As some of you read in the first blog, I planned an eleven month trip hoping to study in Chile starting July 21st. I felt confident in my chances of receiving a visa estudiantil, but the unease of requesting this student visa while in Costa Rica kept me unsure of months ahead.
My heart sank deep into the leather armchair I was seated in as I realized it was the middle of junio and the Chilean consulate was asking me for more paperwork—paperwork I believed was correct, but wasn’t. I left the impressive consulado chileno in San José, Costa Rica downhearted and feeling defeated by a piece of paper. However, thanks to helpful program coordinators and fax machines, I’m now pleased to announce that on July 1st I was handed a student visa for five months in Valparaíso, Chile.
What cost around $300, nine months, and countless second guesses of my español formal finally ended in the anticipated visa. This, however, is nothing compared to the seemingly lifetime it takes many prospective United States immigrants to achieve citizenship, if they ever do.
I think of my own grandparents, refugees I’ve worked with, and immigrant friends and the difficult processes they’ve all endured in order to obtain U.S. citizenship. In fact, it seems absurd that some U.S. citizens, from a nation whose very life is owed to immigrants, still act as if immigration reform were an itch to deal with when nothing else pressing distracts them. My small brush with the bureaucratic nature of visas and the many vulnerable conversations I’ve had with friends—some hushed and in Spanish for fear of discriminación—have shown me the importance of reforming immigration in the U.S. both politically and socially. Along with political action, we as a nation are accountable to the daily struggle of internal reform. That is, accepting that most of us have immigration in our past and will undoubtedly see its effects in our future. We are accountable to remember that immigration reform is not a new hot topic in the news, but rather the essence of our national identity.
As I reflect on the visa process and the Fourth of July from outside the U.S., I would like to couple a wish of a happy Independence Day with the challenge of remembering that immigration is the blood running through our veins, keeping our nation alive. El cuerpo que descuida su propia sangre pronto se muere.
-Austin Vander Wel