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My parents immigrated from China and Vietnam in hopes of providing a better life for the children they desired. My dad first immigrated from Vietnam on a boat to work for a number of years in order to sponsor my mom’s immigration around 1991. Because of all of the hardships my parents endured, my birth in the United States (as well as my younger sister’s) was the first step towards their dream. To this day, my parents work hard in a middle-class, though low-wage restaurant business in order to support the education they want to provide for my sister and me. I am now a college student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and my sister is a senior at Eaglecrest High School applying to Harvard College and Stanford University. But, my sister and I would not live the lives that we are living today if my parents weren’t allowed the opportunity to immigrate to the United States.
About 5-10 years ago, my parents went through many immigration processes in order to sponsor for my grandparents to immigrate into the United States from China, but because of the extensive process, my grandmother died about three months before Immigration Services approved my grandparents’ immigration forms. My grandmother was not allowed the opportunity to experience the great American life that her daughter earned for her, and my grandfather began getting a bit delirious when he got to America due to her passing.
My parents are also currently trying to sponsor my aunt, uncle, and cousin to immigrate from China into the United States. There are so many cultural differences that my family from China just do not understand, and I just want the chance to be able to share all of that with them (partially because I could not do so with my grandmother). Unfortunately, it has also been an extensive process for them to immigrate as well. I fear that such an extensive and difficult immigration process will not allow all many families like mine from China to experience the wonderful life that America offers such fortunate people like myself.

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My parents are both from Mexico, and they are some of the proudest Americans I’ve ever known. My father came here during the Reagan amnesty when he was only a few years older than what I am now. He started out by taking any job he could get, most of them having to do with hard labor. He steadily worked toward gaining his citizenship and helped my mother attain hers too. They have taught me the blessing it is to grow up in this country of opportunity, and they stress how important it is to practice my rights, such as voting. They love this country and they show it in the way they carry their lives on a daily basis. It is because of them that I have learned about hard work, perseverance, and the importance of attaining your dreams, but also the respect and love we should have for this great land of freedom and opportunity. If we want our nation to grow and prosper, it is essential for us to not close off our bridge to other people like my parents. I am now in my junior year of college, and I am working towards attending law school after my undergrad career and hopefully practice immigration law. I want to make sure that people who want to work and make better lives for themselves and their communities have the opportunity to do so. I want to make more success stories like my parents, and like my own, to others who cannot find it in their own homeland. America will only continue to grow if we nurture it with people whose primary mission is to make life better than what it already is.

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During the Vietnam War, my parents lived in the south side of Vietnam, but they decided to travel to America due to communists taking over the south side. However, instead of a plane, they had to travel through a old boat with many other immigrants. Some actually struggled during this time because of starvation and other disasters. During that time, my mother was pregnant and she had me during the boat ride. After reaching their destination in California, I received my birth certificate in Fountain Valley, California. Over the years, I have realized that my parents went through hard times in the past, but they always look forward to the future and hope for the best. They believe that America was the best chance for a brighter future for themselves and for myself. I am thankful for this opportunity that my parents gave me and hopefully I accomplish my goals to make them proud for the hardship they went through.

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As an undocumented youth I have seen exactly how immigration reform, or the lack thereof, can affect individuals and families. I worked odd jobs, got almost perfect grades in school, and eventually attempted to attend college. My school (Portland Community College) charged me international tuition, even though I have lived in the US since I was a year old. I contacted admission and the dean of students who told me that it was best that I drop out because they didn’t see a way for me to be able to afford tuition. This is no way to solve education issues in our country.

I have seen the rest of my family face deportation and eventually, they have all been forced to leave. As the last person in my family in the US, I am trying hard to achieve my dreams. When my teachers in elementary school told me that “I could achieve anything I set my mind to” or that “I could grow up to be anything I wanted.” I never imagined that I would face so many challenges.

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As a Chinese-American, LGBTQ citizen it is important that I stand up and give voice for individuals of a similar background who may be unable to share their stories.

