A night that changed my life, and that of my family, was September 12, 2019.
In it, my mother and I watched the news of the day with the two of us, as the news showed President Donald Trump and his administration’s new executive order that would strip federal protections for LGBT people.
That morning, our father, Jim, and I were sleeping in the same room with the rest of the family, and as we were about to fall asleep, the sound of our mother’s phone vibrating woke us.
I awoke to see my mother on the phone, crying.
“Dad, Daddy,” she said.
“I’m having a hard time with this.
I’m having trouble believing this.
We have a daughter in the United States.
She was born in the U.S. and she’s an American.”
The pain was immense.
The panic was intense.
Our family, I remember thinking, “What if this really happened?
What if we have to leave the U.”
For our family, it felt like we were leaving America.
We had just been through the most difficult time of our lives, and we had to leave behind the people that we loved most, the people who made our family special.
Jim and I both immediately began crying.
We tried to comfort her, but she was so overwhelmed.
We wanted to hug her, to reassure her, and to comfort our children.
We didn’t want to see her face, because it was so difficult to look at.
We felt like she was about to cry out of fear.
But her tears were the only thing that would calm us down.
We knew we couldn’t go through another day like that, that we would never see our family again, or hear their voices again.
We were scared that we were abandoning our family.
The day we would leave was an absolute nightmare.
The following day, as we drove to our destination, we realized that our trip was almost done.
Our plane landed in Orlando.
Our flight home was on its way.
Jim was in shock.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“We’re leaving,” I replied.
Jim started to cry.
I could tell from the look on his face that he was crying because he was terrified of what would happen next.
We drove out to the airport and Jim and my parents were sitting on the curb, both holding their heads in their hands.
I was crying with him, too.
I remember telling Jim, “I want to be able to come home with you.”
I told him that it was our decision, that if we chose to leave, he would be allowed to stay, and he would not be deported.
Jim told me that it would be easier to stay with us in Orlando than to go back to Los Angeles, where he was currently living.
“No, I think we can stay,” I told my husband.
“But I want to do it with you.
I want you to come back to the States.
I just want to stay here with you for a little while longer.”
I asked him if he would like to stay in the States and be with us.
“Well, that would be nice,” he replied.
“If I could go back with you to the U., I would.”
Jim and his family would stay with Jim for a few weeks, and then we would be able visit them in the Orlando area.
The rest of our family would also go home.
For weeks, we waited to hear news of Jim’s whereabouts, but it never came.
We watched as our mother cried for hours.
Jim finally made it to the US, and soon after he arrived in New York, Jim and the rest the family returned to the city.
We learned that Jim was not deported.
He was released on bail.
I had a long phone conversation with Jim, during which I told Jim that I wanted to return home, and also that I was going to do everything I could to find my family.
“Please, Dad, you can stay.
We love you,” I said.
I also told him, “You are going to have to do whatever it takes to make it home.
We’re all going to be waiting for you.”
Jim began to cry again.
He said, “No.”
We had a hard conversation about our decision.
I said, and in a way, I told you, “We can’t be here forever.”
I had to make a decision.
But it was a decision that was made, and it was right, and Jim was going home.
Jim’s decision was a life-changing one.
It changed everything about my family’s future.
It meant everything to us.
Our journey to being an American family in the 21st century was a hard one, and at times, it was hard to watch.
But at the end of the trip, we all felt like Jim and he were back. I