Mother of exiles

{photo from the Memphis Immigration Project}

Yesterday was our long awaited appointment at USCIS for our biometrics. This is the last step for us here in the states, which is exciting enough to make leaving the house at 6:15 not as bad as it sounds.

Our plan was to take Noah (who is 18, so was required to attend), the littles and the middles because they are not old enough to get on the bus themselves. We planned to just take them to school a little late. It felt like an inconvenience and I was feeling super guilty about them missing their morning work.

Our appointment was 8:00 and we arrived early, and so did maybe 75 other petitioners. I don’t know what I was expecting from USCIS but as soon as I walked through the door and saw the faces looking back at me, I felt a lump form in my throat.

As we filed through the line, I found lady liberty staring back at me. “Welcome” was written in more languages than I recognized and there was a banner that said “USCIS: Securing America’s promises.” Chills.

In my typical self absorbed way, I had spent the week focused on what the appointment meant to us. I had not at all considered who we would share the waiting area with.

SO many languages were spoken in that small room. My middle kiddos were wide eyed, taking in the scene. I identified petitioners from Sudan and Iraq, employees from Japan and Ethiopia, a family with small children from Syria.

How I wish I could have asked every single hopeful resident their story. I’ve been holding space in my heart for them last night and today, but am especially haunted by the Syrian family as our country carried out targeted attacks over night. Moms hair was missing in patches, and I wondered why. Her husband, gaunt and pale. Her children, joyous and spirited. I so wanted to draw her close and tell her that I am so glad she is here. I wanted to tell her that so much of her story is written on her face, but so much is written on the faces of her children, too. That somehow she had preserved childhood for them… and that I was humbled and admired her.

The children and I talked much yesterday about who we had seen, what they have left, the ways they will enrich our nation. Turns out that what I thought was inconvenience was a life experience so important for them to share. None of us will soon forget the haunted faces or the hope reflected in them, either.

I believe that this is the spirit of America and we cannot allow fear to threaten the very fabric of our nation. America is great just as she is… not in spite of immigrants but because of them.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s