I am a third generation Chinese-American citizen who has not had to deal with immigration issues myself. My grandfather,however, took on the name of another individual so that he could come to America—by definition he was an illegal “alien”. He came to America to pursue a dream, something we call the “American Dream”. My grandfather came here to escape the harsh conditions of Guangzhou, China; he came here to provide his children with a better life. Despite the notion that illegal immigrants are lazy people who live off of welfare and federal aid, I must argue that this notion is a mere myth. Undocumented citizens are some of the most-hardworking individuals in this country. They possess skill sets that supersede many US natives. Many of the undocumented citizens work tirelessly to build a stable life here in America; they are anything but criminals. Furthermore, the children and students of undocumented families are some of the most diligent high-achieving students one could ever meet. Why would we rob these youth of future opportunities? There are rich families in the US who find loopholes in which their children can still qualify for financial aid (illegally), while undocumented students who work twice as hard are denied federal student aid—and are at risk for deportation if their “illegal” status is discovered. There is something seriously wrong with this logic.

I speak from the experience I have in working closely with families and peers who struggle with undocumented citizenship and potential deportation. I have witnessed families torn apart by some of the ridiculous laws we have in place.

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My parents have always taught me to give back to the Vietnamese community and I never understood why. As a kid, I felt it was unnecessary to connect with my roots when we were all so far away from our homeland.  But as a young adolescent, who wouldn’t selfishly think like that? The only things we want or care about are the toys that were easily handed down to us, and the really expensive ice cream truck that always has a herd of kids chasing after it like zombies.

I was definitely one of those kids that had everything given to me. Took money for granted. And always whined when I didn’t get my way.  Everything finally changed one day. My parents finally sat me down and told me a story that completely transformed my entire perspective on life and who I truly am.

Both my parents’ families were really poor. Dad was the oldest out of 10 and Mom was the middle out of 8. Not quite sure how they met, but they met and got married. Before Mom was pregnant, they were separated due to the Vietnam War. Dad was forced into the army while Mom was left back at home. Mom told me during the war, there was another man that was in love with her. He had asked her to flee with him to America, but Mom couldn’t do it. She was too in love with dad.

After the War was over, Dad was forced into Reeducation Camp for years. Mom told me that for those years, she had to walk for miles to meet him every couple of months. Though it was hard, Mom never gave up. She would buy fish at the shore and sell it near her hometown for living expenses. She took care of herself and her family while waiting for Dad to come home. I remember my mom telling me as tears were pouring out of her eyes how hard those years were.

After being free from prison, mom and dad had the oldest daughter, my sister. My parents lived in a small shack with the ground being our floor and our roof filled with holes. Mom and Dad continued making a living by catching fish from the river really early in the morning and selling it by day. As time goes on, my two brothers were born! Everything was still the same except it was more people to feed. My sister told me that my brothers drank so much milk that she had to steal milk from the store occasionally to feed them. By the time I was born (1989), my parents owned a liquor store and their business started prospering. And when I turned six, we were invited to move to AMERICA.

I could never imagine how my parents felt the first time stepping on the soil of freedom and land of opportunities. After all those years of suffering, we were finally emancipated from endless hunger, brutal treatment, and government dictatorship.  My first thought as we anxiously waited for our freedom on the plane was that the food in front of us was free. We didn’t have to steal anymore. We didn’t have to starve. Our hard work will finally be worth the effort.

Even before leaving to college, my dad still reminds me of our principles through our heritage. I specifically remember him expressing, “ Even if you fail to become a doctor or a lawyer, don’t ever fail to become your morals or your values”. I’m pretty sure other parents that have gone through the same thing as my parents will agree that it is okay to fail in success and wealth but never your morals and values.

