Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Deporting the Bereaved

I just wrote a letter to my congress representative for the first time. What drove me to such action? The "Widow Penalty” was what did it. Yes, such a thing exists and is being enforced all over the country.

The Widow Penalty was brought to my attention by a friend whose brother died after being married for just under two years. In addition to the sudden heartache of losing her husband, his wife is now in danger of being deported because she was not scheduled for a green card before her second wedding anniversary. Her American-born son, however, can remain on American soil.

This is not a poorly written script of a made-for-TV moviethis is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service at work. Because of this obscure loophole in legislation, the courts are expending much time and energy to deport law-abiding, tax-paying women and men who have lost their spouses because the administrative process of obtaining a visa took too long.

Please visit the website for Surviving Spouses Against Deportation and call or send a letter to your congress representative (it takes less than 90 seconds). If you still can’t believe this is for real, or if you’d just like to learn more about it, there is a great This American Life interview with my friend’s sister-in-law. And 60 Minutes will be airing the story in the fall.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Oh summer in Boston--the subways crowded with boisterous Red Sox fans, the Common swarming with nocturnal creatures, humidity fogging up sidewalks and street corners from downtown to the 'burbs. Don't get me wrong--Summer is my favorite time of year. I've already begun to dread the winter as each deliciously simmering summer afternoon slides into night. Summer is the time for sundresses, the beach, ice cream, cookouts, and outdoor concerts.

Though I'm happy to bask in the Boston sunshine in the tiny park behind my apartment, I've got a serious case of wanderlust, and it's not helping that every time I check my Facebook account, I'm bombarded with notifications that so-and-so has added pictures from their vacation to Paris, or Rome, or Greece, or Mexico. Several of my good friends are having wild summer adventures--one is interning in Ghana, another is writing about the Olympics in Beijing, one is getting married and honeymooning in Tahiti, another is traveling the country doing lord knows what. I love getting caught up on their travels. I love seeing their pictures. I enjoy the postcards. But it's hard not to feel even more pent-up than I do during the rough New England winters.

I picked up The Weekly Dig the other night on my way home from work, intrigued by the banner on the cover--STAYCATION it beckoned in bright colors. The article made the promise to offer alternatives to a great summer vacation, for us poor schleps stuck in Boston. I was underwhelmed. First of all, the options were narrowed to our neighboring New England states: Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island. Suggestions included heading to Fenway, taking the commuter rail to gawk at big houses in Wellesley, going to the beach, eating pizza at Pizzeria Regina, and taking a "hike" around the Freedom Trail. I'm sorry, but even a trip to one of our neighbors doesn't classify as a vacation. I'm from Rhode Island, and I go down at least twice a month. It's no big treat.

The last several "vacations" I've taken have been 2 or 3 day affairs to major American cities to visit friends--of course, I always have fun, but I can't really say any of these jaunts can be classified as a true vacation. In August, I am flying to San Francisco to attend a week-long conference for work, and then taking a 3-day extension trip to Seattle to see a friend. I'm thrilled, since I've never been out wes before, but really? 3 days on a friend's couch and a week spent running around making photocopies and grabbing coffee for the higher-ups? Sorry, still not a vacation.

I'm ready for a real, leisurely, sun-laden, get-me-a-daquiri kind of vacation. And since it's clear I won't be getting one of those for quite a while, I am taking suggestions on how I can equate a similar feeling of relaxed bliss here in Boston. Anyone have any suggestions?