Immigration day always starts with pancakes. Well for me it began with a little C-SPAN, the treadmill, a shower, and then a haircut. Finally when I got back the pancakes were all ready courtesy of Emilio. I decided this time we would take the Wonder Wagon to Newark. I thought it would bring us luck.
Emilio and I got to the court very early. The hearing was set to begin at 1:30 and we arrived shortly after noon. We hung out in the waiting area and just before 1:30 a man comes out of one of the court rooms with tears of happiness with his family hugging and kissing him. We saw this as a good sign.
Our lawyer Joyce talked with us briefly. We told her I really wanted to be in the room, so let's get my affidavit regarding a previous lawyer's bad advice out of the way. (A witness is not allowed to be in the room until they make their testimony).
So I reluctantly go to the waiting area. An hour goes by and I am a bit freaked. It doesn't help matters that I am sharing the room with the Mexican version of the Brady bunch whose "Carola" is going before the judge today too. The kids are carrying on and killing the strategic role playing I am doing in my head. By hour two I am about ready to crawl into a fetal position in a corner somewhere. Finally "Carola" is done and the Bradys leave. I am completely freaked that I am not in that court room!
At 2.5 hours a lawyer who keeps bopping in and out says she's handled four cases while I was still just sitting there. She asked me what am I doing. I said, "My partner is in his asylum hearing and I am waiting to be called". She responded, "Your law partner?". I said, "No, my domestic partner, you know like husband". She understood and wished me luck.
A few minutes later Joyce comes out and says she will be ready for me in a couple minutes. She told me to be prepared to talk about post traumatic stress for Emilio. I thinking, holy shit I am supposed to just testify about a previous crappy lawyer. She goes back in the room and a couple minutes later comes to me and says "Look Tom, I need you to close this deal. You need to prove post traumatic stress and why going back to Venezuela would be bad for Emilio". I realize what she means is other than our relationship you need to talk about why going back to Venezuela would be harmful to Emilio. Our relationship literally has no bearing whatsoever in this hearing.
I walk into the room and I see my sweet Emilio looks completely shell shocked after a grueling 2.5 hours of questions back and forth about his country, his history, his family, life in Caracas...etc
I take the stand and was asked the usual who are you? where do you live?
Then Joyce asked me what I think would happen to Em if he were sent back. I responsed he would not survive, it would literally kill him. I then told them a story that happened a few months ago. Every night before we go to sleep Emilio and I lay in the bed and talk. One night Emilio was teasing me about something and I replied back jokingly, "Watch it, I might just put you on a one way plane to Caracas". He basically completely broke down uncontrollably. Even just a brief thought of going back there devastated him. At this point Emilio and I are both crying in court.
I got my composure back and made some more testimony about our life, our family and friends. Then the government attorney asked me. if Emilio was sent back, would I go to Venezuela too?. I told him yes I would, but that country is not safe for Americans with kidnappings. Plus it's hell for gay people. You cannot live openly there. Then I told the story of how Emilio came here. I told them at 38 years old he sold everything he owned, said goodbye to family and friends, literally put what's left of his life in a suitcase and came here. I told them people do not do things like that unless they are in a devastating situation. I added that in my 39 years I couldn't possibly imagine the stress he must have been under to literally begin life over with only a suitcase. I said that fortunately for me life has never been that bad to take such drastic measures. I could see they all could relate by the look in theirs eyes.
Finally it was all over, the judge told Joyce she was really glad she agreed to hear me speak. (this made me beam with pride). Aparently there were arguments back and forth about letting me speak. The judge advised us that both sides have 10 days to present any further written evidence and that the oral arguments are now complete.
Joyce said we should have a final answer by the end of the month, and it looks good.
So we drove towards home, had dinner at our town diner. Got home and got into our T-shirts and just collapsed on the bed in complete emotional exhaustion. At 8pm Emilio decided to go into the garage and work on a painting, I joined him with some apple wine and Mike's Hard Lemonade. We listened to Enya and appreciated just being together.