I went to a "Town Hall Meeting at the US Embassy in San Salvador on Wednesday afternoon. I went with my good gringa friend Sarah who is living in El Salvador for the same reasons as us. She had gotten an email about the meeting and let me know about it. It was for any U.S. citizens residing in El Salvador. We thought this might be a good opportunity and decided to check it out.
There was a large room full of people, mostly elderly and other people there working for various organizations. We seemed to be the only ones in our situation present. The talk lasted about an hour and a half. They went through each head of the departments who got up and spoke about what they do, how they contribute to ES and so forth.
The last person to speak was the representative for DHS, The Department for Homeland Security. She said she works alongside Paul Mitchell. She basically is "the woman" who decides the fates of all of our lives. She went on to tell the group how last year they processed 15,000 immigrant cases. Not approved, but processed. She also stated how the wait time is currently at 12 months, which to that I gave a "look" to Sarah because we all know that's not the truth. That's about all she said about it during her little introduction, but we got to meet face-to-face with her after the meeting!
Sarah and I had a one-on-one with the head of the immigration cases! We each spoke about our individuals cases and asked questions. There was so much to ask and so much going through my mind. I asked if our case would go more quickly since we already went through 6 months of AP, Administrative Processing, for hubby's tattoo. She said "no", but the cases are put in order by the date you pay the waiver fee. This was big news. Not for us because they wouldn't let us pay until after the AP was over and we turned the waiver in, but that's a different story than what everyone on Immigrate2US hears. What I've heard there is that it's the date in which DHS receives the waiver and she said that's not the case. When they receive it back at the embassy they put it in order by the pay date. Interesting! Again, for us that's only a difference of 1 week, but I guess even a week is better than nothing.
We also discussed the wait time since she was adament about it being only 12 months. She said the reason the date they are working on on the Embassy website is for October 2009 is because they had over 200 cases for that month alone. Out of those cases, they have processed all but 27 cases and those that they haven't processed from October yet are "more complicated". She said they cannot change the date on the website until they have completed the rest of those 27 left. That's why the website seems to stay the same all the time. She said they have moved on to other months and that she herself has been processing cases from June 2010! This news is really good to hear. At least they truly are moving ahead. But she said it herself. It just depends how "complicated" the case it. So yes, they get processed in order, but if there's a "complication" it could set you back months I guess.
The next thing we both asked affects us a lot. We asked if living in El Salvador while we are waiting will have a negative effect on our cases and she answered a definite "yes". I guess I already knew this, but it was hard to hear. She said if you are living in El Salvador then what is your hardship? You're already proving you can do it. And danger in ES and issues like that, they don't even take into consideration! I told the gangs coming to our house and being afraid for our safety and her response was "that happens to all Salvdorans every day." I wanted to scream at that response. It got me feeling very depressed.
I've already felt we don't have any real major hardships and now I feel we have even less. I guess the fact that we go weeks barely being able to eat and my daughter and I are sick all the time are "normal" things to experience and that doesn't mean we need to go back to the States! Uggh!!! The definition of "extreme hardships" is such a fine line and a really shitty one!
She was a nice lady, but she definitely told it like it is. She didn't sugar coat anything. She did take down Sarah's information since it's been a year since they turned their waiver in and said she would look into it, but didn't take mine since it hasn't been a year yet.
I'm really glad we went, but I've been feeling really down again. I had some renewed hope for a while and it seems to have gotten thrown out the window again. I'm constantly racking my brain trying to figure out what hardships I can prove and how. I've even thought about having people write personal testimonies about their experience of me since we've been in El Salvador to show that I simply cannot live here forever. I'm going to send an email off to our attorney and get her opinion and then go from there. I have medical things that I could use, but we don't have the money to even go to see doctors to get the letters we need. The system definitely knows how to put you between a rock and a hard place!