This is a follow-up to a story from September, checking in on Sergio De La O Hernandez & Michael Dix, two men from our local LGBTQ+ family. Michael is the Founder/Owner of Michael’s Frozen Custard and his husband, Sergio, is the business’s General Manager. The two were married in 2015. As you may recall from the Our Lives story (Sept/Oct 2019), Hernandez returned to Mexico in August of 2018 for a visa interview and at that time, his visa request was denied. Subsequently, he was not allowed to re-enter the United States.
That denial began a challenging and lengthy process for Dix and Hernandez, working with an immigration attorney, Jessica Slind, to bring Hernandez back into the U.S. A hardship waiver was filed on Hernandez’s behalf which laid out the challenges that Dix would endure—everything from mental and physical health concerns to threats to their livelihoods—if Sergio was not allowed to return. It’s also worth noting that Sergio has no criminal record, as well as a daughter living here who is a U.S. citizen. Even so, his waiver was denied. At that point, their only recourse was for their attorney to file an appeal on Sergio’s behalf… and wait.
As stated earlier, Sergio had taken over the General Manager duties of Michael’s Frozen Custard. As such, Dix felt he had no choice but to close down their Monroe Street location on September 9, 2019. In fact, he chose to close down his Atwood location as well, at least temporarily, to wait out this ordeal with Sergio in Mexico, despite concerns for their safety there as a gay couple. The couple chose to make lemonade from the lemons, taking a break from their “regular” lives to be together in Mexico, and then later in Canada. “It was too hard being apart all that time” said Dix, “we had to find a way to stay strong together, which meant actually being together as a couple.”
Through all of this, the couple’s community, family, and friends rallied around them. More than 200 letters of support, many handwritten, were delivered to Attorney Slind, and she in turn was able to provide them to the embassy in Mexico to show how valuable Hernandez and Dix are to Madison. Dix made sure to mention that there were also many who made phone calls of support for bringing Sergio home. Months passed, but everyone’s tenacity and hard work paid off. Sergio’s visa was approved in December, 2019. Then it was back to playing the waiting game while all of the official proceedings went through due process. On May 7, Sergio was finally granted his visa. He took an Uber to the border, then literally walked himself and four suitcases back across the border.
Thankfully, theirs turned out to be a story of love, tenacity, community support, and triumph. It also shines a very bright and poignant light on the injustices of our current immigration system. As we’re acutely aware, families are routinely torn apart, with no thought given to the hardships they will have to endure. My own sincere hope is that Michael and Sergio’s struggle stirs us to action when it comes to matters of immigration reform. To quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Dr. King penned these words in 1958, but here we stand, 62 years later, still working on these enormous social issues. Good readers, let’s not be that silence. Let’s not be those good people. Instead, let us be the people who use our voices and our strengths to ensure that freedom is something which is applied unilaterally to every person…
…because every person deserves it.
Jeanne Moe was raised by the best humans on the planet in a small, rural community in northern Wisconsin. Her heart still resides on the shores of Lake Wissota, but the rest of her put down roots just south of Madison, in the village of McFarland. She has owned Simply Served Personal Chef Service for nine years. Her family of three consists of herself and her two dogs (they are the best!) who are always up for the next great adventure.