Waiting in Juarez

We joined the snaking line outside the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. At 7 am, the piercing August sun had not yet begun to bake us through, but we all knew what was coming. My husband, a Mexican national, had submitted his application for a Green Card nearly a year earlier. In anticipation of his appointment, we had gathered evidence of our shared life: photos of our ten-month courtship in Mexico (where I was working as an English teacher) and subsequent wedding in my home state of North Dakota, utility bills from our rented casita in Juarez. We quizzed one another on personal details: the color of our toothbrushes, favorite foods. As the line slowly began to inch forward, we were giddy with anticipation. It seemed like a game.

When we reached the Consulate gate, my husband was escorted inside while I was turned away to wait outside with the crowd of family members clumped on a dusty vacant lot across the street. We could lean against a graffiti-covered cement wall as the merciless desert sun rose higher. Did I mention that I was three months pregnant? Eventually, I took shelter in the adjacent taqueria, which provided shade, if not A/C. I waited for my husband to come through those gates to summon me inside, so the Consular official could interview us, witness that our relationship was genuine.

Seven hours later, my husband came through the gate, walked over to where I sat, and said: 

“Time to go.”

“We’re done?”

“We’re done.”

“You got it?”

He shook his head no.

Epilogue: Despite what the Consular official had told my husband during his appointment, he never received a follow-up call. When we tried the phone number that had been provided, we always got a busy signal. Six months later, with our newborn son in tow, I stood in line at the Consulate to make an inquiry. In circumstances as mysterious as the initial denial, I was told that my husband could return the next day for a new appointment. This time I waited in an air-conditioned restaurant with our son. After four hours, my husband emerged. He had been approved. I never did have a chance to confirm the color of his toothbrush.