Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Just Makes Things Easier

“Marriage just makes things easier.” 

          My husband and I were visiting with an old friend, a physicist who was getting serious with a woman, when he made that statement. In this particular context about marriage, our friend was talking about health insurance and child custody. He was serious about the relationship – and a person can always argue that marriage is just a piece of paper – but in this society, practicality dictates that two people who are committed to each other are better off formalizing their union by marrying. My husband and I nodded at what our friend was saying – marriage, the legal contract between two people, does make everything easier. Health insurance, child custody, property laws, immigration - these are some of the very tangible benefits that come when two people sign a marriage contract.
          My husband is a foreign national. He came to the U.S. for graduate school and stayed afterwards, working first as a post-doc, then as an engineer for a large company. Although he has always had a visa, there are certain hassles that are inherent to holding a work visa in this country. Several years ago, one of our friends, who was on an H1B non-profit visa, lost the funding for his position. He was given several months in which he could find a job or else he had return to India. Luckily, he found another position and was able to remain. But if he hadn’t, once his visa expired he would have been required to leave the country immediately, leaving all traces of his life behind.
          For me, marriage means that even if my husband loses his job and cannot find another one immediately, he will not be forced to leave this country. Marriage also means that we can share health insurance, which, in light of a serious accident I had several years ago, is a precious thing indeed.  I can always say that my relationship isn’t defined by a piece of paper.  Emotionally, it isn’t. But practically speaking, marriage allows us a certain protection, one that is barred to many other couples simply because of their sexual orientation. 
          It would be selfish for me to argue that other couples, who are also committed to a future together, cannot enjoy the same privileges that I take for granted.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Grandmother, the (Illegal?) Immigrant

          My grandmother immigrated from Toronto when she was six years old along with the rest of her family.  She married my grandfather, a US citizen who worked in an auto-plant, when she was twenty.  Grandma then went on to live a full life, outlasting her husband and two of her children, before finally dying at the ripe old age of ninety.  She was a tough lady, having survived the Depression with her wit and humor intact.  When asked about the Depression, she would say that for breakfast they ate potatoes and tomatoes, for lunch they ate tomatoes and potatoes, and for dinner they had a choice of either potatoes and tomatoes or tomatoes and potatoes.  Grandma always had a sharp remark for empty platitudes and hated being the object of people’s pity.  
Potatoes and tomatoes?  Or tomatoes and potatoes?
          My sister, who studied genealogy in college, liked to interview my grandmother about our family history.  Sometimes Grandma was willing to collaborate, filling out the bare bones of our family tree with the details that make history come alive.  Other times she would get short-tempered, usually when my sister pointed out all the first-cousin marriages cluttering up our family tree.  

          Another point of contention was my grandmother’s immigration status.  Whenever my sister brought up the naturalization process, my grandmother would become un-characteristically quiet.  We never did find evidence of our grandmother becoming a US citizen, although she was married to one and collected Social Security.  I suppose, in those days, the rules weren’t quite as strict.  In any case, my grandmother was as much of a citizen as anyone else; she worked, raised a family, and paid her taxes, just like everyone else.