Family and Grit

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Family and Grit

by Jeffrey Chin, March, 2019

Immigrants, from across the globe, come to America for a variety of reasons, including: better opportunities, safety and refuge, and family reunions. Regardless of their different intentions, they all share an equal desire for the promise of a better life and future. The land of opportunities, as most believe it, is a common ground for cultures and a breeding space for new possibilities—a place where anyone, striving for improvement, can indeed improve their lives. However, many new immigrants, if overly optimistic, can overestimate the country’s value, underestimate its flaws, and mistake the U.S. as a perfected utopia. Similarly, Robert left his beloved home and family for the U.S., for better education, more job opportunities, and, more importantly, asylum from the persecution of the Maoist party in his country. Although Robert manages to immigrate to the U.S. successfully, he still faces many unexpected adversities as an independent immigrant, which challenged him both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, Robert still believes in the American Dream. Despite the traumas from Nepal and the obstacles as an immigrant, Robert is able to mediate his traumas and reshape his hardships into growth-supporting experiences, through grit and with the motivation of his parents’ support, which facilitates his development as an independent.

I met Robert on the sixth of November. He was from Nepal, a small country squeezed between the large masses of China and India. Robert describes his home as “a regional country… it has all the mountains on the top, like the hilly region, mountain region… like um… Mount Everest.” For sixteen years, he grew up in a small village in the Gorkha District—a small community where most residents knew each other as neighbors. He remembers growing up with his three other siblings in that village. Occasionally, he would reminisce over his fond childhood memories. Since then, Robert has pursued his studies earnestly: earning his degree and a job as a civil engineer. Unfortunately, Robert later had a problematic encounter with one of Nepal’s political parties, which threatened his life and forced him to migrate to the U.S. Before he filed for asylum, Robert first flew to Norman, Oklahoma with a student visa, where he studied in Oklahoma University for a semester. Then he moved in with his cousin in California and transferred to SFSU, then CCSF. During his first year in the U.S., Robert struggled a lot with his transition from Nepal. Alone and in a new country, there were language barriers and cultural differences, which hindered Robert’s ability to adjust. Nevertheless, with time and patience, Robert is able to overcome his challenges. He hopes that, one day, he will be able to cultivate a future for himself in the U.S., travel the world, and revisit his family in Nepal.

Subjected to the dangers of political persecution and his traumatic experiences back in Nepal, Robert was forced to leave his beloved childhood home, out of fear and dread for the Maoist party. From 1996 to 2006, the Maovadi Dwandakaal—a civil war between the Maoist Communist Party and the Nepalese government—plagued the country. A period of tragic violence, the ten years were troubled times for Nepal, where “more than 13, 000 people were killed during the years of insurgency,” before Nepal’s political parties reached a consensus to dissolve and replace the ruling monarchy with an “inclusive democracy” (Joshi 276). In spite of the massive political shift, subtle “low-intensity violence” still occurs between party members to gain or repress supporters (Joshi 278). During a political campaign, Robert advocated for Nepali Congress—a social-democratic party—in opposition to the Maoist group and their unreasonable methodologies. Although his efforts managed to spoil the Maoist’s chances of winning the voting majority in a local village, four Maoist supporters later confronted Robert. They awaited him and “took [him] to the side of the jungle and started beating with wooden sticks” (Robert) until he was unconscious. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the rights of all individuals, the Maoist members’ actions were obvious violations of Robert’s “right to freedom of thought” (UDHR Article 18) and “freedom of opinion and expression… without interference… and impart information” (UDHR Article 19). By expressing his different perspective and belief, Robert was severely punished for interfering with the Maoist’s political agendas. Since his trauma occurred, Robert now feels anxious, unsafe, and fearful about returning home, intimidated by the prospect that he still remains a wanted target by the Maoist.

Although Robert initially struggled with his new responsibilities as an adult in the U.S., he eventually manages to overcome his anxieties and worries, through his parents’ support and encouragement. Far from home, Robert was plagued with melancholy and past traumas, and often worried about his future and his parents’ health. Sometimes, “[he] couldn’t sleep until 3 am in the morning” (Robert). According to an article, which evaluates the effects of self-esteem and social support on college students’ mental health, a group of University of Cincinnati post-doctoral researchers found that “students who felt higher levels of family social support reported fewer days of mental health problems.” (Merianos et al.) When Robert was segregated from Nepal and his family, he suffered minor symptoms of depression due to his lack of family interaction, which occasionally hindered his performance. As Robert recalls, “I was thinking a lot bad things. Sometimes even giving up whatever I am doing.” Despite having friends, Robert is more open and trusting of his parents to understand his problems. Regardless of distance, the intimacy and trust between a functioning family provides unparalleled support, and creates an environment of acceptance, genuineness, and empathy: “My father had shared many struggling stories that made me wanna… not [give] up no matter what.” Although Robert felt alone in the U.S., talking to his parents, being genuinely heard and emphatically understood, brought him relief and comfort, and encouraged him to be more optimistic and resilient in the face of adversity, which reinforces his self-esteem and morale.

As an independent, Robert has very little time for leisure or recreation, which makes him socially isolated as a consequence to his priorities, obligations, and busy schedule. Between school and work, Robert rarely has the time to socialize and relax like his American friends. In the article, “ ‘Whether I like it or not, it’s important’: Implicit importance of means predicts self-regulatory persistence and success,” Clayton R. Critcher, an associate Professor from the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes the effects of unconscious goal-relevant evaluations on grit and success. Critcher found that “people pursue things that are important not necessarily for immediately realizable affective benefits, but because of the value of what can ultimately be achieved.” Since Robert never grew up with the same benefits of an American life, he is more ready than his American peers, who have both family and financial support, to work harder for his future, “support [his] family back in Nepal” and then “save some money to go to university.” As Robert describes it, it is this feeling that “I have to do something right now to have something in the future.” Additionally, he sees that time, money, and education were invaluable assets that must not be wasted on “short-term temptations” (Critcher 818), but wisely spent towards achieving a better future, as in Robert’s case: a well-paying occupation and a master degree in architecture. This makes Robert naturally hard working, but, sadly, socially isolated. Despite his grit and earnest attitude, Robert has to sacrifice many lesser, temporary pleasures, as well as his social life, to remain committed to his larger objectives.

Since international students are limited in employment options, Robert was forced to work at a low-end job; nevertheless, in spite of his initial disappointment, Robert was able to persevere and make the most out of his experiences. Although Robert’s student visa permits him to travel and study in the U.S., it also binds him to very restrictive rules on employment. As an international student, Robert can only work on-campus jobs in his first academic year, and any off-campus employment, after the first year, must still comply with distinct terms and conditions (USCIS). As Robert recalls, “I tried to look for the work but I was not accepted anywhere for not having a work authorization card being an international student.” This is problematic for Robert, who desperately needs work to support himself and his parents, and to repay his loans from Nepal. It was not until when he filed for asylum and moved to California that he found his first job as a restaurant busser. In “Employment and Education-Occupation Mismatches of Immigrants and their Children in the Netherlands: Comparisons with the Native Majority Group,” a study on the labor market and immigrant minorities in the Netherlands, Yassine Khoudja, a post-doctoral researcher in social and behavioral sciences, examined the disadvantages and education-to-employment mismatches of immigrants. Khoudja found that in many occasions, “educated immigrants [are turning] to the low-skill oriented ethnic economy to find employment [because] their skills are not recognized or made use of in the high-skilled labor market” (131). As a result, past educational and work experiences, like Robert’s civil engineering degree, are often neglected and not fully utilized. Thus, Robert was unable to find any qualified work: “I wanted to be in architecture but then I ended up doing like clearing tables and then doing dishes and everything.” He said that he was not enthusiastic about working as a busser and wiping tables: “I was like ‘oh no,’ but then I had no choice that time sometimes you gotta do no matter what you know to survive.” Despite his disappointments, Robert still maintained a positive attitude about the circumstances: “if you keep working, if you be honest and work your [hardest]… you will learn pretty quick.” Aside from being promoted, Robert’s consistent work ethics and positivity rewarded him with new skills and experiences. Although initially skeptic about working at a restaurant, Robert, nevertheless, took full advantage of the opportunity, and, by consistent effort, shown great progress and growth.

Through self-motivation and his family’s encouragement, Robert is able to conjure enough strength to overcome his physical and mental difficulties in the U.S., which conditioned him into a responsible, independent, and capable individual, and made him all the more wiser because of his experiences. Although some might argue that Robert should not have meddled with Nepal’s political affairs from the start, it is for the benefit of society that everyone should be able to publicly promote their opinions and beliefs, without fear or intimidation, to create a fairer democratic government. Additionally, although some might consider that persecution should not qualify for asylum, everyone, especially those exiled or coerced from their homes due to fear and danger, deserves the right to life and to receive assistance and refuge from neighboring countries. It is common that many immigrants who come to the U.S. do not anticipate the difficulties that await them; some may feel discontent, others may be dismayed, but those who persist will persevere and grow according to their experiences. By persevering through his hardships, Robert is an example of how life’s worst obstacles can help a person grow and mature.

 

 

Works Cited

Critcher, Clayton R., and Melissa J. Ferguson. “ ‘Whether I Like It or Not, It’s Important’: Implicit Importance of Means Predicts Self-Regulatory Persistence and Success.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 110(6), Jun. 2016, pp. 818-839.

Joshi, Madhav. “Post-Accord Political Violence, Elections, and Peace Processes: Evidence from Nepal.” Civil Wars, vol. 16, no. 3, Sep. 2014, pp. 276-299.

Khoudja, Yassine. “Employment and Education-Occupation Mismatches of Immigrants and their Children in the Netherlands: Comparisons with the Native Majority Group.” Social Inclusion, vol. 6, no. 3, Jul. 2018, pp. 119-141.

Merianos, Ashley L. “The Impact of Self-Esteem and Social Support on College Students’ Mental Health.” American Journal of Health Studies, vol. 28, no. 1, 2013, pp. 27-34.

Students and Employment. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment. Accessed 10 Dec. 2018.

UN General Assembly, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The United Nations, 10 Dec. 1948, 217 A (III).

 

Sample Transcripts

 

[Start Transcript]

 

Robert:                  I’m older than you for sure [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  [laughing] I. I. I know.

 

So yeah, um [pause] where did you grow up?

Robert:                  Um [pause] so I was born in Nepal.

 

Jeffrey:                  Nepal?

 

Robert:                  It’s uh [pause] a little country in the middle of China and India. Do you know that?

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, yeah, I think I can imagine that. Yeah uh [pause] so, Nepal huh? What was it like living there?

 

Robert:                  Well living there [laughing] that’s a hard question I guess [pause].

 

All right so, this is a small country, um [pause] it has like, um [pause] Geographically, it is a [regiony] country in the world I would say, because it has all the mountains on the top, like the [hillery] region, mountain region, and (inaudible) region. So, you get to see like, um [pause] Mount Everest, it’s the top of the world.

 

Jeffrey:                  Really?

 

Robert:                  Yeah.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh, wow.

 

Robert:                  And then, you get to see like the 60 meter from the sea level, so this is very low, so you get to see very low and then really top. So that has a variety of lands. So originally I was from like middle of that area. So I’d say like [hillery] region, it’s called Gorkha District, so they have like seventy-five districts in our country.

 

Yeah, so it’s divided, so one of it is Gorkha, so I always grow up there. I was born in a village. It’s a little village, um [pause] I would say maybe sixty households, and then we have like same kinda last names. So my name is Robert Gurung, so we have like Gurung, all the Gurung people who live there like in the small village. That’s kinda cool, yeah [pause].

 

Jeffrey:                  So, so since you guys are in a small village [pause] most of you know each other.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, so for me cause I’m not sure, like, if I know everyone, but like most of our [pause] my, my father, he knows like everybody, I’m not sure if he [pause].

 

Jeffrey:                  He. He. He grew up like his whole [pause].

 

Robert:                  Right. Right. Right, cause um [pause] I’d say like um [pause] I spent like fifteen, sixteen years in that village and then I had to move to a different village to go to school cause that village didn’t have like higher education. So for the higher education, I had to go to a different place. So maybe [pause] I, I, I don’t know like all the people over there so [pause] that’s what happens.

 

Jeffrey:                  So um [pause] did you have any siblings growing up?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, so in my family, my parents, right? I have my elder brother, elder sister, and me, and my younger sister. So we are six.

 

Jeffrey:                  Six of you?

 

Robert:                  Yeah.

 

Jeffrey:                  What was like growing with two older siblings, and one younger sibling?

 

Robert:                  Well my sister, she used to love me a lot. I still remember like those days um, right now I don’t live with them. I’m the only person in my family who’s in the US.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh [pause].

 

Robert:                  All of them are in Nepal, so I came as an international student. Um [pause] it’s been like four years I’ve been living in the US. Um [pause] growing up with them was like to remember the past it’s, it’s [pause] it’s tough to remember [pause] to recall them is like [pause] good memories. Right, but then, so [pause] yeah, those are all good memories, especially when you’re far from your family; you miss them a lot. But yeah [pause] was one of them. Me, and my younger sister used to fight a lot [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh [laughing], yeah like the brother-sister sibling rivalry.

 

Robert:                  She is two years younger than me, and we were like kinda friends, but then right now, I feel her like gives you a fear, I would never fight with her something like that you know. It’s because I’m far from them.

 

Jeffrey:                  So you miss them.

 

Robert:                  Yeah I miss them a lot.

 

Jeffrey:                  Whose idea was it for you to come to the US?

 

Robert:                  Well, uh, first, two reasons I would say, um [pause] specifically for this project for you I’m gonna tell you all truth. So I’d say two reasons. Mainly, uh [pause] one, I wanna have a degree from the US universities, like that’s one thing; the other thing I would say, when I was in Nepal, um [pause] I was in one political organization that’s called “Nepali Congress.” So I was member of this trade union uh [pause] that’s a sister organization of Nepali Congress, and what happens is like [pause] in politics, you know um sometimes they fight between two parties.

 

Jeffrey:                  Like how it’s happening now in the U.S.?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, one way get out from that kind of environment, I chose to come to here um [pause] to the US because um [pause] if you come from Nepal you can file the application for asylum. Have you ever heard of the asylum?

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah like applying for refuge, sorta?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I did that, I’m doing that right now, it’s on the processing, um [pause] hopefully it goes well, I’m not sure [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  I hope all the best to you.

 

Robert:                  So, right now uh [pause] I was international student until last two years, but then I changed to resident. So right now, I’m resident because I file for asylum. So those are the two reasons I came to the US.

 

Jeffrey:                  So, speaking about education, what sort of degree are you hoping to get?

