In Search of the American Dream
'My Family Is My Brother'
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.
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
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