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My family came to America with nothing except whatever we could carry on our backs. We weren’t escaping anything - we simply wanted a better life. However, once we came to the States, we found that America was not really the bright and shining country that we had so dreamed of. We found ourselves very different from the citizens and permanent residents around us. I myself wanted to attend Cornell University (and was accepted), but unfortunately I could not apply for federal loans, being an international student, so I had to settle for a college within my state. For the rest of my family, I witnessed things like my mom working 5 jobs, my dad being either self-employed or unemployed, and I basically saw my parents struggling with work, since we were not permanent residents until 14 years after we came into this country. I’d like for it to be easier for those who are abroad to immigrate here, since we do know America as the land of opportunities. However, the question remains - opportunities for a few, or opportunities for all?

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Avy Kea’s Family Migration Story

If you were to ask my parents about their lives back home, you would find their reactions mixed with smiles and sadness. They would share joyful moments of their childhood but moments later, you would find that those stories would end with nothing more than heartache. Rarely do my parents ever speak of their past, but over my 20 years of existence, I have managed to pick up little details of their journey to America.   

1975 was the year of abrupt changes. A communist party known as the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian government and its leader, Pol Pot, declared himself as Prime Minister and ruled the country. The Khmer Rouge regime lasted approximately 4 years, causing the death toll to reach almost 4 million, or if you want me to put it more explicitly, 21% of the Cambodian population was victim of genocide.

Whether or not you have heard of the Khmer Rouge, you have or you are probably wondering the reasons why this event occurred. I could tell you to Google the reasons as you would with any tragic historical event, but you would soon find yourself reading about the Khmer rouge and social engineering and deurbanization. Instead, I will tell you the reasons my mother and father told me: Pol Pot wanted equality, and in order to meet this goal, he eliminated social classes by forcing the Khmer people to work as farmers. He made an effort to remove those who received education, and this almost often included professionals and intellectuals.

My parents are from the village outskirts of Battambang, a populous city in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge heavily focused their attention on professionals such as educators and physicians and since my parents were neither, they were not directly affected by the communist party’s actions. My parents saw this as an opportunity to escape their hometown and seek refuge in Thailand. After they arrived in Thailand, my mother’s family was fortunate to find a sponsor in America that would give them the opportunity to be free from the disasters of war. The people who sponsored my mother’s family, and my father, was a local church in Columbia, Missouri named the United Church of Christ. Without them, I’m uncertain whether or not my parents would have made it to America safely. 

It was 1979 when my parents finally arrived in the United States. Although the journey following their arrival seemed bright, they found it to be extremely challenging. If you were to ask them what obstacles they had to endure, I believe my parents would tell you this: Similar to many immigrant families, they worked hard to learn an unfamiliar culture, a culture foreign to them. They would tell you that they tried their best to provide the means to live in a place they would now call home, even after 33 years later.

Avy’s story is part of our APA Heritage Month series of featuring a family migration story a day for the month of May! Find this feature at http://www.facebook.com/aajcyouth
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Linh Chuong’s Family Migration Story