 

Robert:                  When I was in Nepal, uh [pause] I have my degree in diploma in civil engineering, um [pause] I finished my diploma in civil engineering; I work in Nepal like six months after I’d finished my school. Um [pause] that was pretty cool, made memories as well [laughing]. Um [pause] but then when I came to here [pause] so I came to the Oklahoma first. Uh [pause] it was the University of Central Oklahoma; um [pause] I came here December 31, 2014.

 

Robert:                  So I came to the U.S. 2014. I started studying University of Central Oklahoma for six months. Actually, I finished one semester; I had not chosen my major at that time. Uh [pause] I was thinking like doing something similar to engineering cause I have my civil engineering from Nepal, and I was thinking that that didn’t work at that time. I wanted to get a bachelor’s in civil engineering from University of Central Oklahoma, but then things changed um I have my cousin here in San Francisco, and I was talking with him, texting with him, and he was like, ‘finish one semester there and then you can come here and stay with me, and go universities around here,’ and I was like thinking um [pause] I said okay and he give me the idea to file for asylum also and then he did the same thing um and then right now he is a citizen right here, and then he has a family here and everything here, so yeah my family as well.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah so like, having family here is like really, really good as well, you have like the support, and like you won’t be like just here alone and then [pause]

 

Robert:                  That’s true, and to finish up your question, my education right now in City College I’m taking um [pause] classes for Associate in architecture. So I wanna get degree actually maybe bachelor degree from Berkeley or some other university. I’m just, I’ll just try, I’m not sure I can get in or not you know, that’s really hard.

 

Jeffrey:                  As long as you try right, do your best.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, I was thinking like maybe from next year. So I have one more year here in City College, so right now this semester also I’m taking all the major for my architecture. I have two classes this morning and [pause] yeah, so I wanna get a degree in architecture actually. I wanna be in architecture, that’s all hehe.

 

Jeffrey:                  Architecture sounds like really fun. You get to design stuff. Tons of your designs are like [pause] the people who use it really depends on you.

 

Jeffrey:                  You said that you came to the US in 2014, and you came here by yourself, were you nervous then?

 

Robert:                  Um [pause] well I was kinda excited on the first time because I had I was with one of my friend, who had like same Visa as me. We came to the same University, so I was with him. Right now, he is in New York. So we were in Oklahoma. We’re together, then he went to New York, and I came to San Francisco right.

 

Um [pause] I was excited because I wanted to see fireworks for the New Year you know, cause I came December 31; so on the day was the New Year. So I wanted to see that, but then what happened was [pause] so maybe what do you call jet lag or something? We slept all the day all the way. We didn’t see anything you know. That’s because like I think it was more than twenty-four hour of flight.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, like a whole day. That was a whole day

 

Robert:                  Time was very different you know. Right now, in Nepal, it’s morning, morning 6 pm, 6 am. Here, just 4am, so like two-hour difference, yeah two-hour difference. Time got changed and we just slept.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s disappointing to hear.

 

Robert:                  [laughing] Yeah, I was excited, I was nervous.

 

Jeffrey:                  Was there any trouble like getting here?

 

Robert:                  No actually [pause] it went smooth, it was pretty cool, cause my friend he was pretty smart I guess. Right now, I feel like he [pause] I didn’t do anything actually. He used to go to the place like in the airport also like he was ‘let’s go to that door now’ and I just followed him. He guided me a lot.

 

Jeffrey:                  You guys didn’t have any fireworks back in Nepal?

 

Robert:                  We have our new year also but then not like here, I’ve seen fireworks two times in SF [pause] but Nepal is like small and then not that popular.

 

Jeffrey:                  Ah [pause] In general, what do you like do for fun?

 

Robert:                  I’ll just tell you my schedule right now. I’m really hardworking person [pause] I’m working five days a week, so that’s full time. I work in the restaurant, and then I have two days of school here. So I have no day off at all, so that makes me like I feel like I’m a hardworking person. I feel like I have to do something right now to have something in the future. So you have to do something right now to get something in the future. So [pause] I’m just like managing all my time for my work.

 

I do full time work and full time study. So for the fall, I’d say like sometimes I go out with my friends. I remember last time, I have never been to club here in SF. I went with my friends from work, like all my co-workers. We made a plan to go to SF, City Night Club. We were checked in and we danced, dancing with our co-workers. It was pretty fun; we danced like four hours. After that it was two or one o’clock in the morning we started walking on the street downtown [pause] making a lot of noise, singing, and dancing. I don’t really go out [pause] so that was my first time we went out.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, with your schedule, I can’t even picture myself doing five days of work [pause] and two days of school [pause] it’s stressful.

 

Robert:                  It’s hard, it is hard, you get to see less people doing that, and yeah I’m managing this. Sometimes I get stressed but then it’s been like used to. I’ve been doing this for three years because I have to support my family back in Nepal, and then I feel I have to save some money to go to university, for future. So I feel like I’m becoming an independent by doing this kind of hard work right now.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, I hope so. Cause right now, you’re not just trying to build a future for yourself in the U.S., but, at the same time, carrying this responsibility for your family back home [pause] That’s quite an accomplishment by itself.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, and to finish your question, I like to do photo-shoot. Sometimes I have my camera I take pictures at like sunset usually [pause] I like to go eat, I like Japanese food a lot, and I like sushi. On top on that, I like Nepalese food, and then usually from work there’s like a lot of Nepalese workers. So most of Sundays we go out for lunch also [pause] we go to some Nepalese restaurant nearby.

 

Jeffrey:                  There’s like a small community there [pause]

 

Robert:                  There are a lot of Nepali people in San Francisco, I saw like last month there was a picnic for only Nepali people, so I get to meet [pause] I met all of the Nepali people. I was like, “wow there’s a lot of Nepali people here.”

 

Jeffrey:                  You were surprised by that?

 

Robert:                  I was surprised. I didn’t know that many Nepali people live in this area, but then I got to meet with them.

 

Jeffrey:                  Other than feeling surprised, is there anything else you felt?

 

Robert:                  I feel like I was in Nepal [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  Like you were in Nepal?

 

Robert:                  Cause they were talking Nepali language [pause] and we had Nepali food [pause] it was like reminding me of Nepal. It was kinda cool.

 

Jeffrey:                  Since you’ve been here for a while, have you thought of going back to Nepal? Or [pause] have you been back?

 

Robert:                  Yeah [pause] oh, no, no, no [pause] I’ve never [pause] I wanna go back to Nepal. I can’t go back because I file for asylum, so there are certain restrictions. So if you file for asylum, you can’t go back to the country because I’m saying I have [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  Some reasons?

 

Robert:                   [pause] Some reason. It’s like [pause] if I say directly, I am threatened; I have a death threat. So if I go back to Nepal, somebody will kill me, so I can’t go back to Nepal. So I can go back to Nepal, but then when I come back from Nepal, it’ll be like fifty-fifty chances whether I can get in or not. So it’s from the Department of Homeland Security, so they will check all the backgrounds and everything, so they have all my information [pause] I don’t want to get into trouble.

 

But then [pause] I talked to my family like every Thursday, so I have a schedule, after I go from school from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, every Tuesday and Thursday [pause] it’s kinda crazy. I don’t have class in this campus so I have to go to mission campus on Thursday and I have to go to downtown campus today Tuesday. So when I go home it’ll be like, sometimes 10 o’clock or 10:15 something like that.

 

And then I have a schedule like after 10:30 I talk to my family back in Nepal every Thursday. Sometimes I just text them, and sometimes I video call them, and then my parents, they still live in a village, so they didn’t have like Facebook [pause] and everything. So I have to call them through like the phone, just audio. They don’t have video access there but then with my siblings they live in uh [pause] city like capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, and then I talk to them on Facebook, sometimes Instagram; we do video calls, like every Thursday.

 

Jeffrey:                  Sounds like a lot of work. Compared to you, I should [pause] I should [pause]

 

Robert:                  When I started working there first I started working as a busboy, you wipe down tables, take the plates, and everything [pause] you wipe down the windows.

 

Jeffrey:                  Did you like doing that?

 

Robert:                  Well [pause] that was, I had no choice you know, that time. One of my brother’s friend, he brought me to that place, that has a lot of Nepali people form there, cool for me to learn new things.

 

In Nepal, I’ve never worked that kind of job, but here I started working like that. I had a feeling like “oh shoot I wanted to be in architecture but then I ended up doing like clearing tables and then doing dishes and everything.” I was like “oh no,” but then I had no choice that time. Sometimes [pause] you gotta do no matter what, you know to survive or to support family, or whatever reason you have for that, and I did like for three months and then I started learning hosting. Um [pause] they have a period system so you can make reservation by phone call and putting name on the system [pause] and then after three months I became a host at that restaurant.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s great!

 

Robert:                  Then I started learning about food also. Cause I had to learn it, if I take a phone call to go order they would say this kind and this kind of food and I’m like I have no idea what is that even [laughing]. And I had to learn all the food and then I started doing food orders [pause] maybe around two months, and I learned all the food, and then my manager wanted me to be a bartender, at that time, and then I started learning a little bartender, only non-alcoholic beverages, and then I started mixing like drinks, all the drinks, and, after like one or two months, I learned like every the drinks they have over there.

 

Right now, I’m a pro like I do everything there; I know everything of that restaurant, what things are where you know. It’s because I’ve been working there three years, I feel like that’s my experience. Right now, sometimes I do, I work as a bartender, and sometimes I work as a server. I don’t do busser nowadays, because like maybe old maybe, at that place.

 

I’d say, if you keep working, if you be honest and work your hard or learn things, like ask somebody if you don’t know how to do it, you will learn pretty quick, if you want to do it. At that time, I have no choice so I had to do it so I did it, I’d say like I did pretty good cause that’s the only thing [pause] like off my income that time. I used to get hourly at very first, but then they like my work and they hired me as a monthly worker, and then, right now, they pay me monthly basis, and there is no risk they can’t fire me cause I know everything.

 

There’s no way they can fire me. They can’t fire me right now [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  [laughing] Because they’re too dependent on you huh? Because of your work skills [pause]

 

Robert:                  Yeah [pause] because I know everything[laughing]. Funny thing, I don’t drink, I never drink in my life, you know, and then I have to taste all those alcohol when I was mixing the drinks, so that was kind of fun. I still don’t like the flavor like beer, I don’t drink all the alcohol, but then I do bartender. But we’re not a full bar, we only have like wines, beers, and sakes, those kinds of stuff.

 

Jeffrey:                  Mhm [pause] So things are getting better as time goes along [pause]

 

Robert:                  Yeah, that’s true [pause] when I came here first, I knew nothing about the U.S., and I was not independent. When I was in Nepal, I always think US will be that big place, it will be hard for me to survive over there.

 

But when I came here, I realize like if you do, if you wanna learn something, just do it, don’t wait for tomorrow; just do it today or don’t waste time for doing anything else. So I’d say, always have a plan set for future, at least have one plan: what you gonna be, or what you’re gonna do in the future. That way you just work in that plan. Maybe, it won’t be tomorrow, but maybe [pause] step by step, maybe [pause] it’ll takes two years, maybe it takes five years, you’ll reach there you know. So, I’m on this step right now, working slowly.

 

Jeffrey:                  I understand that. Since you’ve been to the U.S., you’ve only been working hard, not wasting time, but spending most of it to support yourself and your family. Again, it’s impressive.

 

Robert:                  Well, I’d say, that’s because I didn’t have a choice, I didn’t have my parents to support me at that time. That’s what makes me stronger than I use to be before. If I was in Nepal, and I was with my parents, there would be no money, and then I would go out and do whatever I want to do. But then here, you don’t have your parents, and then [pause] but you need money to go out, to buy things you wanted to have. So for that, you need to work, that’s what the difference is, like you have parents versus you don’t.

 

I’d say it’s a good thing I came here because I got to learn a lot of things about life. If I was in Nepal, I use to be, I have my other elder brother. If I need something, I’d always ask him or my father.

 

But here, I don’t have them to support me but then, at the same time, I’m happy I’m supporting them right now, so in three years I have like made over thirty thousand dollars, and then we bought a land in Nepal. We’re gonna built a house like maybe single family house, we’re on plan actually, so that’s gonna be my last plan for my family. Then maybe I’m gonna design that house. But, for me, you sometimes gotta think about yourself too, so for me I always took priority as my family as first place and second, my future, my study, and [pause] friends [pause] I’d say, “Look my family comes first, my study second, you are the third.”

 

Jeffrey:                  So you would prefer you’d come to the U.S. rather than staying back home? Because I hear that you’ve learned skills that wouldn’t have been available to you if you stayed back in Nepal.

 

Robert:                  That is true.

 

Jeffrey:                  Um [pause] so before you came to the U.S. what did you expect it’d be like living here? Aside from the cities being really big and stuff like that.

 

Robert:                  Well, I think I come here and I might finish bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. I changed my major I’m doing architecture now. While I was in Nepal, I used to think like I’m gonna get a degree from there and then come back to Nepal and then maybe have this one business off my name. So I didn’t want to work for others.

 

Jeffrey:                  You wanted to start your own business?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, I wanted to start my own business, so I had a thought like I’d come here and finish my study, I’d get a degree, and go back to Nepal and have my own business architecture or engineering, design for people. But when I came here, I changed my mind, I saw a lot of better things in here,

 

Jeffrey:                  Ah [pause] so the U.S. widened your perspective a little.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, there is a term “U.S. is a land of opportunities.” I would agree with that so if you come here. If you wanna do it you can do anything you wanna do, but then if you be lazy then you can’t do anything. I was like well why don’t we stay here and then grab some opportunities and we can go back to Nepal later, but then have your plans first, make your future first, then go back to Nepal or wherever, but then my future plan is, I wanna travel the world. For sure I will travel the world one day, maybe after fifty or something.

 

Jeffrey:                  So would you say that most of the problems you faced here came from having to support yourself and your family?

 

Robert:                  I got quite lucky for that because whenever I came to SF I got in the top that was kind, so I would get money for there as a salary so that was not that hard. At the same time, I have my cousin and I was living with him. So he did support me until I get a job so it was okay for me for that part but then I’d say there are certain problems when I came to SF I had applied for the SF State University and CCSF I have accepted there and then I went first time we use to live in Chinatown but then we my cousin he bought a house in San Lorenzo last December so we moved there so I went to SF State from SF Chinatown and I had to use underground Bart, I had never used that before that was kinda crazy story there.

 

Jeffrey:                  Did something crazy happen the first time you take it; some crazy story?

 

Robert:                  What happened was I read all the instruction I need to get the ticket to go in, I did that, but then when I came back I went to the international office there I got my acceptance letter there, I was super happy. I took that Bart but then in that place I didn’t see like, I didn’t know I had to get the ticket again so I came back so they had, one stop at qualimeyer street or something [pause] somewhere [pause] and then there was a checking going on [pause] so the ticket was to go there but it was just one-way.

