DH and I, following our lawyer’s instructions to start bitching to the ISAP people, decided to take the letter we had received explaining that my case had been reopened and that even the attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security had signed off and agreed to reopen my case and dismiss my deportation order, meaning that when I finally saw an Immigration Judge to decide my future, both my lawyer and the lawyer representing the DHS would ask to dismiss my removal proceeding so I could continue with my process for legalization.
With that letter I was supposed to approach the people in ISAP and demand my immediate release from the program since the case was to be dismissed (hopefully) once the IJ met with us. Every Friday morning when I went to the ISAP office with my husband, the receptionist would ask me for the ID they had given me and that I had to carry with me at all times and she would check the status of my case in the DHS phone system. I would listen to the automatic responses the machine would spew out with its robotic voice and listen how everyone else but me got a court date. Most were in 2013. I sat there despairing about the court dates being so far away and pretending I didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. I know they probably didn’t care one way or another and I was just one more warm body seating in a chair, but I felt as if they wanted me to fail, they wanted me to feel like dirt.
DH called that Thursday morning to demand to meet with the person in charge of the program, by law there had to be an ICE agent on site. I had been to that infernal place for every Friday of the last three months and I had never seen the infamous ICE agent in charge. They agreed to let us meet him the next day for my appointment. We brought the paper that indicated my case had reopened and told them that our lawyer was confident that my case would be dismissed since even the prosecutor was in favor. The ICE agent seemed unwilling to remove me from the program; of course they don’t want to remove anyone because each free person means less money.
After twenty minutes of politely but firming arguing with them, he agreed that I should “start the process” of removal from the program. I needed to be weaned off, not taken out cold turkey. Apparently being in the program was like being on heroin. If we had a phone line in our house they would’ve been forced to remove the ankle monitor right away, but since we didn’t, he said to order one for the house and bring proof that we had a land line installed and if his supervisor (which my lawyer insisted was nonexistent) approved of it they could remove the ankle monitor and keep me on less intensified supervision.
As soon as we left their office, DH (who was looking all kinds of sexy after putting his foot down and defending my honor) got on the phone with AT&T to install a land line in the house. By Tuesday we already had the phone installed. I called the ISAP office that Wednesday morning and told them the equipment was installed, she said to bring the receipt, or installation proof or whatever to be able to proof to them that I had a land line. That Friday we showed up earlier than ever and we brought the number and the AT&T paperwork to prove we had it installed. They proceeded to put me in the phone system by having me repeat my name and a series of numbers. They explained that at any given time from 2pm to 6pm each Friday they may or may not call and I would have to answer the phone, call back and repeat whatever sequence of numbers and words so the system could recognize my voice and confirm I was there, where they meant me to be. It all sounded insanely stupid to me and a waste of time and resources, but I didn’t say anything since nothing ever has made sense during this process.
I mean, I get it. I am not supposed to be here, they don’t owe me anything. But as a logical individual the entire process made no sense to me. It seemed like a waste of money and not really efficient if what they really wanted was to rid the country of us. I really wanted to know who came up with this idea and didn’t see for what it was, a non solution, a waste of money, a waste of resources. Like having a toenail fungus and the solution is to chop the whole foot off. And yes, I just compared all of us immigrants to fungi.
After all the vocal repetitions and recording I could tell they were stalling, trying to figure out a way to keep me on the intense monitoring, I could tell they wanted to argue. The girl who was talking to me said she wasn’t sure I should be out of the program. I said nothing to her. I was too busy repressing the urge not to kick her in the nose when she knelt next to me to remove the monitor. DH tried to take a video and they stopped him. “We wouldn’t want the bad press” I said to him in a whisper they could all hear. She confirmed my comment by admitting that someone had posted something on Facebook before and it had been legally problematic.
It was April 24, four days before my ten year anniversary in the country. Exactly three months and fourteen days after they put the ankle monitor on me when they finally took it off. I would still be supervised. Instead of going every Friday morning I would have to go every other Friday, instead of having people come to my house and confirm I was there every Friday afternoon, I would instead answer a phone and repeat a number or phrase sequence.
We got into the car and I pulled my jeans up. The ankle where the monitor had been was thinner than the other one. I felt so naked, so free, and so weird. I rubbed my feet together, meeting in places they hadn’t met in almost four months.
I was still being monitored, this was still a problem and presented a hindrance to my everyday life, but my ankle was free. I could see it again. I could wear skirts. I could work out without it bothering me; I could jog and jump rope when walking Zoey without fear of it showing. I could go to the beach, lie in the sun, and go in the water.
More importantly, I didn’t look or feel like a criminal anymore.