My parents are strong. My father was one of many South Vietnamese military men detained in ““re-education camps” (trai hoc tap cai tao). My father, now a jolly pot-bellied man who spends his time strolling twice daily in the park, playing with his grandkids, and composing caustic Vietnamese poems for my entertainment, tells me he was 95 pounds with most of his teeth rotted from malnutrition, hard labor, indefinite detention, no health care, and minimal housing in remote locations—in what he calls torture prisons. My mother was pregnant when he was taken and raised my brother in post-war Vietnam. She doesn’t talk about it, but I imagine it could not have been any easier for her than him.  
After three and a half years, he was released, but my family’s economic prospects, educational attainment, and freedom in Vietnam were denied permanently. My father was denied access to most occupations and closely monitored by the government through routine check ups and reportings of his daily activities. My father and mother ate yams in congee and did odd jobs for years. They eventually saved enough for farmland and then had a comfortable income after a decade of labor. However there were no prospects for us, their children. Although my father paid a small fortune to hire tutors and send my siblings to school, we were still barred from college, from even the hope of white-collar work.  
So my family tried to flee three times. We failed three times. It was not until the United States invited our family to come to the United States through the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) of 1988, or more commonly called the H.O. (Humanitarian Operation) program, that we successfully left for America. 
Certainly, life in the United States started out a little bumpy. When I was growing up in the States, my father worked three jobs. My mother sewed clothes for a garment factory for at least 12 hours a day on top of cooking, cleaning and clothing her five children. I guess it is apt that they call us “resident aliens,” because that’s what we felt as students, as a family learning English as our third language (after Vietnamese and Cantonese), and as Yao Chinese ethnic minorities in Vietnam and then the United States. But my father says we have freedom of speech, thought, and movement: freedoms essential to humanity.  
This is why I fight for comprehensive immigration reform. “Immigration” conveys for me a sense of my parents’ dueling emotions and the strength of their will to live and prosper. Their dislocation, their desperation and urgency in leaving their homeland, their heartache and all their hopes for their children’s future is part of my conception of our immigrant/refugee identity. They help me recognize that the decision to immigrate is difficult and costly; immigrants do not need to be re-victimized. They need a little American hospitality, built on a desire to protect freedom and a love for others.


Linh’s story is part of our APA Heritage Month series of featuring a family migration story a day for the month of May! Find this feature at http://www.facebook.com/aajcyouth

Linh Chuong’s Family Migration Story

My parents are strong. My father was one of many South Vietnamese military men detained in ““re-education camps” (trai hoc tap cai tao). My father, now a jolly pot-bellied man who spends his time strolling twice daily in the park, playing with his grandkids, and composing caustic Vietnamese poems for my entertainment, tells me he was 95 pounds with most of his teeth rotted from malnutrition, hard labor, indefinite detention, no health care, and minimal housing in remote locations—in what he calls torture prisons. My mother was pregnant when he was taken and raised my brother in post-war Vietnam. She doesn’t talk about it, but I imagine it could not have been any easier for her than him.  

After three and a half years, he was released, but my family’s economic prospects, educational attainment, and freedom in Vietnam were denied permanently. My father was denied access to most occupations and closely monitored by the government through routine check ups and reportings of his daily activities. My father and mother ate yams in congee and did odd jobs for years. They eventually saved enough for farmland and then had a comfortable income after a decade of labor. However there were no prospects for us, their children. Although my father paid a small fortune to hire tutors and send my siblings to school, we were still barred from college, from even the hope of white-collar work.  

So my family tried to flee three times. We failed three times. It was not until the United States invited our family to come to the United States through the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) of 1988, or more commonly called the H.O. (Humanitarian Operation) program, that we successfully left for America. 

Certainly, life in the United States started out a little bumpy. When I was growing up in the States, my father worked three jobs. My mother sewed clothes for a garment factory for at least 12 hours a day on top of cooking, cleaning and clothing her five children. I guess it is apt that they call us “resident aliens,” because that’s what we felt as students, as a family learning English as our third language (after Vietnamese and Cantonese), and as Yao Chinese ethnic minorities in Vietnam and then the United States. But my father says we have freedom of speech, thought, and movement: freedoms essential to humanity.  

This is why I fight for comprehensive immigration reform. “Immigration” conveys for me a sense of my parents’ dueling emotions and the strength of their will to live and prosper. Their dislocation, their desperation and urgency in leaving their homeland, their heartache and all their hopes for their children’s future is part of my conception of our immigrant/refugee identity. They help me recognize that the decision to immigrate is difficult and costly; immigrants do not need to be re-victimized. They need a little American hospitality, built on a desire to protect freedom and a love for others.

Linh’s story is part of our APA Heritage Month series of featuring a family migration story a day for the month of May! Find this feature at http://www.facebook.com/aajcyouth
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Leona Thao’s Family Migration Story

Leona’s story is part of our APA Heritage Month series of featuring a family migration story a day for the month of May! Find this feature at http://www.facebook.com/aajcyouth.