 

I didn’t know, it was my first time here, and my English was terrible at that time, I didn’t have good English. I couldn’t even speak up at the time, there was a ticket lady, some police officer or something, and then she asked me where was my ticket, then I told her like, “this is my ticket,” and she was like this is not your ticket. I had only this ticket with me, I didn’t have any other ticket, I told her this is my first time, and I had no idea what’s going on. I even told her this is my first time, I went to grab my acceptance letter from the university, and she was like if you don’t speak English, you should find you a language interpreter [pause] she gave me two tickets that I had to pay like one hundred two zero and one hundred two zero [pause] that was my worst expense I ever had here in the US, for that I could not speak up well that time, my English was the barrier I couldn’t say like whatever I wanted to say at that time and then yeah that was a really bad experience.

 

I’d say that’s a good experience also at the same time, I took it positive cause I got to learn new things new rules new regulations. After that, I look up what are the transportation city of san Francisco and one of that was Bart, Muni bus, and other stuff, the Cal train and everything. After that I never got into trouble. Right now I have a car I drive I know the rules and everything.

 

But then that experience taught me a lot. Sometimes you need to get into trouble, not a big trouble, but then do not make a double mistake, you can make a mistake once, if you make the same mistake again, that’s the biggest mistake. So you learn from some mistake, bad mistake and then do not repeat mistake. Even my manager use to say like if I break glass, “it’s okay to break glass, it happens sometimes, but then try not to break again, be careful when carrying it.” He told me “It’s okay to make a mistake the first time, but then same mistake shouldn’t be happening, so do not repeat the mistake, same mistake again.”

 

Jeffrey:                  So you’ve talked about how you felt in Nepal, but what about the U.S.? How do you feel now; now that you’ve lived here for four years?

 

Robert:                  I’d say It’s better, much better than Nepal, Nepal I’d say first reason [pause] so while I was in Nepal, I after I graduated from my school I worked six months there. At that time, I got I used to get fifteen thousand dollars a month [pause] but then right now if I compare that time and right now here, I get like three thousand dollar per month.

 

Jeffrey:                  Is the fifteen thousand in Nepali currency?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, Nepali currency. So here, fifteen thousand Nepalese rupees is one hundred and fifty dollars. That’s how much I got from Nepal, but then here I get like three thousand dollars. That is a very, very vast change, Nepal versus here working. And I would say I like it better here even though I have like much more expenses than I used to have in Nepal because I got to be an independent, so I drive car and I have pay for car insurance and everything.

 

If I was in Nepal, maybe I used to drive motorcycle under my parent’s insurance because that fifteen thousand rupees would never let me buy for me. But here I have three thousand dollars so [pause] I can put some of the amount for that. Yeah, so I’d say that that is the major point.

 

And other parts if I talk about technology US is much better than Nepal, even at my work most of my customer they are from Google, Facebook [pause] and then one thing I like better in Nepal is let’s say you and me are friends in here, we are really good friends but not like soul mates, what I have seen a lot maybe not all but most of them if you are friends with somebody here, they are not friends like from inside, it’s just pretend to be friends, they are friends but not real friends. But in Nepal, if you are friends with somebody like you can do whatever for him.

 

Jeffrey:                  Like someone you’re really connected with.

 

Robert:                  We connect our inside, we love them a lot but here you don’t get that and then one thing what I’ve seen here is strange is I tried to make friends a lot, but then their perspective and my perspective is like very different. So my first semester I tried to make like some friends and then even at my work I tried to make some friends and what I found was what they do is they want to earn money by working today but then Friday night they wanna spend all the money.

 

So what they do is they want to go out, hang out, they want to go to prom. But then for me, I was like, “No, I didn’t come to the US for that, I have some certain goals I have to achieve that.” Then I didn’t get like friends who has similar thoughts to me, so that’s why I don’t have a lot of friends if I have friends, I have only one friend actually right now he is from Nepal, he has similar like feelings with me. He is working hard for his future and family and everything.

 

So what happen was, I tried to make friends and they were like, so they get paycheck right usually we get paycheck on Thursday and the other day they wanna go out and spend all of the money.

 

Then one of my considerations is if I get paycheck on Thursday I don’t want to spend tomorrow and then get broke on other day. What I have like strong feeling about is I wanna have certain percentage of my savings for my future certain percentage for my family. But most of my friends they don’t think about that. So their perspective and my perspective are very different. I don’t wanna be friends with them you know. If I were a friend with them I have go with them, hang out and drink, smoke. And I don’t like that. That’s what happens, not making a lot of friends, I have certain friends at work, but then just for work, after work we don’t hang out.

 

They have different thoughts, they have different opportunities, but I do not. That’s why I’m working really hard.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s good. You know, we need more hard working people.

 

Robert:                  For me if I see like somebody is doing something bad I tell them, you should be doing this. For like younger generation I’d always try to motivate them to work harder for the future.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s kinda your philosophy: To work hard.

 

Robert:                  I wanna help people it’s because maybe I didn’t get the mentorship maybe I got to learn by myself doing most of things. But then if I see people struggling in their life I’ll always try to help them at least tell them, share your story. Your story motivates someone else, that’s a good thing about you, and you are the inspiration for someone else. That’s why I want to share my story.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh, going back to Nepal, you said that the friends that you make there have very good connections. How is that so?

 

Robert:                  I don’t know [pause] maybe cultural legacy, I’d say like um our culture well, our culture we’re very rich in our culture, what happens is like if your parents have taught you that way, you will learn from your parents a lot. It’s kind of natural whatever your parents do, you wanna do that too. By seeing, I think that’s the reason what happens to the Nepali people, they wanna be connected soul to soul. But then here what I’ve seen is their parents really don’t care. With their parents or relatives, they should be doing but then in Nepal my parents and all the relatives, and their my relatives right now but here maybe they don’t care, maybe their culture is like that, I don’t get it. I haven’t got that part. Why is there so different between Nepalese culture versus the American culture.

 

Jeffrey:                  So Nepali culture place more importance in union.

 

Robert:                  For here, it feels so off. I’m from Nepal, in my culture, helping someone is a good thing, my parents have taught me to help somebody if possible. There are certain ways to help people. Just be honest in your life trying to help people, it just makes you satisfied. I would want to inspire them to work hard, have a plan for the future. At the end of the day, you are the one who will do for you, there is no one else. For me, I came from Nepal, nobody was here to do for me so I’m the only person who does for me. I’d say like always priority for yourself your health your food, and then priority your family, cause your parents I consider my guardians as my parents, and then after that your friends, girlfriends, or whatever. Main thing is be honest with everyone you try to help, like all the people in all possible ways. That’s how you can become pleased, how you feel satisfied.

 

[End Transcript]

 

[Start Transcript]

 

Jeffrey:                  Hi Robert, how are you doing? I got to look through our conversation, and it made me even more curious about your story. Like you said, you were a part of Nepali Congress, but something about apposing political parties and environment made you apply for asylum. Were you persecuted or mistreated in some way?

 

Robert:                  Yes, I remember two incidents most; the first one is while I was in class eight: it happened in my school in my birthplace, Gorkha district of Nepal. As I told you earlier, I was a good student and also I used to dance from a very young age. I used to be first in our district dance competition. The Maoist party of our district got to know that.

 

One day, they came to our school in our assembly time at morning. The Maoist wanted to take all the students in their rally, especially me, but they didn’t know which one is me. Our socials teacher tried to speak up, but they showed the guns and pointed towards our teacher. All the students got scared and tried to run off the school. While everyone running here and there, one of my science teacher dragged me, and locked me in the toilet, and told me not to make any noise until he comes back. I was super scared.

 

After about seven hours, he came back to get me with my father. I was so thirsty at that time. I couldn’t even ask what happened [pause] later on, I got to know that seventy-eight students were captured and the Maoist had taken with them. Later on, I got to know that the Maoist wanted me to dance for their programs.

 

I have very bad childhood memories with them one day, I saw more than a hundred people with guns walking on the side of our house. They asked all the villager to give them food and bed; seven of them entered out house and searched everything inside the house. They asked my mother to cook for them ASAP. They put their guns in our kitchen. We were very scared, but we had no options; so we had to do whatever they said. My mother and father gave them everything they asked for. Thankfully, they left our village after staying two days. But whenever they come, we had to be scared of them [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  That is absolutely frightening. I didn’t know that this happened in Nepal.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, there was civil war in Nepal for 10 years [pause]

 

The second one is after I finished diploma in civil engineering: I went to the village and helped local Nepali Congress party for the election campaign. I went to door-to-door and talked about how bad were the Maoist, and why they should vote for Nepali Congress.

 

On the Election Day, I was coming home from election booth, and, on the way, four people were waiting for me. They told me I am the main reason that they cannot get vote from our area; number one. They asked me to go with them [pause] they took me to the side of the jungle and started beating with wooden sticks. I still have a scar in my leg. After I got beaten up, I was unconscious.

 

They thought I was dead and left me in there. Some people found me, and brought me home, and my father took me to the hospital. I am still scared of what happened in the past. Yes, my life was in danger.

 

Even after that, they knew I came to the U.S., they ask my parents money. I told my parents not to give anything. Right now, the situation is better than that time, but they personally think I should be dead. So I am always scared to go back to my country. That’s how I filed for asylum in the United States. And here, Trump government always comes up with new rules, which makes it hard for the asylum seekers in the States. But I hope everything goes well with me. And thank you for asking me about my past.

 

Jeffrey:                  Of course, thanks for sharing part of your life, I know it’s especially hard to share such traumatic experience openly.

 

Also, if you don’t mind me asking [pause] When you came to the U.S., did seeing less people and stress from supporting your family affect you mentally?

 

Robert:                  If I understood you question correctly [pause] yes, I was mentally challenged a lot. When I was in Oklahoma, I used to hang out with my Nepali friends. We used to play basketball all day, sometimes watch movies, or play games with friends, but at nights, I couldn’t sleep until three am in the morning. I used to think a lot about Nepal, all the incidents and all the bad things. And I had to pay back loan. That was the main challenge at that time.

 

I used to believe in myself that I will be doing good in life one day. So, I tried to look for the work, but I was not accepted anywhere for not having a work authorization card, being an international student. I used to think about my parents and their condition. I was thinking a lot bad things. Sometimes, even giving up whatever I am doing.

 

But, whenever I talked to my parents, they used to advice me about not giving up in life. My father had shared many struggling stories that made me [wanna] struggle in life, not giving up no matter what, and not stop doing whatever I am doing. I thought of my parents and my future a lot.

 

So I would say to people that they have to talk to their parents everyday, especially if you are abroad, because they get worried about you as twice as you do about yourself. Finally, and fortunately, I came up with an idea of reading books, watching motivational videos. That helped me a lot to think positive in life. So I think now, I am a grown up man who knows many things about life. I do not give up in anything.

 

Jeffrey:                  It’s great to hear that you’re going strong.

 

[End Transcript]

Xian Yan’s Best Life

Xian Yan’s Best Life

by Pamela Robinson, January 2019

From China to San Francisco, how does a positive mindset inspire Xian Yan to attain her best life?

“Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. Chengdu history dates back to at least the 4th century B.C., when it served as capital for the Shu Kingdom. Artifacts from that dynasty are the focus of the Jinsha Site Museum. The city is also home of the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas and a natural habitat” (experitour.com).

This is a story about an amazing, inspirational 45-year-old woman named Xian Yan, born and raised in Chengdu, China. When she was a young girl, she lived in a house with her parents and two siblings. One memory she recalls as a young child is the time when her family was having hardships, as life in rural China then differed from that of urban China. “In the latest two decades, Rural Tourism (RT) has speedily developed and become an important concept of tourism in China. However, there remains little understanding in the western world about RT for its special role in China’s rural socio- economic regeneration” (Su 1438). Baoren Su, a research student affiliated with Zhejiang Gong Shan University, believes that “Nong jia le” tourism developed vigorously, at a good pace.

“As an distinctively Chinese version of rural tourism “Nong jia le” tourism, among with other forms of RT such as folk custom tourism, leisure farm tourism, and rural ecotourism, has been developed not only as a new style of holiday making among Chinese urban residents, but also as a new form of privately owned small enterprise among millions of Chinese farmers” (Su 1439).

Although Yan’s family lived in China when it was poor, “the government generously gave [Yan’s] family means to generate money through farming,” which helped make a big difference. When her family’s farming business started in the 1980s, she worked on the farm. Yan and her siblings had a lot of work to do around the house so they didn’t play with other kids in their hometown. Yan went to school at a time when education in China was excellent, better than it is now. She worked hard on the farm and afterwards went to school; however, her parents just needed to pay $1 for her to go to school. “When my mom died my siblings and I had to help with the housework, especially the cooking, help with the feeding of the animals like the pigs, chickens, and goose; although it was hard work it was a lot of fun,” Yan reminisces. While the uncertainty about life’s experiences sometimes influenced Yan’s mindset and her tendency to absorb negative energy, the positive effects of a happy farm home allowed Xian Yan to have a happy childhood. Yan can attain her best life by maintaining a positive mindset, surrounding herself with positive role models, connecting with positive people, and being mindful of her rights.

Can Xian Yan’s determination and will to survive alter her inner drive to achieve her goals? Yan viewed her parents as role models who always initiated their values and morals of hard work to inspire her at a young age and emphasized how school is highly recommended by everyone in Chengdu, China. Penelope Lockwood, Vice Dean, Academic Planning and Strategic Initiatives, at University of Toronto, wrote a study about motivation by positive or negative role models. Lockwood states:

“Positive role models, individuals who have achieved outstanding success, are widely expected to inspire others to pursue similar excellence. Accordingly, the accomplishments of star athletes, musicians, and award-winning scientists are often showcased in an attempt to enhance people’s goals and aspirations. People also seem to be motivated by negative role models, individuals who have experienced misfortune. Indeed, positive role models can inspire one by illustrating an idea, desired self, highlighting possible achievement that one can strive for, and demonstrating the route for achieving them; however negative role models can inspire one by illustrating a feared, to- be- avoided self, pointing to positive future disasters, and highlight mistakes that must be avoided so as to prevent them” (Lockwood 854).

While living in China, Yan was raised by two parents driven by integrity and a strong sense of self worth; however, is there a possibility for Yen to grow to her fullest potential through positive intervention and hard work?

Life is good for Xian Yan in Chengdu, China. She was married for about five to seven years and then got divorced. Afterwards, she worked hard to become a teacher in her hometown and owned an apartment and a store. In China, the internet became popular so she went online and met a man. The man she talked to was from the United States and “[she] would talk on the internet each day for more than 5 or 6 hours a day for eight months.” By getting to know him online, Yan felt they had the same will to survive. They felt the same way about each other, and shared the same feelings. Yan felt they were “very compatible.” All the positive conversations lead him to decide to go to Chengdu and marry Yan. Later, they decided to come to the United States to apply for Yan’s visa (a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizen). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on December 10, 1948 by the UN General Assembly, is “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The UDHR’s second article states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs.” Xian Yan’s life is good right now and positive thoughts about her husband inspire her hopes and dreams of building a new happy life here in the U.S.

