Caught Between Wisconsin and El Salvador, Lael and Camila Face Expiring Visa and Worry About Their Future Because of DOMA
I met my fiancé, Camila, three years ago. We both worked at University of Wisconsin-Superior’s indoor climbing wall. She was an international student from El Salvador, studying biology. I am from southern Wisconsin, studying psychology. It was obvious that we both liked one another, but with Camila graduating in 3 months and planning to move out of state, it was difficult to know what was going to happen. One day we did decided to give it a chance and that’s where our story begins.
Since Camila majored in biology she was eligible for a yearlong work-permit. This permit could be extended after the year for up to 17 months because biology is a “STEM” designated field of study (e.g., science, technology, etc.), but certain requirements would have to be met. As our love grew, we made the decision to stay together, which meant we would have to find a way for Camila to stay in the area, near the university where I was studying. The search for a good job in such a restricted location became a struggle. As time was running out on Camila’s year long work-permit we found her a job that met all of the requirements in order to be eligible to extend the visa. At this point, we began to realize that staying together was not going to be as easy as we had originally thought. It was not a simple relationship where love and commitment were the only factors, but how it also depended on the hardships imposed by DOMA and the strict immigration laws.
One thing that has always kept us going is that both of our families are very loving and supportive of our relationship. Of course as our love continued to grow we knew that we had to stay together, no matter where that would take us. This past year I asked Camila to marry me, and she said yes. Even though this was one of the most joyful moments of our lives, it was also terrifying since we knew what we were up against with DOMA. We knew difficult decisions had to be made once Camila’s permit was up.
Camila’s work permit will be up in six months. As of now with the current laws the way they are, we would move out of the country in order to stay together. We most likely would move to El Salvador, Camila’s home country. The problem is that El Salvador, a third world country, is not LGBT friendly or accepting. We would have to hide our relationship, in order to avoid discrimination or even violence towards her family and us. El Salvador does not have favorable LGBT laws. Even though this would be a scary move on our part, we are willing to risk it as long as it means a lifetime together.
Making wedding plans is very difficult not knowing what our future holds for us. It would be incredible, like many would agree, to be able to get married to the one I love and have this marriage recognized by my home country on a federal level. The United States is said to be a “free country” and a “melting pot,” if this is the case, then how come two people who love each other can go through so much pain, heartbreak, and difficulties just to stay together in this so called land of the free.
This is why we are sharing our story. Like thousands of other couples, we need DOMA to be struck down by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress so that we can live a safe and long life of happiness together, wherever we choose to do so without being torn apart. We wish for all people, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, status, sex, race, cultural background to be accepted for who they are and who they love. We encourage others to share their story, to empower themselves and to focus attention on this issue. Love fuels this fight for social justice, but change comes about because we engage in action to inform others and build a supportive community. This is a fight, but together we will win. Thank you to The DOMA Project for giving us an opportunity to share our story. We hope to return to this space in the future to share stories of happiness and wedding pictures!