Wives of deported immigrants a growing online community

The World

Story by Britta Conroy-Randall, PRI's The World. Listen to audio for full report.

As the number of undocumented immigrants deported under the Obama Administration tops the one million mark, a growing number of American-born women married to deported men are sharing their experience through blogs. Bonding with each other online, the wives detail their daily struggles – from enduring long separations to dealing with complicated legal processes.

Every morning Beth Brotherton turns on her computer and logs into her blog, Diary of an Immigrants Wife. Beth met her husband in Utica, NY in 2005 and says everything about their story is pretty standard.

Except it’s not.

Beth’s husband, Khalid Nethagani, is a Muslim from India. He’s currently under a deportation mandate from the US Dept. of Homeland Security for overstaying his visa.

“Basically what that has meant is that he can be torn away from me at any time, officials can come even at his workplace, or at home if they want to, handcuff him and take him away,” Brotherton said.

Khalid’s family was living in Kuwait when he first came to the US to study engineering in the late 1980’s. When the first Gulf War started, his dad told him not to come back. Khalid overstayed his original student visa, and he’s been more or less hiding out ever since.

Beth started a blog to chronicle her experiences as the wife of a long term undocumented immigrant. To her surprise, she discovered a growing online community of women in a similar situation.

“It was just so hard going through this process and being alone and knowing that no one in your inner circle knows what it’s like,” Brotherton said. “But when finally this blogging community started I started to connect with other people who could understand. And that meant everything, really.”

Read the rest of this story on The World website.

Mary Lindemuth Arulanantham, the wife of a deported immigrant, shared this on PRI's Facebook page:

As you can see from the article, a green card and automatic citizenship is not always gained through marriage. 25 years ago I married a graduate student from Sri Lanka. It was the height of SL's civil war, and we became involved in the network of volunteers who helped with the refugees from that conflict, and my husband found himself the target of threats. Unfortunately, the prestigious Fulbright award that brought him to the U.S. also made his visa strict in it's insistence that he return to Sri Lanka after his studies were complete (even though his Fulbright was remanded by the SR gov't for murky, ethnic reasons). For many years, he was considered "undocumented" and under the threat of deportation until the case was resolved in court; he officially became a refugee because of his political work, but it was a source of shame to him compared to the mayhem we had documented for others. He finally gained his citizenship after 15 years of marriage, 2 children, and personal setbacks (despite his PhD, and respected reputation, he lost out on many opportunities because of his shaky visa status).

I still have nightmares from that time in our lives.


PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.More about The World.

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