Robert S. Chang, a second-generation Korean-American part of the Faculty Scholarship at Seattle University School of Law Digital Commons, announces an:

“Asian American Movement in the legal academy and an opportunity to reverse the pattern of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Traditional civil rights work in current critical race scholarship fail to address the unique issues for Asian Americans, including nativistic racism and the model minority myth. Space must be made in the legal academy for an Asian American Legal Scholarship and the narratives of Asian Americans. It is through solidarity that Asian Americans will gain the freedom to express their diversity” (1243).

“The Model Majority Myth: This history of discrimination and violence, as well as the contemporary problems of Asian Americans, are obscured by the portrayal of Asian Americans as a “model minority.”

Asian Americans are often portrayed as “hard-working, intelligent, and successful,” but the dominant culture’s belief in the “model minority” allows it to justify ignoring the unique discrimination faced by Asian Americans. The portrayal of Asian Americans as successful permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary need of Asian Americans” (1258).

“An early articulation of the model minority theme appeared in U.S. News & World Report in 1966: In any Chinatown from San Francisco to New York, you discover youngsters at grips with their studies. Visit ‘Chinatown USA,’ and you find an important racial minority pulling itself up from hardship and discrimination to become a model of self- respect and achievement in today’s America” (1259).

Despite the language barrier that Xian Yan will have to overcome and learn, her positive thoughts and interactions with her English-speaking husband are going to help her to attain her best life.

Positive role models are mostly what Xian Yan is receptive to but perhaps a negative interaction will give some insight into one’s decision to achieve success in this new land. Yan finally arrived in San Francisco, with her daughter and husband and someone asked, “Is San Francisco everything you thought it would be?” Yan replied, “In San Francisco it is quiet and the people are very nice here too and China it is very noisy. San Francisco is like the whole world, all the rich people are here, and they say hello and also there’s a lot of Chinese people that are here too. In S.F. there’s a lot of diverse foods, diverse people, and you can eat different foods here too.” Adjusting to life here is much easier for Yan. Life is very easy going and it helps that her husband treats her family well. Yan knew there were going to be changes in the culture, the language, and school. English is a hard to language to learn to speak, but Yan learned to speak some English when she was in middle school in Chengdu. Yan was always good in school so her schoolwork ethics helped her to adjust to life here in S.F. Yan’s husband “doesn’t speak Chinese that well, but he speaks English,” and practices with her every day. As a result, Yan enrolled at City College of San Francisco to study reading and writing. Yan thought that her documentation of being a teacher in Chengdu would help her achieve a higher teacher credential in the United States but she found out it was just a piece of white paper not applicable to use in the U.S. Somehow, this negative response motivated her even more and as Yan’s English improved tremendously she knew, however, that if it wasn’t for “her determination and drive that lives inside of her,” the probability of Yan achieving her goal would have been small. Yan is living her best life with her daughter, Shi Shi; son, Jordan; and her husband. She speaks and teaches Mandarin to some students in S.F. and enjoys teaching very much. Yan always says:

“Teaching is my job, it is like the only job for my whole life, I love it! I really love it!” While the Chengdu Chinese culture can somewhat disappear in San Francisco it is an essential part of Yan’s life moving forward as a teacher to her children. Min Zhou, is a Professor of Sociology and inaugural Chair of the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zhou’s main areas of research are on immigration, education, Asian America, etc. Min Zhou states that, “Chinese schools become an important physical site where formerly unrelated immigrants come to socialize and rebuild social ties” (17). Yan wasn’t sure how to adjust to the cultural change in life in San Francisco; however, Yan’s mother-in-law helped her remember some of the cultural aspects she had forgotten about her upbringing as elder Chinese women are more familiar and practice the culture more often than younger Chinese women. Yan has a child named Jordan and she teaches him the Chinese way, meaning the Chinese children need to respect their parents and grandparents and need to follow the order. In Yan’s Chinese culture, the teachers are treated like parents and Yan teaches her son the same things about how teachers and parents are on the same level. Even though Yan is more in tune with the American culture because she has other Chinese friends that have adjusted to the American way of doing things, Yan continues to grow in her new life.

Xian Yan has a beautiful outlook on life and says that “People are all different, like every color of the rainbow are different, like the textures of wood colors are different.” Yan’s outlook on life is so powerful as it connects with positive people, which makes her exceptionally different. Xian Yan celebrating her strength and resilience helped her to overcome her life struggles.

Work Cited


Chang, Robert S., Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post Structuralism, and Narrative Space, 81 Calif. L. Rev. 1241 (1993). 16 Dec. 2018. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1411&context=facult

Lockwood, Penelope. “ Motivation by Positive or Negative Role Models: Regulatory Focus Determines Who Will Best Inspire Us.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2002): Vol 83, No. 4, 854 – 864. 12 Dec 2018.

Su, Baoren. “Rural Tourism in China.” 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

UN General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 Dec 1948. 16 Dec 2018.

“Welcome to Chengdu.” Experitour. www.experitour.com. 1 Jan 2019.

Xian, Yan. Personal Interview.

Zhou, Min. Community Forces, Social Capital, and Educational Achievement: The Case of a Supplementary Education in the Chinese and Korean Immigrant Communities. Harvard Educational Review, April

2006.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Min_Zhou3/publication/44836550_Community_Forc es_Social_Capital_and_Educational_Achievement_The_Case_of_Supplementary_Educatio

 

Meet Happiness

picture -Tina

Meet Happiness

by Tingting Xu, June 2018

The sea reaches out its longings, and eventually meets the sky on the horizon. If dream walks far enough, it would probably meet happiness in the end.—Angela Chang, from one of her  popular Chinese songs

America has often been viewed as the land of opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world come to the United States and try to seek their fortunes. How can they eventually climb the ladder of success or happiness? To them, time is like a piece of land. A dream is like a seed, waiting for someone to come plant it. Dalu was one of those people who came to America and tried to pursue his own dream here. His dream was simple, making more money and owning a fancy car, a Rolls-Royce, which he saw as a symbol of success. However, while the dream was beautiful, the reality was cruel. While he first arrived in the United States in 1986, he felt disappointed because he faced many challenges like being undocumented in the U.S., working for low wages in restaurants, and struggling with the language barrier. I first met him in September 2016, when I moved into a new house that was bigger than my previous one, in order to prepare for the birth of my child. Thus, he became my new neighbor. When I think back on him, I remember he always wore worn work clothes and a pair of sneakers stained with paint. He was a tall figure with slightly curved shoulder, who seemed to be full of stories. His face was covered with wrinkles, but I could still see that he had probably been a handsome man when he was young. Although Dalu always believed that success (for himself) meant owning a fancy car or having wealth that could be envied by others, he had an epiphany when he suffered from a brain disease that almost took his life; this made him see life as fragile, so he started to focus on the essence of life through reading the Bible and now hopes to create more long-term meaningful achievements by doing volunteer work at his church and spending his holidays traveling with his family.

Dalu was born 1963 in XianZu Town near Chongqing. He said, “My hometown was surrounded by mountains and had picturesque scenery. It was very beautiful, clean, and was surrounded by nature.” He had an elder sister and brother. He was the youngest child. Although Dalu’s family was not rich and his parents planted vegetables and fruit for survival, he had a happy childhood because he could stay with his parents when they were working in the mountains. Dalu said, “They [his parents] had little chance to receive education, so I knew knowledge was important because my mother always told me that you needed to study hard; otherwise you would end up like us [poor].” According to “Education And Poverty, Relationship and Concerns. A Case For Kenya,” a journal article by Maiyo K. Julius, who is a professor at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, “Education is widely accepted as the main exit route from poverty. It is the backbone of growth and development of individuals and the nation” (73). Although pockets of poverty also exist in developed countries, this poverty caused by lacking education is more common in developing countries, particularly in rural areas. Dalu didn’t want to repeat his parents’ lives, so he studied hard and eventually graduated with honors and was assigned to a famous factory in Chongqing province as a manager in 1982. He then worked at this factory for almost four years. One day, his director found him and asked him if he would like to go the United States to work because there was a job vacancy there. He immediately agreed because it was America, a dream country that was represented by his dream car (Rolls-Royce). One day in 1986, Dalu took an airplane, departed from Shenzhen, passed over Hong Kong and Japan, and finally landed at the San Francisco International Airport alone. However, while the dream was beautiful, reality was tough. His job was to install and repair generators for hospitals and other buildings. He faced the challenge of working on the night shift because these machines were usually off at night. This dangerous work (repairing generators) with a poor schedule caused Dalu to feel stressed and tired.

He felt stuck because he desired to move back home due to homesickness and his soon-to-be- expiring visa, but the news that his friends had been sent to jail during the special period of economic restructuring in China made him feel scared to return home. Instead, he decided to stay in the U.S. After the Cultural Revolution, a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976 which was launched by Mao Zedong, public ownership dominated. All machines, technology, and factories were owned by the government. The government controlled everything. With the passage of time, public ownership was dismantled. Private ownership became dominant around 1990. Many workers were laid off and a lot of factories dissolved. The workers took some equipment and materials from the factories and sold it off, in an attempt to make up for the low government wages. Some leaders who had real power had taken away a large amount of equipment, technology, and skilled employees early, and set up their own companies. Some of these leaders were among the first generation that was able to become rich at that time. However, these people were very rare and extremely lucky. Most of the people who had power or took equipment were punished by the government and went to jail. During this period, the political situation was turbulent. The government began frantically suppressing intellectuals in order to maintain order and eliminating groups who might be a threat to the government’s interests. His friends were involved in these cases and were imprisoned in China. Back in the U.S., Dalu had been working in San Francisco for nearly a year. The factory that had sent him to America had disintegrated due to these events in China. Due to his homesickness, he was willing to return to home, but when he called his mother in China, his mother strongly advised him not to by saying, “Dalu, do not come back anytime soon; it’s too risky. Everything is crazy; Jie and Hong [Dalu’s friends] were captured [sent to jail]. So just stay there [in the U.S.] and come back later.” Dalu not only felt conflicted because he was scared to go back, but also felt nervous due to his visa expiring soon, which forced him to face the challenge of being an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. However, he never regretted his choice to stay in the U.S. He said, “I was lucky because I stayed here [in the U.S.]. If I went back [to China] at that period, I would have been captured [got through in jail].”

Dalu felt disappointed and overwhelmed because of the fact that he could only find lower wage jobs in restaurants due to the language barrier and documentation issues in the U.S., which directly contradicted the belief that he had previously held that he could find a better job and salary here. He had left his previous workplace because he was worried that the immigration office would find him due to the expired visa. In order to survive, he went to a restaurant called Wang Ji, working as a handyman six days a week. The wage was $500 a month, $4.5 per hour. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, upholds the idea that equal rights apply to all people. The Declaration states, “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work” (Article 23.2). It is clear that $4.5 per hour paying is a violation of his human right to “equal pay for equal work,” given that the minimum wage was $8 per hour. His jobs were to carry things, clean the toilets, wipe glass, cut vegetables, and wash dishes. The restaurant’s working hours were from 9am to 10pm. He had no better option because there would be no income if he didn’t work, and he had to pay his rent. In fact, a large number of newcomers still work at jobs that didn’t utilize their full skill set mainly because of the language barrier. Bolei Liu is a Master’s student in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. His research interests lie in economic sociology, labor market, and immigration studies. In the article “Getting a Job in Flushing: A Qualitative Study on Chinese Immigrants’ Job-Finding and Job Transitions in an Ethnic Enclave,” Liu listed an example: “Such a guy who has no English proficiency, no legal status, no citizenship, you have no rights to choose your job. Somehow, it is the job that chooses [sic] you” (126). He also pointed out that for any worker, “education is the most significant human capital predictor of earnings and labor market success,” and “specific skills are an important indicator of high-paying jobs” (127). Some researchers also consider that “education to be of great importance for the success in the labor markets “ (127 qtd in Pérez and Muñoz). Therefore, wages are usually influenced by education, English language ability, and U.S. job experience. On the other hand, legal status does not have a much significant influence on the wages of low-income immigrants. Dalu also felt loneliness and helplessness because of his cruel reality. Although he saw plenty of opportunities in the U.S., there were still many uncertainties in his heart due to his documentation issue and the poor income. However, he had no better choice but choosing a way to work excessively to distract from his homesickness and unhappiness.

While he felt loneliness and lacked a sense of belonging in America, one of his coworkers at the restaurant helped him overcome this tough time by bringing him to a church where he could learn English, and it was there that he met his wife. One of his coworkers, Tim, realized his unhappiness. In order to reduce his loneliness and nostalgia, Tim brought him to church. Since then, Dalu felt that he had a new life. He went to church almost every week. He said, “I went to church because I wanted to learn English there.” His English level had some improvement after weeks of regular study. Moreover, through studying and understanding of the Bible, he became aware of the importance of God and gradually came to believe in God’s existence. He said, “I used to believe in Buddhism when I was in China. The idea of Buddhism does nothing, but free people from desire. On the other hand, what Christ advocates are to do good things, to give, to help and extend a hand to more people to enable them to escape from evil.” Therefore, he gradually changed his mind and became a convert to Christianity. In addition, he met his wife in church and they married in 1988. He was able to gain a green card quickly because his wife was a citizen. They had their first baby in 1990, and then another one in 1994. His life became more difficult because of his two sons. He also felt stressed and stuck because he wanted to learn more useful knowledge (English and other work-related skills), but he didn’t have enough time because he had to work to support his family due to their poor economic situation.

