Adopting Jesús, Chapter VI: Immigrating to Lady Liberty

Brian and Jesús travel to NYC to close a circle as they open a new chapter

Illustration by Platanohay

The line was long, the August sun was hot, and the ferry was crowded. Within 10 minutes, Jesús and I were taking selfies on the ferry deck with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Once we arrived we took the elevator up to the platform, snapped pictures of lower Manhattan, ate surprisingly decent pizza, and then stood under the sun again to get back on the ferry. Our animated chatter from the morning had died out into exhausted silence by the time the ferry stopped at Ellis Island. We did not get out. And at no point on our tour of this homage to immigrants did we talk about the immigration process we’d just completed.

Perhaps that’s because he was already a U.S. citizen. Or so I had been told. I had no document to prove this – only a red stamp in his passport which could be deemed proof of citizenship through a complex set of if-then-else statements.

He had for years been begging to go to New York. My own trips to The Big Apple had over the years triggered his envy and frustration that he couldn’t join. Ese es mi sueñooooooooo! came his voice over the phone as I told him I was walking through Midtown on a spring day in 2022. The following week he called me up to tell me was suing me for having gone to New York without him. He proceeded to hold a half-hour trial in which he was both prosecutor and judge (I was found guilty). Our trip together was his chance to see it all – Central Park, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the 5th Avenue Lego Store and yes, Lady Liberty.

It was our victory lap celebrating that the adoption was finally over. The cloud of uncertainty was gone. Never again would anyone tell me that I should smuggle him out of Venezuela over the Colombian border. It was an official close to the 18 years I lived in Venezuela, which were indisputably the happiest and most fulfilling of my life. It was the start of a new life in a country that is both familiar and foreign given how much it has changed – and how much I’ve changed – since I moved to Venezuela in 2001. It was the start of a chapter in my life whose pages I still couldn’t read.

We said goodbye to New York and took the train back down to DC. A few weeks later, Jesús started school in the same bilingual program where I learned Spanish. I breathed a sigh of relief when he came home the first day relaxed and happy. He’s fascinated with his new country. And I’m still enjoying the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life.

Chapter I: Finding Joy In a Hopeless Place
Chapter II: He Called Me “Papá”
Chapter III: Suing My Son’s Mother
Chapter IV: They Made the Adoption Possible
Chapter V: “He’s my kid. Nobody believes me”
Epilogue: Becoming Gringozuelan

Brian Ellsworth

Brian Ellsworth with a Washington based journalist and communications advisor. He spent 18 years in Venezuela, principally as a correspondent for Reuters.