︎ Kotono Watanabe 渡邊こと乃
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
translated by Peng Wu
I often have been thinking back to May 2019. When I applied for a Green Card so that I could work post-graduation without fear of deportation back in May of 2020.
My partner sponsored my Green Card application. We had been married in City Hall in February. We spent nearly nine months grappling with delays from a Trumpian system which rejected my birth certificate despite similar documentation passing historically.
Finally we were approved to interview in person at the Customs and Immigration office in downtown Minneapolis. The lobby was nearly empty. Our lawyer was unsettled. Later we were told that our case was the last one our lawyer handled before the pandemic.
The initial questions of the immigration process are largely financial:
- Can my partner support me? (yes)
- Am I employed? (yes, I have an internship)
- Do I expect to use government assistance? (no, I am a well-qualified, soon to be college-educated professional employed in a notable design office)
The interview was also peppered with strangely personal questions which we had been preparing and packaging our relationship for the approval of this government employee’s review; photos of our trips together, love letters, and an Affidavit Letter of Support from my host mom.
We told the interviewer of our plans to celebrate our marriage with both of our families and friends present. We told him of how in May of 2020 my mom and sister would fly from Japan to watch me graduate and then witness me exchanging vows with my partner.
I received the Green Card approval on March 13th, 2020, while on Spring Break right as my school and life transferred to lock down. By the end of my semester I graduated via zoom while emailing the link to my family back home. My wedding ceremony was postponed to an unknown future date. I got laid off from the firm two weeks prior to my graduation, and I applied for unemployment Insurance.
Each of the milestones and hallmarks of a successful Green Card interview were set for May of 2020 and each came and passed, caught up in the global and national churning.
Since July 2018, I have not been able to go home in Japan. I have not been able to hug my mother who lives alone. My grandfather who is 85 expresses to her that he might not make it until my next return, I know he is exaggerating. But the fear of not being able to see them for who knows how long in addition to the fear of “what if they get the virus” often passes through my mind. My family, however, is more concerned about me being in the U.S. as all they hear about on the news is how poorly the virus has been handled in this country.
Putting a check in each box of immigration process, graduation, and wedding (hopefully soon) was a way to represent my independence and appreciation to my family. Despite how fortunate I was to be approved for my Green Card, and was able to finish my education, I learned that all I could do was to be patient- and I’m going to wait, more. The status of Permanent Resident has never sounded so ominous.
Do I miss my home?
Do I miss the smell of home?
Do I miss the language I exchange with my friends and family?
Do I miss the meals with my mother?
I will wait for these and many more moments I miss, love, and cherish. I’m just going to wait. Because time passes no matter what.
When I get sad I think of my Mom saying, no matter what’s happening we’re looking at the same sky. Recently, I’ve tried to spend more time looking up.
Kotono Watanabe // 渡邊こと乃
︎ 渡边琴乃 渡邊こと乃