After starting a family, Dalu shouldered the responsibility of supporting their lives; he started work like a maniac. Although the manic work, which had exceptionally long hours, could improve the quality of his family’s lives, he ignored that what his children needed most was a warm, emotionally engaged and a supportive father, not just money. He chose to go to a construction company because he thought that his skills related to installing hydropower could come in handy there. Through a friend’s introduction, Dalu entered into a construction company and began to work in wall painting, “because I thought wall painting was the easiest to learn.” At that time, he could earn 40 dollars a day. Then he did woodworking, plumbing, and all kinds of construction work. One year later, when he had completely mastered all the decoration techniques, he left the decoration company and started his own business. In 1991, someone introduced him to a project. “My first business was to help people paint the exterior of their houses. I was both the boss and the worker. I got up early, took the bus, and went to the employer’s home. Every day I worked until dark, sometimes even midnight. It was hard to describe the tiredness I felt, but I also was very excited because in ten day’s work I could earn $1,200 which was several times what I made at the restaurant,” he said. In the article “Gendered Processes of Adaptation: Understanding Parent-Child Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families,” by Desirée B. Qin, who is an Associate Professor at Harvard University, she studies the mental health of high achieving Asian American students and the cultural differences in parenting including “tiger mothers.” Dr. Qin proved that work stress and adaptation difficulties had a “significant impact on the parents’ relationship with their children,” and “children were also likely to be directly influenced by the bad tempers of unhappy or stressed-out parents, particularly fathers” (467). So the physical and psychological absence of a father (Dalu) in his sons’ lives might have led to his sons’ unhappiness. These children needed Dalu’s guidance and support as they navigated their way in a completely new cultural environment. Moreover, in order to make more money, he usually worked until midnight for the next whole year. He learned English on the weekend because he planned to take the license. “I took the exam twice and finally got my license,” he said. He added, “those years were my most glorious period [he earned a lot of money and gained the license].” After a few years hard work, he bought a car (even though it was not his dream Rolls-Royce), and took out a loan to purchase a house. It seemed like his dream had become a reality. However, as a father, Dalu, should have accompanied his sons while they grow up happily and guide their development, but due to his absence in his sons’ lives, the relationship between him and his sons became weaker. Moreover, the high-intensity work and stress posed a danger to his health.

Dalu not only had to adjust to a new cultural, linguistic, social and economic system, but he also had to overcome some unexpected obstacles like health issues, which might have been caused by his previously stressful life experiences. His first major incident occurred at about 6 o’clock one morning in 1998. He still clearly remembers the sudden head pain, which triggered vomiting. His wife was extremely scared and unable to deal with this situation. His neighbor was exercising in the yard. The neighbor, seeing his poor condition, immediately called 911. Soon, Dalu was admitted to the hospital. After first-aid measures, he was out of danger. The doctor had detected that he had a congenital vascular malformation (in his forebrain) and must be operated immediately. “When I woke up after about 14-hour surgery, I saw a doctor smiling at me. I knew that I was saved,” he said. In the next ten days of hospitalization, he often stood by the bedside and watched out the window, the people walking around, the vehicles shuttling, the trees rustling. “I felt as if they did not have any relationship with me. It seemed that I stayed in another world,” Dalu recalled. In the journal article “Health Disparities Among Immigrant and Non-immigrant Elders: The Association of Acculturation and Education,” by Terry Y. Lum, a Professor at The University of Hong Kong, he investigated the association of immigrant status among older people with their physical and mental health outcomes, health services utilization, and health insurance coverage. Lum concludes that “As immigrants, they are likely to have experienced various levels of stress throughout their lives. An accumulation of stressful life experiences may lead to poor physical and mental health” (743). Immigrating was a stressful life event for Dalu; it began when he left his native country (China) to move to the United States. When Dalu arrived in the U.S., he had to face a lifetime of adjustment and acculturation and deal with the large amount of stress that came with it.

After Dalu’s illness, he began to focus on issues of the spirit; he finally realized that hard work could create more income, but could not guarantee the sense of well-being because all things (including a person’s life) are fragile and impermanent. After the surgery, he almost lost his ability to move. “I took a small step, and another small step, moving like a zombie,” he said as he stood up and imitated his old unnatural waking patterns. “It was too hard at that time. I couldn’t sleep at night because my wound wasn’t completely healed. I was just staring at the ceiling and felt extremely sad because of thinking about my children and wife,” he recalled. He thought that if he could not recover his lost mobility, it would mean that he would lose the ability to work. “Seeing two poor children (his sons), inspired me to force myself to walk every day. Walk slowly for one street today, then walk one more street the day after tomorrow,” he said. For his family’s future, he was motivated to continue to practice walking every day. Although the physical inconvenience would occasionally make him depressed and upset, he never gave up because of the responsibility as a father he shouldered. After two months, he finally gained the ability to move freely. He felt excited and seemed to be reborn because he knew that he had overcome the obstacle that the disease had brought him. When he stayed at home, he would read the Bible. He suddenly awakened when he saw this verse “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (Corinthians 4:18). Dalu started to understand that life and happiness were more important than wealth and success (for himself). Joele Kim writes in his article “Living in God’s Grace: 8 Weeks in Romans 12-15” that “Paul is urging believers not to imitate the patterns and priorities of their current [temporary] society, but to embrace the renewal and transformation of God’s eternal kingdom. As recipients of God’s mercy, they are to change how they live” (54). Kim also asks, “What steps can you take to reset your mind to focus on eternal things?” He answers this by listing: “First, Paul instructs his readers to pursue a love that’s sincere. The concept of love permeates all of Romans. God shows his love for us by sending his Son to die (5:5), and he promises that nothing can separate us from his love (8:35, 39)” (54). (Kim totally listened eight steps in his article; here I just chose the first step). Actually, after his illness, he changed the way he lived. He learned to love his sons like God loves us. He also realized that money was not the most important. He said, “At that time, I thought that if I died, I would have no chance to stay with my family. How could they (his wife and sons) survive if I died?” He started to give true love for his family, and spent more time being together with his sons, bringing them to church, traveling on holidays, picking them up and dropping them off at school. He also believed that God could give him the courage to face any challenge from life. Through his continuous prayers and efforts, his health condition became better and better. Now he lives happily with his family, and sees America as his home.

While Min Dalu originally tried to pursue wealth and a career, he realized that money and wealth were not the most important things after he experienced a deadly brain disease; the words of God made him start to focus on how to love others, such as helping people in need and spending more time with his family. Some would argue that success can provide people with enough material resources and improve their confidence. On the other hand, many people have epiphanies after they have suffered from major illness. These illnesses can help people realize that material and wealth can easily depart. The words of God further prove that only spirit and inner joy are eternal. Success is a goal that if not achieved means the absence of happiness; true happiness is an inner peace that cannot be taken away. Thank God, Dalu understands the truth and eventually meets happiness.

Works Cited

Julius, Maiyo K; Bawane, Jyoti. “Education And Poverty, Relationship and Concerns. A Case For Kenya.” Problems of Education in the 21st Century. 2011, Vol. 32, p72-85.14p. 9 Charts, 1 Graph.

Kim, Joele. “Living in God’ s Grace: 8 Weeks in Romans 12-15.” Bible Study Magazine. Sep/Oct2017, Vol. 9 Issue 6, p53-56. 4p.

Liu, Bolei. “Getting a Job in Flushing: A Qualitative Study on Chinese Immigrants’ Job-Finding and Job Transitions in an Ethnic Enclave.” Qualitative Sociology Review, Apr2017, Vol. 13, Issue 2, p122-145. 24p.

Lum, TY; Vanderaa, JP. “Health Disparities Among Immigrant and Non-immigrant Elders: The Association of Acculturation and Education.” Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health, Oct2010; 12(5): 743-753. 11p.

Qin, Desirée. “Gendered Processes of Adaptation: Understanding Parent–Child Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families.” Sex Roles. Apr2009, Vol. 60 Issue 7-8, p467-481. 15p.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

 

Sample Transcript

Interviewer:Author myself (I)

Interviewee: My neighbor Dalu (D)

Interview Setting: March 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm

I: First, eh, Are you ready?

D: Just ask. Ai~

 

I: Can you tell me your name, your age, and where were you born?

D: Name? (laugh) I was born in 1963. My hometown was Dazu town, it was a mountain city near Chongqing.

I: What was it like?

D: It was very beautiful, clean, and nature. My hometown was surrounded by mountains and had picturesque scenery.

I: What is your unforgettable memory of your childhood, can you describe it?

D: Unforgettable memory, woo~ that’s so long ago. Let me think…Oh, there were quite a few air-raid shelters in the mountains near my home. I often played inside with my classmates after school. About 1940, the construction of air-raid shelters were built. They were formally completed in the mid-1950s. We called them “Maodong” (bomb shelters). At that time, I often ventured with a group of children. Everyone drilled into an abandoned cave. It also naturally brought us a sense of mystery, a feeling of adventure and a little bit of criminality. We were so excited when we run across these air-shelters. It was really dark, we felt that we explored in another world.

I: Can you tell something about your parents? And what were your parents like?

D: My parents? Ai~ They were not easy. My parents worked so hard for raising us, they had little chance to study (receive an education). My family was poor. My parents plant vegetables and fruit for sale and earn money. This was the only way to support my family. But I still felt happy. I had a lot of time to stay together with them (my parents) when they were working. When I grow up, I often helped them [work] in the field.

I: What were the happiest moments of your childhood?

D: It should be the “Spring Festival” (Chinese New Year). We were really poor in the past, we really looked forward to the “new year”. So we can eat a lot of food we couldn’t eat in normal times.

I: What are your best memories of your school?

D: School? The school was a just simple single-story house in the town. The playground was made of stone and clay. When we run on it, there was a lot of dust flying, very dirty. The clothes and shoes were full of dust.

I: Do you have any siblings?

D: I had~. I had an elder sister and brother, and I was the youngest one (child).

I: Can you tell me something about them?

D: They? Just ok. I have already not seen them for a long time. They were all in China now. I rarely go back China. You know, Em, it was not easy, go back (China), then return (to the U.S.). If I went back, just stayed for a month.

I: How long have you come to the U.S.?

D: It has been 33 years since I came to the United States. In 1986, I departed from Shenzhen, passed through Hong Kong and Japan, and finally reached San Francisco. A lot of people envied me at that time because they knew that people who came to the United States were very capable. People who could come to the U.S. was very rare. Finally, people who could stay in the United States were even less.

I: Why did you come to the United States?

D: This was a complex topic. Hard to say. This would be related to some political issues. You knew, Em, this process was not easy. I came to San Francisco in 1986. My job was to install generators for factories and hospitals. I did not use a computer, and there were few people who could use computers, at that time. But I knew the people who worked in the generator companies. “They had drawings [of the generators]” he said. So I tried to ask them to print out drawings for me. When I came across repairing problems, I would ask them for help and slowly I became familiar with them. After that, they printed out all the relevant drawings of the generator for me. I saw them very clearly and learned how to install them. I was happy to see each size of the screw and the specific location of the installation. I had worked in the factory for almost 1 year. I hoped to go back to home. But I am bad luck, or shouldn’t say bad luck. It was right after the Cultural Revolution (I came to the U.S, all machines, technology, and factories were controlled (owned) by the government. At this time public ownership was dismantled. Later, private ownership (become dominant around 1991. Many workers were laid off and a lot of factories closed. Some people took away the equipment, technology, and skilled people (employees) and set up their own companies. Those people were first group (very rare) who become rich at that time. These people were very lucky. When I prepared to return to the home. I called my mother. My mother told me, that “Da, do not come back recently, too risky. All (everything was) crazy, your friends [Jie and Hong] was captured [into jail]. So just stay there [in the U.S.] and back later. I am lucky because I stay here [in the U.S.]. If I go back [China] at that period, I must have been captured [sent to jail]”.

I: Can you talk about something about the church?

D: Church? I went to church [mainly] in order to learn English. My English was poor when I just arrived here (the U.S.). One of my friends brought him to church. Then when I had time I would go to church. I used to believe in Buddhism when I was in China. The idea of Buddhism is doing nothing, just let people free themselves (desire). Differently, what Christ advocates are to do good things, to give, to help more people escape from evil. So I started to accept Christianity.

I: I remembered you told me you have worked in restaurants, what did you do there?

D: first job was working as a handyman, six days a week. I did whatever I could do, from carrying things, cleaning the toilets, wiping the glass, cutting vegetables, or washing dishes. You know, I was no paper because my visa was expired. I was also scared to return to China, so I only could do this (very low wage job) in order to survive.

I: How much can you earn? And how many hours do you work?

D: I could earn about $500 a month, almost 5 dollars per hour. I worked from 9 am to 10 pm. The restaurant served lunch and dinner.

I: How did you meet your wife?

D: I met her in church, she was a Christian.

I: Was she a citizen or (had) a green card?

D: She was a citizen.

I: When did you married and had your first child?

D: Em, I married in 1989. I had my first baby in 1991, then another one in 1994. It was too difficult after having two young children. I wanted to learn more knowledge (English and skills), but I had no enough time because I had to work, otherwise, there would be no income.

I: Why did you choose to do decoration housework?

D: Because I was familiar with this aspect. I started to work on the wall painting because I think wall painting is the easiest to learn. At that time, I could earn 40 dollars a day. Then I learned to do woodworking, plumbing, and all construction work. I left the decoration company and did myself (made his own business). My first business is to help people paint the exterior of the house in 1991, I remembered. I was both a boss and a worker. I got up early, took the bus, and went to the employer’s home. I remembered that I always worked until dark, sometimes even midnight. It was hard to describe that tiredness, but I earned $1,200 which was several times of a restaurant paying. I still learned English on the weekend because I wanted to take the license, it was important to me. When I took the exam, I also hired an interpreter to help. I took the exam twice and finally got my license.

I: You said that you almost died. What happened to you?

D: It was about 6 o’clock, very early, I remembered that was (happened) in 1998. I clearly remembered that a sudden head pain occurred, then I began vomiting. My wife felt was scared and didn’t know what to do at that time. My neighbor exercised in the yard. He immediately called 911. Soon, I was admitted to the hospital. I was out of danger after first-aid measures. A doctor told me that I had a congenital vascular malformation (in my forebrain) and must be operated immediately. Otherwise, he I would have danger. After about 14 hours’ surgery, I waked up and saw a doctor smiled at me. I know [that] I was saved. When I was in hospitalization, I often stood by the bedside and watched out the window. I saw the people walking around, the vehicles shuttling, the trees rustling. I feel as if they do not have any relationship with me. It seems that I stay in another world.

I: What did you think when this happened to you? I mean did you scare or upset?

D: Scared! After the surgery, I almost lost the ability to move. I took a small step, a small step, moving like a zombie (as he stood up and walked to imitate the way unnaturally). It is too hard at that time. I can not sleep at night because the surgical wound of the brain wasn’t completely healed (painful). I am just staring at the ceiling and feel extremely sad because of thinking about my children and wife. I thought that if I could not recover or lost my mobility. It meant a disaster for me because it also meant that I would lose the ability to work. Seeing these poor children (his sons), so I force myself to walk every day. Walk slowly for one street today, then walk one more street the day after tomorrow. For his family’s future, he fulfilled with motivation and continued to practice walking every day. For two months, I basically could have moved freely. Like I saw a hope. Thank God, I was recovered.

Missing Childhoods

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Missing Childhoods: Immigrant Minors Have No Access to Protection

of Their Human Rights

by Zhen Chen

June, 2018

Peter Orner, author of Underground America, talks about a series of human rights abuses through the narratives of undocumented immigrants. In these stories, most narrators had to face discrimination and exploitation and were treated unfairly by people in positions of power. Readers will be shocked to find out that not only adults but also minors are enduring social injustice. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nation in 1948, proclaims fundamental rights for all human beings, human rights abuses have continued to exist for decades. The U.D.H.R. states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1). However, at this very moment, a large group of people, even minors, has to face multiple abuses of their innate and inalienable human rights in different countries such as China, Mexico, and the US. Because of political and economic reasons, such as political unrest, discriminatory policies, and poverty, many people, including minors, are forced to flee from their countries of origin and illegally enter the U.S., and these undocumented children have to face unfair and even inhumane treatment both in their home countries and in the U.S, which violates their human rights.

