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The Acuitlapa Family

My name is Margaret Acuitlapa Parsons, a U. S. citizen currently living in Malinalco, Mexico with my husband and three U. S.-born children. I am writing because I want to inform you how the immigration laws (especially law 212) changed drastically the life of my family.

My husband, Jose Acuitlapa, is an undocumented immigrant. In order to do things lawfully, I applied for his visa in 2007. In June of 2007, after waiting a long two years, we received a letter telling us to appear in Mexico to process his papers.

We made the trip to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua in September of 2007 fully expecting to have his visa approved since all three children and I are naturally born citizens of the U.S. Unfortunately, Jose was denied reentry due to his illegal original entry into the U.S. Worse, they said that he would not be eligible to reenter for ten years.

When Jose and I applied for his permanent residency in 2005, we had hoped for better opportunities for our family than were available with my husband as an undocumented immigrant and wanted to do the lawful thing.

With the requirement that he had to leave the country for the appointment at the U. S. Consulate in Juarez, Jose was terrified that he might lose everything he had worked so hard for in the United States, including his family. Unfortunately, his worse fears were to be realized.

Jose and I traveled to Juarez for the appointment leaving our children in Georgia with my family. After the devastating news that he was being denied entry I accompanied Jose to his town and quickly returned home to Georgia to inform my children of the depressing news that their Daddy was not going to be able to come home.

The oldest, Justin understood but wanted to know why this was happening. He became closed up and refused to talk about his emotions. There were times that he would become extremely angry, but I knew that this was how he dealt with his emotions.

Our daughter, Leslee, did not realize what was going on and became clingy to everyone around her. She came to the realization that the man who tucked her in at night was no longer there and this thing called the government had not allowed him to come back.

Our youngest daughter Sarah was very saddened by the absence of her father. She constantly asked when he was coming home. Sarah, had already been trained to go to the bathroom by herself suddenly began to go in her pants and wail for her Daddy while I cleaned her up. She found one of his caps that he wore to work and slept with it.

Both girls begged to sleep in the bed with me and I allowed it, not only for their comfort, but partly for mine too. We would call Jose, but to him, he had lost his world and begged me to reunite him with his children as soon as possible.

Hearing this and seeing the reaction of my children caused me to make the very difficult decision to leave my home in Georgia and reunite the family with him in Mexico. The denial of Jose's visa not only affected him but the lives of all of us as well.

Jose and I were members of a community in Warner Robins Georgia that is miss us badly. We belonged to a church community where we were very active. My children attended a private school run by the church and I worked there part time.

Helping out with children's church and Sunday school became a regular Sunday activity for me. Jose also helped the elderly by mowing their lawns and was known at his work as the second man in charge.

He was a very hard worker and often would stay extra hours so that everything could be completed by the next day. My father often had Jose come and do physical labor for him because of his inability to do so himself.

My parents depended on us for many other things as well. I often took my mother to the doctor because of her inability to drive long distances. Both suffer from serious health problems and have struggled greatly without our being there to help them. My father has since had to move his work hours from days to evenings so that he can be with my mother during the day to take her to her many doctor's appointments.

My family was devastated to hear the news that we would be taken from them but they supported our decision and very gloomily helped us pack and get rid of the things that we could not take to Mexico.

Life in Mexico is different than what we had imagined. Not only language and cultural differences but so many other conditions that are hard to adjust to. My son told me that it seems as we have moved back in time.

Here in Mexico it is normal for a family of five to sometimes share the same room. We came from a three- bedroom house where running water was taken for granted.

Here water does not run daily through pipes to get to your home. We get our water from my in-laws through hoses, which come from their supply that is in a big well in the ground.

Our water is then kept in big barrels until we need it. For electricity we have extension cords wired together, also coming from my in-laws house.

Clothes are frequently washed in Mexico by hand and hung to dry. I fortunately have access to a very small wringer- type washing machine, but because we share this with my in-laws and I only wash once a week it is a very laborious job to wash and hang out clothes.

Gas here has to be bought off the back of trunks in tanks to use for cooking and heating water for bathing. The water heater has to be heated up each time before we bathe. In order to conserve the gas, we often cook in clay pots on top of fire that has been placed between two bricks.

We are finally adapting to the way of life here and learning how to cope and make things work. We still cling to the hope that someday we will have what we had back in Georgia.

Several other factors have seriously affected my family as well. There are problems with schooling and finding medical help. My children barely spoke Spanish when we arrived so entering a school where you have to read and write only Spanish was extremely difficult for them. They struggle deeply and fear English may be forgotten.

School supplies are hard to come by so many times they end up fighting over such simple things as pencils or erasers. School time is cut a lot shorter here. They only attend five hours with a one hour lunch. I feel like their education is suffering greatly.

Because of the lack of education in Mexico and few doctors and nurses medical care here is limited. There is no assistance such as Medicaid and costs are high even for a regular checkup.

Most of the time home remedies and herbal teas are what townspeople depend on. Vaccinations are not as advanced and are not the same as back home, so when my children are due for shots I will have to find some way to get back to the Unites States so that they can be up to date.

When the kids are sick, I basically diagnose the illness myself and go to the pharmacy to buy them an antibiotic over the counter. I believe things have to change because this could put my children's health in danger.

In Malinalco, my husband did find a job that he enjoys but the pay is exceedingly low and can not completely provide for our family. I thankfully was offered a job at El Proyecto Rincon, which is a non profit organization that helps migrant families who stay here in Mexico while the rest of the family travels to the United States to work.

I also have been teaching English to a few children from the community under the big tree in our yard. With these small jobs we both have we seem to get by. Although, we are tight with money there has not been a day that we have been completely without food.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to help other families that need help. Many families that come are in so much pain for one reason or another that it makes me realize that I am lucky to have the life I live, thankful that I have a wonderful family that is worth all these sacrifices.

My goal now is to show the world what the true price of love is and to hopefully change the eyes of the world about the need to change immigration laws. The broken one not only affects the immigrant that was deported but a decent loving husband and devoted father and his family who loves him and will not leave his side.

Margaret Acuitlapa Parsons from Malinalco, Mexico

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