Friday, July 22, 2016

I Am An Immigrant

Calls to end immigration are growing louder. This is the case in many countries. My home country, which used to pride itself on the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty, has citizens demanding an immense and impossibly expensive wall be erected to keep foreigners out.

I am an immigrant.

For two decades, I've lived in my adopted country. I love it as much as my home country, just in different ways, like you might love each sibling differently, but still to the bottom of your heart.

Sometimes, when people talk about banning immigration, they tell me things like, But we don't mean you. You're different.

I disagree. Now, years after arriving, I am established.

When I first moved here, I entered the country as a tourist, but intending to stay (for love, but that's another story).
  • I had no residence permit and no work permit.
  • I had just enough money to get me through a couple of months.
  • I had double-digit-thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt.
  • I lived in my boyfriend's student dorm "illegally"*. The facility manager's apartment was two doors down from my boyfriend's room, so she knew what was going on. Lucky for me, she turned a blind eye.

  • I'm married with two children.
  • I have a residence permit and a work permit.
  • My student loan debts are paid in full.
  • I am a house owner.
  • I am a Senior Project Manager at a well-known international company.
  • Which means I am a taxpayer.

What did I need to get to this point?
  •  A good education, funded to a high degree by parents who worked hard and long to provide it.
  • The willingness to take a risk.
  • Hard work and often long hours.
  • Support from both loved ones and strangers.

But also—and I know this is true—the "right" skin color and the "right" home country so that there was little to no prejudice. Not for my parents back home. Not for myself back home. Not for myself in my new country.

So when you think something like, But we don't mean you. You're different, consider what you are really saying. I was poor, jobless and basically homeless. So, is the biggest difference really skin color?

Interested in more on immigrants in the US in history? Check out this post.

*living in the dorm "illegally" = dorms are for students only, no additional rent paid for an additional person. 

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