The second child of Mr. Lai, a narrator of a story in Underground America, was threatened to be killed by the local Chinese government because Mr. Lai didn’t obey the one-child policy, which discriminated against unborn babies’ right to live and was enforced by inhumane treatment— forced abortion. Mr. Lai, a typical parent living in a rural area in southeastern China, loved kids, hoped to have more children, and was too frightened to lose his second unborn baby; thus, he and his wife hid in their sister’s house until the baby was born. Based on the policy, their second pregnancy was deemed “illegal,” and so their house was destroyed by the local officials as a punishment, making Mr. Lai even more determined to leave China. His wife was eventually forced to have a hysterectomy; otherwise, she would have faced imprisonment. With great disappointment, Mr. Lai sad, “I just had no faith in China” (Orner 36). The enforcement of the one-child policy, which abused their most basic human right, took away uncountable unborn babies’ lives. Even though some babies survived, their parents had to pay penalties or let them live without legal status for many years. The U.D.H.R. declares that “Everyone has the right to life” (Article 3). However, without birth registration, unborn babies were not allowed to be born in China. No matter the Chinese government’s explanation of how important the policy is to economic and social development, it cannot be denied that the harsh policy violates the right to life, and forced abortions and sterilizations are inhumane. From 2015 to 2016, the policy started to be dismantled, but pregnancies still must follow certain laws. The Chinese government, which tends to be autocratic because of the single-party communist political structure, through its supreme power, has commanded its people, such as Mr. Lai, to strictly comply with the family planning laws. Mr. Lai’s case demonstrates that the implementation of one child policy in China forced him to kill his second child by forced abortion, and the discriminatory policy most certainly abused the child’s human right to life.

In another instance, Roberto, coming from Mexico, had to drop out of his elementary school and work under terrible working conditions because of poverty; attracted by better working opportunities, he became an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. and still experienced exploitation in the workforce solely due to his legal status. In Mexico, Roberto first fled to Mexico City from a small ranch because his family was poor and his father always beat him badly. At age ten, he dropped out of school and got his first job, which was still very vivid in his memory because it was so dangerous, although he felt independent. He worked “on a plank of wood, lassos around our waists…eight stories up” (Orner 58). His employer was not concerned about his safety. Eventually, Roberto escaped to the U.S. for a better life and worked very hard to support himself and his mother still living in Mexico. During the time he worked as a farmer in the fields in the U.S., he watched undocumented children that were under ten years old working in the sun for a whole day. He said, “You see it, and it makes you want to cry” (Orner 63). After leaving the farm, he found an easy job in a tortilla factory in San Jose, California, but was paid only $4.50 an hour, which was less than the minimum wage. According to the U.D.H.R, “Everyone has the right to education…at least in the elementary and fundamental stages” (Article 26). Due to economic and political reasons, some children have to give up on education, or even worse, have to endure unsafe working conditions, long working hours, and unequal pay. The U.D.H.R states that “Everyone has the right to security”( Article 3); “Everyone has the right to rest…reasonable limitation of working hours” (Article 24). Roberto, like many other immigrant minors, was forced to give up on his right to education, leave his native country, and experience exploitation because his family had no financial ability to support him based on the economic situation in Mexico. Moreover, as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., his “illegal status,” ruled by the immigration laws, made him vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination by his employers in the U.S. Roberto’s case shows that both economic and political inequality lead to abuses of his human right to education and exploitation from his boss.  

Because of the unstable political situation in Guatemala, Eduardo, Orner’s asylum-seeking client, was tortured inhumanly by a paramilitary officer for over a decade, and his traumatic experience violated his human rights to be treated humanely. Due to the fact that Eduardo was tortured from when he was five years old until he was seventeen, Orner considered this case strong enough to convince the judge. Nevertheless, the judge still ruled against Eduardo. Orner thought the judge might have seen too many similar cases in one day, and that it negatively impacted the judgment. This case reflects other children in Guatemala who also suffer violent assaults. Another book, which was written by Lauren Markham, called The Far Away Brothers, shows readers that not only boys but also girls face sexual assaults when they escape from Central America. Markham points out that “In 2010, Six out of ten migrant girls were sexually assaulted en route to the U.S- other estimates are even higher” (159). When these migrants arrived in the U.S., some still experienced sexual abuses at detention centers. “In 2014, Houston Chronicle investigated 101 reports of sexual misconduct…the alleged sexual abuse was often accompanied by threats…” (Markham 85). These boys and girls are innocent and don’t deserve to experience physical or sexual abuse. They might believe that escaping to the U.S. is the best choice for them because the U.S. is known as a country that protects human rights. The U.D.H.R. states that “No one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 4). Therefore, the physical assault that Eduardo suffered, and the sexual abuses that some undocumented girls experience, both violate basic human rights and are caused by complex international politics, such as the civil war in Guatemala, and the detention system in the U.S..

Desperate political and economic situations cause forced migration, but living in the U.S. without legal status, many undocumented minors are forced to be separated from their families, which violates their human rights to family. Roberto’s description of his forced migration is heart- breaking: “Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I cry by myself. Sometimes I scream by myself. Who am I? I’m nobody” (Orner 74). Even though the U.D.H.R. states that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state” (Article 26.3), many undocumented immigrants are not allowed by the laws to reunite with their close relatives in the U.S. because they are living without legal documents. From all these cases that I explain previously, readers can feel each narrator’s pain of separation, and it seems to be so difficult for them to connect with their family members based on the harsh immigration laws in the U.S. Moreover, a lot of undocumented minors don’t have legal ways to protect their human rights to reunite with their families if the discriminatory laws keep ignoring their human rights.

Due to socio-structural change, including social and political institutions, many children who escape from abusive situations in their homelands and flee to the U.S. have to face different abuses of their human rights, involving the right to life and security, the right to education, etc. While many might think each example of child abuse is a singular violent action, various cases show us that socio-structural change, which is composed of politics and economies, is likely to result in multiple human rights abuses to children. Others might argue these children choose to give up on education by themselves. However, they drop out of school due to the desperate economic situations. Although all human beings are born with human rights regardless of nationalities, some children are confronted with human rights violations because they lack access to resources. Social and political inequality cause them to suffer human rights abuses. Furthermore, both economies and politics contribute to forced migration, and many undocumented minors are legally excluded from human rights and treated unfairly by discriminatory immigration laws in the U.S.

Works Cited

Markham, Lauren. The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. Crown, 2017.

Orner, Peter. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. Verso, 2017.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

Strong Woman

street-scene-el-nido-palawan-philippines

Strong Woman

by Isabela Irene T. Nangca, December, 2017

In Philosopher Friedrich Nietzche’s book Twilight of the Idols, he wrote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (6). Margareta is a medication aide in an assisted living facility in San Francisco. I met her on July of 2016 when I was hired at the facility as an assistant medication aide. Margareta was the one who trained me. She gave me the impression of being a strict teacher, but a caring mother. Curiosity made me want to know her story as to how she developed her ironic mix of loudness and gentleness. As we got closer, she started to open up about her stumbling blocks and the relationships she has had with the people around her that have shaped her into who she is now. Although some of the relationships she has made with the people she has loved, such as with her deported mother or her cheating and abusive ex-husband, combined with some of the stumbling blocks she has endured, such as her documentation issue, have given her challenges in life, Margareta has channeled this negativity into her personal motivation and strength to achieve a good future for herself and for her daughter.

Back when she was still in the Philippines, Margareta de Jimenez grew up in a close yet distant family. She was born on August 5, 1985 in Leyte, Philippines. Growing up, she lived with her grandmother because of her parents’ and siblings’ constant absence. She told me that when she was little, she felt “like I [didn’t] know [her] parents…and like [she was] the only child.” Her parents were visiting her every six months from the United States because they were on multiple-entry tourist visas, which required them to go back to the Philippines regularly, while her siblings were already living permanently in the U.S. According to “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups,” by Robert Strom and Shirley Strom, grandchildren being raised by grandparents are common, mostly due to different parental conflicts. It was stated in the journal article that “Letting children know they [were loved was] essential for helping them grow up. Grandparents [were] often praised for how well they fulfill this need” (Strom and Strom 705). She mostly spent time with her grandparents and cousins, making her feel like they were her parents and siblings. She was raised by her grandparents because of her parents’ absence. Despite her distance from her immediate family, she was always kept close and warm by her extended family. With a twinkle in her eyes, she recalled, “Every Sunday, we always [had] family gathering[s], and during the holidays too.” She said that after attending the church in the morning, together with her cousins, uncles and aunts, they would have a simple feast at home, strengthening the close bond between them. Although her parents’ and siblings’ absence created a hole in her heart, her extended family filled the hole with love and warmth instead.

Because of her parents’ decision to make her follow them in the U.S., Margareta saw lots of opportunities but was sad at the thought of leaving her grandparents and scared of the uncertainty of her parents’ plans. At the age of seventeen, her parents wanted her to live in the U.S. with them. As a child, she said, “I [had] no choice.” She was saddened by the thought of leaving the family she knew and of being with the immediate family she barely knew. She had a stable and simple life with her grandmother, already starting college and enjoying a blossoming relationship with her boyfriend. She was reluctant to leave it all behind for an uncertain future in the U.S. with a family that she didn’t know. Most of the time, children don’t have a say in their parents’ decisions for them. Those children always follow their parents, no matter what consequences there might be. Like them, Margareta felt the same way. She followed her parents’ decision to go to the U.S. even if it meant leaving her good life with her grandparents behind in the Philippines in exchange for an uncertain life in the U.S. with her parents, not knowing the struggles that would come her way when she finally got to U.S. She loved both her grandparents and her parents, but the thought of living with her parents, who were very distant to her and away from her grandparents, who she already considered as her parents, made her very lonely.

One reason why Margareta’s parents wanted her to come to the U.S. was because her mom was already being petitioned for residency by her stepdad, who was only using her mom’s money for another lover, and they were hoping that she would be granted the residency since she was still a minor. Before she came to the U.S., her parents had already divorced and her mom was already married to someone else, a U.S. citizen. Her mom really loved her stepdad, only to find out that “[her] stepdad was only using my mom for money.” Her mom questioned him when she noticed the constant withdrawal of money from their joint bank account. Money is a root of problems in relationships, not just married couples, but also family members and friends. In Social Psychologist Dr. Joan D. Atwood’s article on the relationship between money and couples, she stated, “Many individuals have problemed relationships with money and when they enter marriage, money matters can become a trigger for arguments” (10). An argument between Margareta’s mom and stepdad arose when her stepdad confessed that “he [had] a female heart” and his boyfriend was the one who he spent the money on. At the same time that this problem arose, the petition process was almost complete and a final interview was on its way. After her mom and her stepdad had been interviewed one-by-one, the immigration officers decided that their marriage was a fraud so they turned down the petition. Her mom was disappointed because she knew that right from the start that it was probably just a one-sided love. She got angry at her stepdad because she and her mother suspected this after he had said something in the interview that influenced the decision of the immigration court. This fueled a flame inside her, which motivated her to move forward and fight.

After being with her parents for a short period and after the issue between her mom and her stepdad, she was scared of being left alone in the unknown again, but started to stand on her own and be independent. Since her biological father was going back and forth between the U.S. and the Philippines, he was still a blurry figure in Margareta’s life, so basically all she had in the U.S. was her mom, and now, because of the issue with her stepdad, her mom will also be a blurry figure again in her life. After her stepdad’s failed petition, she and her mom received a deportation notice from the U.S. immigration. She said, “We were planning of going back home, but my mom decided that I should stay here.” Her mom decided to go back home to the Philippines for good, but told her to stay because her mom knew that her future would be brighter in the U.S. But now, Margareta’s life would be harder because not only was she alone, but she was also a TNT now since she could not renew her work permit due to her deportation notice. TNT is a Tagalog abbreviation for “tago nang tago,” which in English means “always in hiding.” This is a characteristic of every undocumented immigrant: that is why it is a term used for them. In journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us, about the woven lives of four Mexican teenage girls, their documentation issues and their futures, one of the girls, Yadira, an undocumented immigrant, experienced being away from her deported mother, who was charged for stealing the identity of a U.S. citizen. Yadira described the deep longing she felt for her mother and her anxiety about her future. As with Yadira, Margareta also felt afraid of being alone in one of the tough times in her life as an undocumented immigrant. So although there are lots of opportunities in the U.S., her future would still be uncertain because of her documentation issue. Still, she diligently worked hard and looked for ways to legally achieve residency.

After a few years, Margareta found the one she thought was her one true love, who helped her with her documentation problem yet broke her heart by fooling her and abusing her. Before her mom left, both of them already knew what could solve her documentation problem: marriage; but her mother reminded her “to do it with love.” Her mother never wanted her to fool someone else just like her stepdad had done to her mom, even if it was in a different way or situation. She met and fell in love with a U.S. citizen, Pedro, who knew about her situation but still accepted her anyway. They planned a lot of great things for the future, even marriage. At first, her relationship with Pedro “was legit … but I guess, things change; he changed.” When they found out that she had gotten pregnant, Pedro accepted the baby whole-heartedly and even wanted to keep her and their baby, so they planned to get married and did. But days before, Pedro visited his home in the Philippines. He changed his mind, telling her that he wanted to be single because he didn’t want to be responsible for her hormonal emotions, but he was still willing to support their baby. Then, she revealed, “I didn’t know that he was cheating.” When he wanted to break up, she decided to move out and be independent again. The day she moved out was the same day that she received a removal notice from U.S. Immigration. She started to text Pedro because she was so scared. He tried to comfort and calm her down through text messages but accidentally sent a wrong message that was intended for a girl he was flirting with. The girl was the reason why he wanted to be single when he visit the Philippines. After his vacation, they continued their marriage. He still wanted to keep their baby, and she moved back once the petition for residency had started. Although he still wanted to help her documentation issue, she opened up about how “he [had] threaten[ed] [her] every single time,” how he psychologically scared her with his words, and how he continued to flirt with the girl. He would slap her with the documentation issue to make her feel useless and threaten that she wouldn’t get the chance of acquiring residency without him.

