GROWING UP AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT
We had to hide so many things
- •Going through customs at LAX separately.We didn't want the immigration officers to get suspicious that we were not ever leaving.
- •Enrolling in summer school as a 2nd grader.My family wanted to acclimate me to the American schools ASAP.
- •Getting a social security card before our VISA expired.In hind sight, this allowed me to do so much.
- •Not being allowed to look at my passport.My mom didn't want anyone to know about our status, even passersby. I finally convinced her one night and promptly l announced, "They're expired!" Yeah, my mom knew.
- •Not talking about our background.I was fully aware of our status even as a child, and actively didn't talk about it. Nobody ever brought it up.
- •Crying when I heard the national anthem.I really loved it here. I knew even then it was a privilege.
- •Not going on a trip to Spain with my 7th grade history class.It was for 10 of our teacher's best students so it was such an honor. I couldn't go because I would not be allowed back. I couldn't come out and tell my teacher why, but she understood. She was the best.
- •Dropping out of summer school drama class.To this day I don't know why, but I'm sure it was immigrant status related. My mom took me to the community pool to make up for it. As a mom, I now know what a sacrifice that is.
- •Worrying about what I would do once I graduated from high school.Would I be able to attend college without jeopardizing my family? How would I qualify for financial aid? It was difficult to work hard in high school not knowing if I'd be able to parlay the fruits of my labor. But I did it anyway because that's what you do!
- •Meeting with lawyers to get our greencards.President Bush gave amnesty to Chinese born illegals. My dad was born in China and moved to Hong Kong when he was a toddler. It was the first time I was glad to be connected with China in any way because I'm from Hong Kong and we are snooty about it. I qualified because I was still under 18, but barely.
- •Going back to Hong Kong for the first time in 10 years.It was the first thing we did when we received our green cards. It was so good to see family again. It made me love my dad's side of the family so much more, but that's another list, I think.
- •Memorizing all 100+ test questions and answers they can ask at the citizenship test.I remember feeling superior because I had taken A.P. American history. In hind sight, it was not that hard to memorize, but I was still nervousness because what if I had failed?!
- •Remembering the kindness of the immigration officer.He expedited my swearing in ceremony because the next one was taking place down the street from my work.
- •Not feeling at all different when I became a citizen.I had already lived through many major milestones of the American Dream: high school graduation, college graduation and finding a job. I had already felt American for a long, but it was good to be official.