A Financial Breakdown Of Marrying A DACA Dreamer

My husband was born in Mexico, and when he was 10 years old, the Mexican economy took a nosedive and his family was faced with extreme poverty. They made the bold decision to uproot their family and move to the U.S.

When he and I first met, there was no such thing as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and at the time, I had no intention of marrying anyone, ever. However, we quickly learned that we make a great team and began crafting a life together. The DACA policy allowed my partner to work and contribute to our current and future goals, and we had a really good routine as a domestic partnership. He has always been incredibly passionate about my profession and my success, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without his support.

Although we were, at times, subject to the occasional ignorant comment by well-intentioned friends or family members (e.g., “Why don’t you just get married and fix his status?” or, “What would be the problem with him just going back to Mexico?”), everything changed on November 8, 2016. The map on the screen flashed red, and we were faced with the harsh reality — a person who opened his presidential bid with a statement about Mexico sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. was now going to be the president. We no longer had the luxury of waiting to see whether or not there would ever be a clear path to citizenship for my partner, and the threat of DACA being rescinded would mean we could lose half our income.

Despite my feminist tendencies and my true love for all things Gloria Steinem, we went to a courthouse and got married. However, the financial costs did not end with our marriage license.

There are many misconceptions about what happens when a person without documentation marries a U.S. citizen. Often, people in our lives assumed the problem was simply solved; he could fill out a form and pay a small fee. Unfortunately, since my partner came to the U.S. without any vetting as a child, the process is actually quite arduous and expensive. For us, it entailed finding a lawyer who could help us navigate the complicated process.

First, I needed to sponsor him for a green card. Once approved, the penalty for illegal entry is a ban from re-entering the country for up to 10 years. As our careers and families are both in the U.S., and neither of us has any connections to Mexico of any kind, this was clearly not ideal, so we had to petition for an exemption. This included asking our friends and family to write letters about how I much I need and depend on my partner (a humiliating experience for anyone, let alone a staunch Ruth Bader Ginsberg devotee like myself), submitting more and more paperwork, and writing more and more checks for processing fees and lawyer retainers.

Although we still aren’t completely finished with the process, as of now the cost breakdown is as follows:

  • DACA paperwork filing fee every three years since its inception in 2010: $380 x 3
  • Initial lawyer retainment fees: $2,000
  • Green Card application fee: $300
  • Lawyer retainer fee for the final petition: $7,000
  • Petition filing fees: $300 x 2 for the two different petitions
  • Total cost: $11,040

I recognize and try to understand the many diverse perspectives on immigration in this country, and wholeheartedly believe that immigration policy is a discussion that we must engage in respectfully. We will never cross the political divide to solve real problems unless we all escape our own echo chambers. But I also believe that as a citizen, I should get to be with the person I choose, regardless of the rhetorical fantasies of political leaders. These fees are a small price to pay to keep my family together, and hopefully, with more education and understanding on the topic of immigration, we can look forward to more productive policy discussions in the future.

Becca is a perpetual student who enjoys digging around in big datasets to try and understand something about the world and the people who live in it. In her spare time, she obsessively reads TFD articles and thinks about early retirement.

Image via Unsplash

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