During those hard times, Margareta grew closer to her friends, especially to her best friend, Agatha, and they became her support and gave her motivation to continue on. A year after she arrived in the U.S., she went through a CNA program, where she met Agatha. When her mom got deported, Agatha became her company as she started to become independent from her distant family. Agatha helped her find ways just so Margareta could and would stay, even suggesting marrying her, if it was already legal, so she could be petitioned by her best friend. Margareta was encouraged to move forward and work for her future. Then, when Pedro came and made her vulnerable again, no one from her family or Pedro’s knew what had happened to them, except Agatha. She was there to help her stand up and to encourage her to fight back. Margareta describes how “Agatha is like a family: my sister.” Despite Agatha’s own personal issue, she never failed to be there for Margareta, like a family. According to William Rawlins, a Stocker Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University, in the foreword of The Psychology of Friendship, a book about friendship by Psychology Professor Mahzad Hojjat and Associate Psychology Professor Anne Moyer, he said, “Friendship has manifold psychological significance and time-honored recognition as indispensable for individual and communal well-being.” Agatha has been very significant in Margareta’s life and wellbeing by giving support and encouragement, especially in times of need.

Through the struggles she faced with Pedro, Margareta’s baby gave her the utmost of strength and determination. When she caught Pedro cheating, Margareta wanted to leave the baby with Pedro and return to the Phillipenes, because she didn’t want her baby to grow up with a broken family and knew that she wouldn’t be able to raise her baby alone. But she knew that her baby deserved a good life so she said, “I was motivated to stay in the U.S. for my daughter’s future.” She thought of her baby’s potential future in the U.S. if she fought and stayed. In “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation,” a journal article about students’ motivation in their education, it was stated that “Frank (1939) and Lewin (1935) were two of the first modern psychologists to discuss the importance of the imagined future in understanding human motivation and behavior” (Husman and Lens 114). It was discussed how perceiving the consequences or outcomes of different possible actions could motivate a person to choose an action with a better positive outcome. This is the same as Margareta: she had the option of letting go of the baby and going back to the Philippines, or keeping the baby and staying with Pedro, who suddenly wanted her to stay. She chose the latter for the future of her baby, learning to fight back against Pedro’s threats. She became a strong pillar against Pedro and for her baby.

After several years, Margareta’s life is now stable and quiet but she still holds her past in her attitude and character. After receiving her green card, she immediately moved out of Pedro’s house and waited for her citizenship for five years, instead of the two years she would have waited as a a fiancé/spouse. She won her citizenship last 2016, so she was able to petition for her parents, and the process is now ongoing. She is expecting their interview soon. Her marriage with Pedro just officially ended last January 2017, but they are “now on good terms.” He continuously supports and spoils their daughter to the fullest. Agatha and Margareta are still working together in the same workplace and still have each others’ backs. Margareta’s baby girl is already in her 3rd grade at school. She is a very bubbly and silly diva, like her godmother, Agatha. As for Margareta, going back to the start, I now understand why she has this ironic combination of characteristics. Her softness comes from the circumstances and the people who made her feel vulnerable, while her boldness comes from the people who encouraged her to fight.

Although her relationship with her distant parents and her cheating husband, and her lack of documentation at such a young age, have given her challenges in life, especially her life in the United States, Margareta has channeled these problems into her strength with the motivation that her friends and her daughter give her. While her parents and grandparents play a vital role in her life, Margareta’s friends took up that supportive role during the hardest times of her life in the U.S. When Margareta was still young, her parents were blurry in her image of family because of their physical distance from her but fortunately, her grandparents stood up as her parents during their absence. When Margareta and her parents finally got together in the U.S., it was short-lived, for her parents were forcefully sent back home, leaving her alone in the crucial moment of her life as a young undocumented immigrant. Thankfully, her friends, especially Agatha, were there for her to give her support and her daughter was also there for her to give her strength. They still are here for her today. Families play a vital role in the lives of young immigrants, especially those that are undocumented. Young undocumented immigrants always need their loved ones to help them through their hardships and to give them support. Margareta never had her family beside her during those hard times, but thankfully, some people stood in their place to help and guide her life.

 

Works Cited

Atwood, Joan. “Couples and Money: The Last Taboo.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 40, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-19.

De Jimenez, Margareta. Personal interview. 11 Nov. 2017.

Husman, Jenefer, and Willy Lens. “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation.” Education Psychologist, vol. 34, no. 2, 1999, pp. 113-125.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Richard Polt, Hackett, 1997.

Rawlins, William. Foreword. The Psychology of Friendship, edited by Hojjat, Mahzad, and Anne Moyer, Oxford UP, 2017, pp. ix-xiv.

Strom, Robert, and Shirley Strom. “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups.” Educational Gerontology, vol. 19, no. 8, 1993, pp. 705-715.

Thorpe, Helen. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. Scribner, 2009.

 

Sample Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Isabela Nangca (IN)

Interviewee (Pseudonym): Margareta de Jimenez (MJ)

Interview Setting: November 11, 2017 at 4:30 PM

IN: Hi Marge! Good afternoon!

MJ: Hello Issa!

IN: When is your birthday?

MJ: Birthday? August 5, 1985

IN: Where were you from?

MJ: I’m from the Philippines, from Visayas, Leyte

IN: Can you tell me something about your childhood in the Philippines? Any memorable experience/s?

MJ: Memorable experience, just, uhm, being able to, I guess, spend time with, okay, the memorable part, I guess, when we were little, most of my cousins, nakatira kami sa lola (we were living with our grandmother), and we have that great bond, yeah, we always hang out, we always have, like, every Sunday, we always have family gathering, uhm, everyone must be there, and then, uhm, sometimes, during holidays, uhm, and then, more like, ung mga panahon na (the times that) we, you know, like I was able to really, like spend time with them when were little.

IN: When did you came to the United States?

MJ: So, I came to the US when I was 17, when I graduated high school. I didn’t want to but I had to come with my parents. I came to the US as a tourist, and my mom was trying to process my resident card here. So, my mom actually got married to my stepdad and the part of the reason why I was coming to America because I was petitioned but unfortunately, uhm, it has to go through a lot of process.

IN: So, what do you mean by you were petitioned but too many process, then you came as a tourist, so it’s like you can’t wait for the petition?

MJ: So basically, when my mom was petitioned by my stepdad, she wants me to be in America already while I was still underaged, that way when she gets the papers done, I will get automatically get the green card as the same time as she will. And at that time, I only have a tourist visa for 10 years, which is I have to go back and forth to Philippines every 6 months. And during the process, well, she thought that, you know, when Im already here in the America and we’re already processing the papers and when everything goes through, they wanted me to just stay here instead of going back after 6 months, even though it’s still on a pending, uhm you know like uh, processing our papers. So my mom tried to, uhm, request from the lawyer, request an extension and they have try to submit, and you know, see if the court or immigration will say “okay”, uhm, then I would have stayed and so me and her because she’s also under process. We have to both, but then she, well maybe she, I don’t know, I’m not sure, maybe she could stay but maybe not me, because basically she’s the one being petitioned as a wife or fiancé, and I’m only the daughter, so maybe I have to go home. That’s what I’m understanding back then. But I guess the request was granted so I stayed. And later on, during the process and stuff, there was a lot of, uhm, issue that actually made everything worse that instead of getting the papers granted, it turned out to be bad, like hindi nagkatuloy (it didn’t continue) because my mom found out that my stepdad was only just using her, he was not really, uhm uhm really, lalaki (male) because he has a another heart, he likes man, he has a female heart and he likes boys, well originally I guess. I don’t know why he wanted to pretend, I guess, I don’t know what’s his reason. And then my mother found out that he was using her money, you know that they have joint account and stuff. And then when we were doing the interview, unfortunately we were supposed to have out attorney and my mom decided not to have the attorney. So when we were getting our interview, final interview, we uhm, we ended up getting interviewed one by one, and that was more, it was the scariest feeling that me and my mom, and I’m sure my stepdad too. They were already in bad terms at that time and we were having, uhm, interview na tag-isa-isa (alone/one by one). The first person that got interview was my stepdad, no, my mom. And then after my mom, they interviewed my stepdad. And I never got interviewed because after that, they already got denied. They were suspecting that it was fraud and all that stuff. I don’t know if my stepdad was the one that actually turned it, you know like, kinda like, maybe he, may they’re probably interrogating, maybe they scare him away for whatever it is because he knows to himself that he’s not really real to my mom, maybe he got scared, and then he started probably telling stuff there that “oh this is what happened.” And then we got, my mom had to, me and my mom had a deportation notice after then. So within that 30 days, we have to leave the country and that was 2005. And uhm, so we were planning of going back home but my mom decided me should stay here, just to be good, not do anything crazy, not do anything stupid, just try to be good and work if you can, and you know, just try to survive because she knows that that was the only she can give me at that time, future wise, like I know, she knows that if I stay here, I’m going to have a better life. I know I’m going to be by myself, or not really by myself because I have family still but you know, I chose not to be with my siblings. So I basically started to be independent, I continued to work at the company I started working. I’ve never really had any issue yet with asking the papers stuff. It was basically it was fortunate, or maybe it was God’s plan that all throughout the time that I’m not legal, I’ve never encountered, for many years, that you know, mahuli ka ba (being caught) because you’re only tago nang tago (hiding). But at the same time, of course, I have to do good and I didn’t wanna have any issue so I don’t get in trouble. Stay away from trouble for many years and then, so my mom went back home to the Philippines, and I stayed here with my friends. Later, after a couple years, you know, I met my daughter’s dad, my ex-husband. So at that point, when we were great, we planned a lot of things. He knew about my situation and then I got pregnant, and he wants to make sure to keep me and the child here. So, it was basically legit, like it was real at that time, that we were planning. Later after, I got pregnant. I guess things change, you know, he changed, he have things in his mind, he was young, whatever, and he wants to- you know, we had plans that we wanted to do. At the same time, it actually didn’t happen because he changed like he wanted to be single and he already know I’m pregnant, and this and that. So basically I have to go through at the time that he was helping me, at the same time, uhm, you know with the petition and stuff, it was more on, you know, at that time, I mean, in the beginning, it was supposed to be, you know, because he wants me and he wants the child and then later on, it ended up like, oh, uhm, i wanna be single, whatever, and then, he just wants to keep the baby, so I have to kinda struggle with in that phase where I don’t wanna be with him but because of my child, I have to be there and even if he already have some new girlfriends, or I mean you know, new girlfriend back in the Philippines, he would still, you know, I’m here and like trying to just to stick around, you know, I mean, it wasn’t, it wasn’t, it’s not the- what I wanted but it’s just what’s happening because that’s what he wants and I’m giving him what he wants, uhm, in the middle, like i don’t want to go through the papers because my mom, when she left, she would always tell me, if you ever want to, to, you know, get your papers done, we all know that there’s no other way for me to get my papers is just to get married, she always tells me that do it with love, like you really love the person. You are not using the person because of what she have gone through and even if it’s in a different way, different situation, because the guy, I mean my stepdad was messing with her head, uhm, yeah, it’s like, whatever, you know, cause I can always get just be, you know, maging fake ka na lang (be fake) just to get that. I didn’t wanna go through it, I wanted to let go of the baby, I wanted to do a lot of- there’s so many things because I’m by myself, I have no family here close by. I didn’t wanna tell my brother about my situation because I know they also have problems with their own. So, I have my best friend, she’s the only one that would know most of everything that I have encountered, or you know, experience in my whole life here in the US since my mom left me. And she’s always been there to help me with everything that I need. She’s like my family sister, or like a sister, kinda like best friend. Now, I have to go through a lot of mess because, you know, something that i cannot control. But, I have to stick around for my daughter, to make sure that she gonna hav good features-      she’s gonna be here. I don’t wanna, you know, there’ even a point that I just wanna give up already like I don’t wanna go through the process anymore because it takes a long time for the marriage, I mean, the petition for that, and, uhm, I’m struggling to much because the way that he was treating me that tame was really, uhm, the worse, like worse, uhm, experience that i wouldn’t ever ever thought that I would experience when you know, when I was uhm bata pa (still a child/ still young), whatever. Ang dream ko talaga (My dreams), i always dream to have uhm. And then, ang pinaka pangarap ko kasi noon (my dream before), to have my own family and I though he was my family. And then when I have my daughter, I thought it will change hi mind. It actually changes his mind, after four years, my daughter was already born. But that’s like I already have moved on but yeah, so and dami kong pinagdaanan bago ko makuha yung (i did so many things before I got), uhm, yung mga bagay na (the things that) I really thought na ang hirap nung panahon na yun (those times were very hard), especially knowing na shit, buntis ako (I’m pregnant), I’m not even legal here, and I have to deal with this man that i thought would help me, i mean he did help me with papers and stuff, but the consequences na binibigay niya sakin (he’s giving me) was not- it wasn’t really, it was not a normal or like, uhm, he was just really treating me bad at that time, and I don’t know why, and I even cursed him before, and you know, pero lahat magbabago (but everything will change), nagbago naman ang lahat (everything changed) because what can you do, he’s going to be forever part of my life, may anak kami (we have a child), and everything. So, and then after nun, we have to go through court hearing because at that time when he wanted to break up, I got pregnant, the same day I had my removal. So, when I had my removal, hindi namin expected yun (it was unexpected), we already planned to get married even before I got my removal because I got pregnant but at the same time, hindi ko akalain na may removal ako (I didn’t realize that I have removal). And then, when I received the removal, and I remember that it was like December 2008, uhm, nalaman kong nabuntis ako nung (I found out I was pregnant on) December 25, after 3 days gusto na niya magsingle (he wants to be single), gusto na niya maghiwalay kasi gusto na niya umuwi sa Philippines (he wants us to break up because he wants to go to the Philippines), hindi ko pa alam na he was cheating pala (I didn’t know that he was cheating). I just found out everything the same day that I got my removal, same day that I moved out, and same day that he sent me a wrong message that was supposed to be for the girl he was flirting back in the Philippines and that’s the reason why he wants to be single before he goes to Philippines because he is already going to see someone and I let him. In the beginning, I let him go. Okay you want to be single, because he just wanted to go to the Philippines because he just wanna be single, that he doesn’t want to be responsible for my emotions, whatever. So even if I was pregnant, I was actually strong to let him go. I said, “okay, and i’m going to move out. You have your own life, go do whatever you want.” At that time, I was just gonna, I was just thinking, “Oh, you know what, I don’t need you, I’m going to take care of my child, I don’t care.” And there’s times that I think of letting go of the baby because he/she doesn’t have a father anyway so might as well, I don’t want to continue, but most of his family members already know, and they kept telling me, “you better not do it because you have to keep the baby.” And then, I have no choice. I mean, at the end, I realized na “oh it’s buhay (life) and I already know I’ve made mistakes in the past na hindi ko na siya pwedeng ibalik ulit (that I can’t change), you know, so then I have to keep the baby. And every single time, I have to deal with him, magpupunta kami sa court(when we go to court), because I have the removal so we processed everything. We got married. He tried to petition me. He did all that stuff and he always threaten me every single time when we are not really in good terms like about sa mga kalokohan niya (his foolish actions), like he thinks, like he can do whatever he wants here with me while he’s here, while he still talks with the girl in the Philippines, like parang okay lang (it’s okay). But I had no choice because at that time I have to live with him because there’s no way I’m gonna be doing these papers and I’m living somewhere else. We’re gonna get caught and I’m gonna going be back home for whatever this and that and it’s gonna be on my daughter too like paano na lang ang future niya kung babalik ako? (how would her future be if I come back?) I mean, I know, like what my dad always say “oh bakit ka naman mamomroblema kung madedeport ka, eh hindi ka naman ipapadala sa Thailand? (why would you worry if you get deported, it’s not like they’ll send you to Thailand?)” like he always joke that, like “you’re going back to us, to your family, here in the Philippines.” But, yeah, I get it, you know, no matter what happens that time, I was like thinking “oh yeah babalik naman ako sa Philippines, may mga tulong ako. (I’m going back to the Philippines anyway. I have help.)” But it’s still not gonna be enough for me and my daughter na maglive (to live) in the Philippines and we know how it is and how hard it is to be there, magtrabaho (to work), and all that stuff, yung mga opportunities na meron ako dito (the opportunities that I have here). I’m gonna give up everything and what’s gonna happen to her. I mean, I’m sure I’m not gonna leave her alone or my parents are not gonna leave me alone. But, I’m pretty much independent for many years that I’ve lived na ako lang (alone) without my parents so that’s something that I would not wanna go for. I had to fight. When I fight, I have to swallow every damn thing kahit masakit, kahit na gusto mo na umiyak (even though it’s painful, even if I want to cry already. Pero for one year na nangyari sa buhay ko yan (that it happened in my life), none of them knows what I was going through. Ang alam lang ng brother ko (the only thing that my brother knows) is I was having a removal notice, that I have to go through court. My brother never knew anything about Pedro until after one year because I don’t wanna tell them anything. My parents didn’t know anything about him. Ang nakakaalam lang is my best friend and yung mga kaibigan ko na malalapit (Only my best friend and my close friends know). But my family never knew about him, the cheating, treating me like shit

IN: Like how does he treat you bad? How, like abuse, or something?

