When most people think of "La Migra", they think of INS raids in the US, deportation, and other terrifying stuff. For me, it means something entirely different and very often pleasant.
After years of living in Mexico somewhere on the fringes of the legal side of things, last year Mario took some time off of work to "legalize me". At that point, I was completely illegal, having been 9 months pregnant when my tourist visa expired. We decided it was more important to hang out in town, near our hospital, than to take a 3 hour trip just to cross the border and get a new visa.
We were married for a year and a half before I finally waltzed into the migration office here in Saltillo. Clearly, we could have gotten the ball rolling a lot earlier. However, for the first year we were married, we were living near Toluca in the state of Mexico. At some point during that first year of marriage, we wandered into migration offices to see exactly what the process was to get me a resident visa. They wanted to send us to three different offices (including a police station). Mario has a deathly fear of the police in this country (sometimes it's a reasonable fear), so as we knew we'd be moving to Saltillo within a few months, we waited until we were here.
And I'm so glad we did.
The immigration office in Saltillo is located in a beautiful, tree-lined, residential neighborhood. The immigration office in Toluca required us to wait in line for the hours and hours it took to talk with someone at the desk. Here in Saltillo, they have a waiting room complete with chairs, a sign-in book, a security guard (to call us into the offices in an orderly fashion), a water cooler, and a TV that's always tuned to Chef Oropeza making something healthy and delicious.
Once it's my turn, I get escorted to one of two very spacious desks, which also provide various places to sit down. And the woman who explains the process and files my papers has got to be one of the most adorable women on the planet. Seeing her just makes me happy. She takes my papers, explains the next step, and volia--I'm on my way!
I may also really enjoy my trips to immigration simply because the bus stop on the way home backs up to a bakery on one side and an ice cream store on another. Or, it may be that last year, when I had to make multiple trips to file that first visa, I was so starved for adult interactions that talking to the security guard and Adorable Woman were really the highlights of my week.
This year, however, I do have real friends. I mentioned to one of those friends that I spent the morning at migration.
Her quick reply? "Ugh. I HATE that place."
Really? Are we talking about the same migration office? Surely a city as small as Saltillo can't have two.
She said they were mean and condescending. Clearly, she has not yet had the pleasure of dealing with Adorable Woman. I'll have to introduce them for her next appointment.
On the other hand, my friend doesn't mind going to the Civil Registration. I hate that place with a passion. And Adorable Woman told me that I should really go there next week to speed up delivery of my visa.
Nuts. Maybe I'll take my friend with me.