May-June 2013

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IMMIGRATION STORIES In Search of the American Dream 'My Family Is My Brother' N adine was in her teens, living in Trinidad, when she learned that her parents were expecting a baby. Although she was surprised by their decision, Nadine welcomed her new brother with open arms … literally. That night, the midwife hadn't arrived for the delivery yet, so Nadine delivered her brother. From then on, Nadine was like a second mother. This special bond deepened as Nadine and her brother lost their father, grandfather, mother, grandmother, and stepfather. They have managed to maintain close ties despite Nadine's move to the United States 25 years ago as a graduate student. u In the face of such adversity, Nadine's brother managed to complete his education and start a professional career. "[S]o, he's not destitute, but I tend to look at him as an emotional refugee," Nadine said. "He's living in a country where he doesn't have his family anymore." been for seven years." She estimates the wait to last for yet another five years. Nadine is her brother's closest surviving relative. Under the current U.S. immigration system, however, he is not considered an immediate relative. "[T]he way the legislation is written now, it says that your immediate family is your parents, your spouse, and your children," said Nadine, a naturalized U.S. citizen. "But my parents are dead, and I've never been married, so I don't have a spouse, and I've never had children, so my family is my brother. That's my family. And based on the way the legislation is written, he doesn't really count. He gets to wait all the way at the back of the line, where we've Nadine implores legislators to rethink the definition of "immediate family" as comprehensive immigration reform gets underway. "Our siblings are our immediate family. … America treasures family." She added, "I have been a U.S. citizen for 15 years and before that, I was a U.S. permanent resident for five years, so I have had a 20-year commitment to this country and so all of my working years have been spent in the U.S. So, it's not reasonable for anyone to think that, at this stage, I would give up my U.S. citizenship and go back to live with my brother, but it is reasonable that he would live with me … ." WATCH Nadine tell her story at a recent briefing on family immigration. M AY/ J UNE 2013 COURTESY PHOTO; VIDEO BY JESSICA EISE WHAT'S YOUR STORY? VOICE is looking for immigration stories to publish. If you have a story to tell about a loved one, a friend, or yourself, send it to us, along with photos. 15

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