How Miriam Meinke Was Temporarily Exiled from America, Part One

“I just thought it was going to be a lot of paperwork,” Miriam Meinke said.

She was used to paperwork. For years, Miriam had dutifully applied for work visas, as had several members of her family, at a not-insubstantial cost.Each year, they had wondered if they would be denied. In 2011, she married Anthony, her high school sweetheart, who was born a citizen and whose family had lived in north-central Iowa since as long as he could remember.

And – like many people – they had assumed that legally she would soon be “American.” They knew that marriage didn’t automatically bestow citizenship, but believed that applying for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship would be logical steps. Then they could continue their life together like a typical couple in America.

“We were just trying to do the right thing, and I feel like were being punished,” said Anthony.

So, after their 2011 wedding, Miriam and Anthony compiled Images of their relationship and took them to Des Moines for separate interviews with immigration officers. In December 2012, they took the papers across the border to the United States Consulate in Mexico, located in Ciudad Juarez. Wedding photos, “emails back and forth. Letters. Facebook messages, to prove that we were dating,” Anthony said, evidence that there’s was a relationship based on love.

The Meinkes left for Mexico on December 15, 2012. It was July 25 of the following year – seven months later – when Miriam could legally return, kept out of the U.S. on a bureaucratic morass, processing time, and the grounds that – despite her legal status for many years – her initial entry to America, as a child, had not been accompanied by paperwork.

In the June 26 issue of the Monitor, read more, including excerpts from the 136 pages of hardship letters that area residents wrote on the couple’s behalf.

In the coming weeks, the Monitor will discuss more about the Meinkes’ story: how Miriam and her family came to America, the challenges of citizenship, the effects of separation, and how the community rallied to their support.