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Jeany and Ray's Story of Immigration

Jeany and Ray's Story of Immigration

Mara Davidson

Mara Davidson is an AFSC Iowa intern for Spring 2011. She's been interviewing clients of AFSC's Immigrants Voice Program. Jody Mashek directs AFSC's immigration legal services work in Des Moines.

Photo: AFSC

By Mara Davidson, AFSC Iowa Intern, April 5, 2011

Ten years ago on April 28, Jeany and Ray were married in Des Moines, Iowa. Just a few days after the ceremony, Ray stood in line at three in the morning in Omaha, Nebraska to receive his residency. “That was it!” says Jeany, referring to how easy it was to get residency for her husband back then. “You stood in line, filled out the paperwork, and you were done. It’s not like that nowadays.” 

Before marriage, Ray came to the United States, riding on a rubber intertube across the river. He started out in Chicago, working odd jobs here and there, learning all kinds of different skills. A friend brought him to Des Moines for the first time where he met his wife Jeany. Jeany laughs as she remembers her husband shoveling snow in the middle of the night. He did whatever he could to earn money back then. The odd jobs ended up paying off. Ray was able to learn a variety of skills, including siding.

In 2002 he was able to buy his first truck. He and his wife would go around asking contractors to trust him; eventually their siding business grew into a seven-man operation. “It’s the American dream!” says Jeany, proud of her husband and how far he has come.

Today Jeany and Ray come to AFSC to ask about getting residency for his children. Three of his children are still living in Mexico. He wants them to have the educational and career opportunities that he has had here in America.

Ray and Jeany first came to AFSC ten years ago to fill out the paperwork for Ray’s residency. The change that has taken place in those ten years is amazing. Ten years ago the couple was just starting out, scraping together money to get by. Ray barely spoke English and relied on Jeany to translate for him. Today the couple returns, telling stories of their two rambunctious toddlers and laughing together about old times.