Today, I want to bring the spotlight to one of the least discussed issues we now face. Family separation and the complete breakdown of immigration systems worldwide.
Let me explain.
For many of you who have been following our adventures in the last two years, you’re probably aware that we are currently in the process of moving back to the US.
For a bit of context, Wendy is an American citizen, and I’m not.
We met in Tokyo, Japan, in early 2019 and have been happily married since August 2020. That’s right, we found one another in one of the most remote places we could imagine ever being. And to this day, we enjoy an ever-enriching, sincere, and earnest love story that keeps surprising us in unexpected ways.
And for a while, it was unraveling without much trouble.
But, eventually, we realized that we need to think about our future seriously.
We had jobs, a nice place, and had built a healthy circle of wonderful friends.
But the thought of having kids here made me squirm, and there was very little in terms of career options for Wendy. Besides, we were thousands of miles away from the nearest family member, and Wendys’ parents are aging.
So, we decided to move back.
And then, reality started to set in.
The Long Journey
Not only is the US immigration process a nightmare, but it can take multiple years to conclude, which means the possibility of being separated is almost guaranteed. Unless, of course, you have a lot of money and influence, which we don’t.
So, we needed to be smart and plan ahead.
We knew that our options were limited, so we chose to apply from abroad, get all our papers together, and hope for a speedy turnaround. And for a while, it did.
Then COVID hit.
At this point, you know what happens.
The world stopped, toilet paper became our new currency, and everybody had to adapt to a new normal where things just took longer and cost more.
And then nothing else happened. Oh, wait…
This is the reality we live in now.
Now, thankfully, at this point, the world seems to be on a path to recovery, and governments are doing their best to catch up.
However, for many people, these last two years meant more than just health crises and financial loss.
The pandemic was the perfect ignition to disrupt a strained healthcare system, volatile market, brittle supply chain, and woefully unprepared governments that did nothing until absolutely necessary.
This, of course, exacerbated everything from access to health services to gas prices and our ability to get our one-day delivery.
That’s right. Despite Amazon’s record earnings, Mr. Jefrey Bezos is taking his sweet time to deliver your Nintendo Switch.
But one of the least discussed issues is the complete breakdown of immigration systems worldwide and the impact it has had on families still waiting to be reunited. Families who’ve been waiting for years on institutions that now face excessive backlogs and have insufficient resources.
Sadly, that is the situation Wendy and I are in right now.
5,000 Miles Away
Regardless of our preparation, we had no option but to have Wendy return to the US ahead of me while we wait for the immigration process to complete.
Even though we saw it coming months ahead, seeing her go beyond security at the airport was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life.
And from that point on, we were separated by thousands of miles and many time zones.
Our lives were now connected only by digital signals going through a cable around the world. And there was very little I could do.
If you have to know, yes, we did everything right.
We hired experienced lawyers, paid our fees, did our diligence, and played our cards as smartly as we possibly could.
But still, the system is too rigid and rigged against us to have any chance to win without paying a high price. And for us, the price was me staying behind and having to cope with a long-distance relationship.
I think when we talk about long-distance relationships, we usually focus on the physical distance and the struggle with time differences. But, in my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of being separated is the disconnect that eventually ends up unraveling most relationships.
You see, a healthy relationship requires much more than just love and commitment.
We get comfortable with each other and adapt our behavior and expectations to meet theirs, and vice versa.
We make concessions, agreements, and boundaries that reinforce a strong commitment and bond. But most importantly, we build something and grow together.
We, as humans, are social creatures by definition and have developed a knack for creating emotional and psychological structures with one another.
These structures are what link us together on a deep level and allow us to build institutions like marriage and partnerships that benefit us equally. It’s truly remarkable.
But when relationships are forced apart, either by necessity or force, that emotional structure starts crumbling.
Long distance implies that the other person is no longer in our presence, which takes a fundamental part of our structure away.
And yes, you could say that thanks to the internet and modern technology, we can now circumvent this limitation with video calls and whatever the Metaverse decides to become.
I mean, you’re reading this in the future. That is pretty amazing.
However, that it’s hardly a band-aid.
Staying in Contact
For most of us struggling to stay in contact with family and friends far away, we know video calls can hardly be called an alternative.
There’s just something missing when there’s a screen between us, and the interaction is hindered by stutters and poor quality.
No matter how fast your internet is, there’s always some delay that affects the normal flow of conversation.
It’s just not good enough.
What’s worse is that these issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
The real problems start unraveling as time passes and life plays out.
Different environments, experiences, and opportunities cause interests to start shifting.
Time suddenly starts getting scarce, and we feel like reaching out is more of a chore than anything else.
In short, life just begins to settle in for us in different directions, and we can’t stop our lives indefinitely.
Now, this is, of course, a situation that plays out slowly and innocently over a long period of time.
But surely, eventually, if the parties don’t reunite, life will inevitably bring them apart —which is devastating to think, given that we, and many other families, have been separated not by choice but by circumstances we can’t control.
4,000,000 and Counting
Sadly, to this day, more than 4,000,000 families are waiting to be reunited just in the US.
You heard that right. Half a million families were left with no choice but separation due to complications with an intentionally convoluted, woefully inefficient, and broken immigration system refusing to adapt to the demands of a changing world.
And whether you are for or against immigration, you should want a system that is better and more capable of handling these challenges, even if just to satisfy whatever political stance you have.
We all deserve a reasonably fast and robust process run by a fair institution capable of providing results, whether that means accepting or denying our application.
So, if you are in this situation, I’m really sorry.
But don’t blame yourself.
This is not your fault or has anything to do with who you are.
This is just the result of a broken and outdated immigration system that refuses to adapt.
And there’s a lot you can do to uphold your relationship with healthy choices and behaviors that reinforce your commitment to each other.
Here are some we are implementing ourselves.
- Organizing our days and scheduling our weeks to ensure quality time with one another. This eliminates the need to think and navigate our schedule in the moment.
- Take advantage of the extra time to develop our individual talents and discover ourselves. All while cherishing the breakthroughs and hurdles we encounter regularly.
- Explore new ways to express our love and appreciation for each other. Think about something that can only be enjoyed when separated by distance, like sending postcards and letters.
- Remind each other why we are going through this and the goal we are working towards. Having a reunited family and a home full of warmth where we can welcome the product of our love to the world.
Stop Family Separation
Unfortunately, to this day, many families are still years away from being together again, and there’s very little they can do about it.
It’s a losing battle where the healthies strategy is just accepting the circumstances, holding on to what you have, and hoping for the best.
But it doesn’t have to be like that forever.
As long as we keep bringing the conversation to the table and do what we can, we can prevent families from being separated in the future.
Being apart is hard; there’s just no way around it. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship.
As unfair and unreasonable as the circumstances are, we have to play with the cards we are dealt with.
That’s just how life is.
I don’t really have a powerful message or a solution to share with you. My goal is to bring awareness to this very real issue many people live with.
If anything, I just want you to know that if you’re struggling, you are not alone, and there are people out there like you fighting for change.
Sometimes all we need is just to know that we are not alone, wherever we are.
Stay Safe; Stay Well.
See you on the other side.