When I was eight months pregnant with my fourth and final child, my husband and I faced the possibility of overstaying our permits here in Canada. We had applied for permanent residency months before, but were delayed because I needed medical clearance in the form of an X-ray proving I didn’t have tuberculosis. The technicians in Canada understandably refused to give X-rays to pregnant women. So we had to wait for clearance until our daughter was born, and she wasn’t due until two weeks after our permits expired–at which point our legal right to be in the country ended.
Eager to avoid this, we went in person down to the border to plead with Canadian immigration officials for a temporary extension of our permits. Normally we would just mail in that kind of request, but we thought my huge, pregnant belly would help them understand the urgency of having our permits right away. Instead, we got a lecture from the border officials on trying to circumvent the immigration system and we were sent home to apply online. We lived on the hope that whoever opened our application thousands of kilometers from where we lived would believe it was okay for us to stay.
It’s hard to appreciate the peace of mind in knowing you can stay in the country that has become your home until that peace of mind is threatened. It’s hard to understand how devastating an involuntary departure can be until you are facing it yourself.
I have listened from across the border to the immigration debate in my home country of America. And I’ve been struck by the–apathy? Impatience?–some of my fellow citizens have towards non-citizens trying to make a home there. It feels like those arguing against amnesty or in favour of harsher immigration laws treat their own natural-born citizenship as some kind of personal accomplishment. As if they or their ancestors deserved to be here in ways that someone now trying to seek entry does not.
Read the rest over at The Wisdom Daily.