know, my husband has had a difficult time with US Immigration. Now, we’re honestly happy with our lives in Florence, and don’t really want to move to the US at the moment, but I really would like to be able to show him where I grew up, have him meet my family, attend a few weddings together, and see his friends in California. We want to visit, and right now, we aren’t even allowed that. So we’re trying again soon – hoping that this time someone may help us. With Trump announcing new negotiations for the government shutdown, I can only hope that the Italian consulate workers are getting paid and are happy, or our experience may be even more difficult.

Here’s a recap of where we’re at in the immigration process and a little bit on what we’re planning next:

August 29th 2016

Rami and I were finally were approved for our I-130 after almost two years of waiting – even though the normal processing time for this document 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 collecting more 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 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 broken 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 five years since we began the process. 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 and was approved for the ESTA before his flight. 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.

In October 2016, I completed the forms that I had started. I was ready to send them but had a few questions. Our lawyer wanted them as soon as possible. The I-601 processing times were getting longer. The murmurs of Islamophobia, bans, walls, hate crimes, riots were the undercurrent of daily life. I emailed Lizz, asking what she thought we should do. “I can keep extending the processing as long as you want,” she wrote. But gave a warning too and told us to wait a bit – to see what they would do. She was worried. We held off, and the years went by, and now we’re in 2019, watching politicians bicker as people across the country have their lives flipped upside down.

We’re hoping that someone will listen to us in this great big roar of anger and ignorance. We aren’t asking for much – a vacation in New Hampshire for the summer, see my cousin get married at the Farm, introduce my husband to my family (alllll of them – all of the overwhelming – It’ll be great) and friends, have a white Christmas again, show him why tailgating is fun, and be able to keep visiting and have my home as part of our lives.

If they don’t listen this time, then we will need you to.

Let’s hope the shutdown ends. Let’s hope the aftermath isn’t horrific. Let’s hope we can get out of this mess. Let’s hope the next time we buy plane tickets, we buy two seats toward Boston instead of one.

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