“It’ll be fine,” she shoots back with a laugh.
“Not always,” he replies.
He remembers the case of a friend who, despite getting married, wasn’t able to process his legal status because he refused to return to Mexico per the law. “If you came to this country illegally like me and want to get a green card through marriage, you have to turn yourself in to immigration authorities, and they interview you in San Diego, then toss you back,” Jose says. “And then you have to wait there until they say you can return, if ever. If it’s a small time, I don’t mind—it’ll be a vacation. But if it’s more than a year, I won’t do it. I wouldn’t know what to do for so long in Mexico.
“And that’s the thing,” he adds. “Right now, we don’t know. We need to get a lawyer.”
“It’s unfair,” Josefa says. “You go your whole life, you’re working with the system and pay taxes. You try to be the best citizen you can be, but to have a stupid clause fuck it over, it’s unfair.”
She admits she’s afraid of getting caught. “But we’re putting our faith on the fact it will work out—it has to,” she says.
“If I don’t do this now, I don’t know how long I can do this,” Jose says. “I can’t live a double life anymore.”
The banda sinaloense returns from its break. “I like this song—let’s dance,” Josefa tells Jose. Her fake-gold engagement ring sparkles as they enter the hall and rush toward the stage. They hold each other, coordinate their steps and join the dance-floor swirl.
This article appeared in print as "Make a Run for the Altar: With immigration reform stalled, some young, assimilated illegal immigrants are entering sham marriages with a little help from their friends."