MJ: He treats me like “oh you know, if not for me, you’ll be a TNT, mababalik sa Philippines (you’ll go back to the Philippines)” and all that stuff.

IN: Parang sinasampal niya sa face mo? (like slapping it to your face?)

MJ: Yeah, sinasampal niya lagi sayo (he always slaps it). And then, pagmagaaway kayo (if you argue) because there’s no way na maiiwasan mong mag away kayo (to avoid arguments) because of how he’s doing. Buntis ka na nga at lahat and he had the nerve to leave you for another girl na nasa Philippines. Of course, at that time, gusto niya, enjoy siya (he only wants to enjoy). But then, eventually, he didn’t know na it’s gonna bite him in the ass once na mawala na yung babae (that the girl will leave) because she was just using him. He would spend many many many money for that girl and not spend anything for me or even just for our baby because you know, he was young back then. He was stupid, all he does is whatever benefit him at that time is what he takes. If not, then he doesn’t care. Even his parents would get mad at him. I always tell myself that one day, he will regret that. It’s gonna go back to him 20x. It’s not gonna be that easy or simple but it will. After four years, that’s what happened. It all came back to him. Then tapos na (it’s done), nag go through na kami sa papers ko and everything (we processed my papers). I had gotten my papers, and I was happy. I mean, I appreciate naman na (that) he still continued to help me. Yun na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (That’s what I’m holding onto that) even though he was an ass at that time, I know he was just being selfish because he thinks that he got the power cause he was controlling me because of my situation and I let him that time. Not totally let him because I would fight back na sagad-sagad kahit na uuwi ako sa Philippines (extremely even if I will go back to the Philippines), na I don’t give a shit, bahala ka sa buhay mo (Tagalog idiomatic expression for I don’t care about you, do whatever you want), I can do that but di mo makikita anak mo, balaha ka (you won’t see you child, I don’t care)” because of what he’s doing. Natapos na lahat and everything (it was done). Nag go through na, nakuha ko na what I need (It went through, I got what I need). It sucks na (that) you have to go through a lot of, you know like, magkaproblema ka pa sa papers (you’ll get problems on your papers) and then you would go through mga treatments like mga ganyan (those) or you would experience na parang ganyan (like that). Sometimes you would think na walang puso itong taong ito (he’s heartless). But then, like I said, Ito na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (that’s what I’m holding onto, that) he helped me out kahit na ganun siya ka grabe na (even if that’s how he is, that) I have to struggle and sacrifice a lot of things, emotionally, physically, mentally. Because I was just, actually that time, iniisip ko lang yung anak ko (i will just think of my child) and what’s gonna happen to her and to me at the end. Of course, magiging masaya kami (we will be happy).

IN: So, how many years did the process of the papers go through?

MJ: So we got married on January 2009. The process started at that time. It took me until 2011 before I was granted. I have to go back and forth sa court to show them the documents that they needed to see, so that way, they can keep me here. I had to hire a lawyer and pay hell of a money to save me and my daughter here in America. And because, hindi naman talaga dapat magiging parang set up (it is not a set up originally). It just happened kasi nagbago na siya (because he changed). It was supposed to be really legit marriage, love, family. If it was not a legit, I would not, I mean, bakit ako magpapabuntis sa kanya? (why would I want to get pregnant to him?) 2011 – I got my green card. Mas maganda ang nangyari sa buhay ko after that (My life became better). Kung baga, naisip ko na din na lahat ng mga struggle ko and sacrifices nung Naiwan Ako ng parents ko, may deportation notice kami (I always think of all my struggles and sacrifices, when my parents left me, when we got our deportation notice). I was worried about my mom and dad and ang layo ko (i’m so far away), mag-isa lang Ako (I’m alone) for many many many holidays. I was happy to have him because I thought siya na ung family ko dito (he will be my family). And then, sinira Niya yun para sakin at para sa anak ko (he destroyed it for me and our daughter). Pero you know, there’s always a reason why everything happens to each individual. With mine, I learned a lot from my experiences sa buhay ko na hindi ko aakalain na (in my life, that I won’t believe that) I’m gonna become me now. And that’s because of that stuff. It wasn’t easy, simple, but kapit lang bes (just hold on bes). Then, okay na. Nag citizen ako nung (I became a citizen) last year (2016), after 5 years. I was supposed to be citizen already after 3 years but hindi ko nakayanan ung treatment niya sakin na maghihintay pa ako ng 3 years (I really can’t endure his treatment anymore to wait for 3 more years), tapos magkakaroon pa kami ng (then we will have) another probation. After 2 years ng green card, uhm, bibigyan ako ng (they will give me)- actually I’m pretty fortunate that time kasi nung ginawa na yung green card ko (when they processed my green card), imbis na magkakaroon ka pa ng 2 years probation (instead of having 2 more years of probation), ni-let go na nila yun (they let it go) because it was already 2 years na I was going through court. So the court and being with him at that time na kami pa rin hanggang nung natapos na (from when we were still together until the end), automatic na nila akong binigyan ng (they automatically gave me) green card for 10 years na (that) I don’t have to worry about probation or anything kasi yun na yung 2 years na cover na dun (because the court already covered for the 2 years probation). Then, nung nakuha ko na yun (when I got it), so I wanted to get a citizenship already in 3 years starting the day they granted my green card on 2011 pero naghirap talaga ako sa issue naming dalawa (but I’m really having a hard time with him) so I have to let go of him… (32:06.34)

IN: What’s your motivation to go on despite everything that happened to you? What pushed you to stay in the US?

MJ: I was motivated for my daughter to stay in US for her future. I could of went home after my biggest breakup with her dad but because i know there is not much opportunity there specially for her i had to stay and sacrifice being single mother for her.

IN: When you were still in the Philippines, what’s your perspective of USA?

MJ: When i was in Philippines …i think of USA it’s beautiful because I know there’s many opportunities but I don’t want to live there because HOME SWEET HOME with my family and friends in the Philippines where I came from and I only want to stay there. But my parents forced me because I have no choice im only 17 eh. Lol

IN: When you first came to the US, did your perspective change? (From your answer in #2)

MJ: yes my perspective on USA changed since I attended school and met new people and friends and I got used to it and I became happy that I stayed in the US because I became independent. I worked to help my mom and learn how to budget and stuff and specially knowing the fact that I GET WHAT I WANT because I have my own money.

IN: Then now, how would you view Philippines and USA?

MJ: I would say when I went to Philippines for vacation i see the big difference than US and i would say that in the Philippines i can only go for vacation and not live. The feeling is already different between living in the Philippines and the USA, very big difference. I would also say I’m happier now being in US living the life in US its been 14yrs living in the US. My lifestyle is different now.

Where His Family Is

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Where His Family Is:

Git Lee

by Isabella Chen, September 2017

I met Git while I was volunteering with Project Shine helping coach an ESL class. I worked with him a lot because he has a bit of hearing loss as well as not being able to see out of one eye. I was drawn to Git from the beginning because he is 84 years old but still one of the harder working students in the class. Most Chinese senior citizens I know love to just sit in front of the TV or hang out at Asian coffee shops but I knew that Git was a different kind of “old” person. Git comes off as a delicate old man that is very polite and soft spoken. I enjoy working with Git because I get to use my Cantonese skills and help translate the chapters that he doesn’t understand. We became close because I was helping him get into DSPS (Disabled Students & Services) for over a month, every Monday at 9:30 at the Mission Campus. Git was born in 1933 and speaks Cantonese. This common ground led me to want to get to know him better. He is currently retired and lives in the house that he partially raised his five daughters in in the Outer Mission. Eventually, his daughters bought him and his wife that same house. We both share a passion for helping the community, especially the Chinese American community. As I got to know Git better, I found out that he is also from the same province in China as my dad. I asked Git if he would let me interview him for my Oral History Project and he said yes! Our interview was done at my house on a cold Tuesday in the early afternoon.

     Git migrated from Guangzhou, China in the late 70’s. He arrived with his five daughters and his wife. He knew all his life that he was coming to America because it was ingrained in his plans while he was growing up. His father left for America when Git was at a prepubescent age, leaving his mom to raise him while his dad sent money back to support them both. Because it was just the two of them, Git and his mom became really close, opening up his eyes to how important family is to him. Eventually, Git started his career as a teacher in China. He spent over twenty years teaching Chinese calligraphy and origami. Git is a husband and the father of five daughters. Finally in his mid forties, his father’s sponsorship and the paperwork for Git and the rest of his family kicked in and they were ready to come to America. After arriving, Git realized that thriving in America was quite a bit harder than he had anticipated. He faced many life challenges that held him back from his dreams and career, but conquering those challenges has helped him find where his sense of home is.

            Git has planned to make America his home for as long as he could remember. His father came to America when Git was very young to make more money for him and his family. Git grew up watching his father provide for them. His dad supported him and his mother. Git tells me, “She didn’t really work and was dependent on him because my dad was in the U.S, sending money back.” Git’s life was planned for him with the dream of his father to bring him and his mom to America. Git eventually founded a home and started his career as a teacher in China, teaching Mandarin, Chinese calligraphy, and origami. He met his wife over in China as well and started a family, having five daughters. Before moving, Git and his wife were in their 40’s with their kids living a comfortable life in their home. One day, they got a letter and it was finally their time to come to America. Git planned to come to America all his life because of the life his dad started in America and the plan to move the rest of his family out there. I asked if Git was worried about coming out here, but he promptly replied, “No, not scared. We knew we were coming to the U.S for a while now so we were mentally prepared for it. My family was not scared either.” By putting his career on hold, Git was able to move to America to please his parents as well as to give his daughters the best opportunities; this move helped him see that family is where his home is regardless of where they are located.

Git was excited to reunite with his dad again, since his dad had left for America when he was really young. Git felt like he had come from a broken home without a father to guide him. Git wanted to give his daughters a better opportunity like his dad had sacrificed his quality of life for n order to provide a better life to him and his mom. Because of the hard work endured by his father, Git had a better opportunity than many people in China by being able to get an education and then eventually become a teacher. Back in China, his family lived comfortably in a three-bedroom apartment but he dreamed of giving his daughters more. Git believed that coming to America would give his daughters new opportunities in education and careers that they deserved. He wanted the best for his five daughters and their families to come. He and his wife dreamed that coming to America meant that they would find jobs and a home right away, mostly because his father had been in America for so long and even ended up owning his own laundry business. Git’s dad migrated to the U.S. because of the Gold Rush. He had heard that there were many opportunities to make more money on the “Golden Mountain,” which lead him to come to San Francisco, CA. As Git’s dad arrived to America, he wound up in the laundry business and worked so hard he eventually owned his own business. Ronald Takaki, a Professor on Ethnic Studies, wrote in his book Strangers of a Different Shore referring to the 1940’s, “61 percent of the Chinese who were in the labor force were manual laborers, almost all of them working in laundries, garment factories, and in restaurants.” He ended up selling his business. “My dad didn’t leave me the business because he never expected me to be able to actually come to America, especially because so many years had gone by.” Git knew at age 46, in the year 1979, that it was finally time to come to America. “I got a call and had to get our paperwork in order right away because it was happening fast.”

From the late 1800’s to mid 1950’s, Chinese immigrants were denied opportunities to work in many occupations for which they were qualified due to anti-Chinese sentiment and laws that reflected this. This led many towards the laundry business. Back then laundry was considered “women’s work.” In fact, there were very few women in the industry due to the 1882 law, which made it unlawful for Chinese immigrants to come in any capacity except as merchants. Chinese men in America took over the opportunity. Everyone needed their laundry washed so no one really opposed the Chinese doing laundry as a way of living or other jobs that no one else really wanted. According to a journal article that was written by Joan S. Wang, “Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Woman in the United States,” in 1850-1950, most Chinese men turned to laundry because “…the small amount of start-up capital needed, the eagerness of Chinese workers to be self-employed, and the limited language requirements for the trade.” Many laundry companies had three to five men doing laborious work for long hours. The workplace was hot and steamy and the heavy wet clothing would be brutally heavy to work with. While the work was intensive, the positive outcome was that these immigrants owned their own businesses with limited communication.

As Git’s finally arrived to his new home in America, he felt disappointed and overwhelmed due to the fact that he didn’t feel like he belonged her; he felt that America didn’t feel he belonged either. In China, there was gossip and talk of America being the land of opportunities but in reality it was just stressful. He struggled due to not being able to speak English, which he recalled left him “feeling deaf, mute, and blind.” He informed me that it felt like he had gone from being a scholar and a teacher to feeling handicapped. According to the IMR (International Migration Review), which collects and studies statistics on immigrants, “That the effect of early arrival is much greater for English proficiency than other outcomes and bears significantly on most, not all, attainments.” Git has also told me that when he first arrived, he always worked hard but never felt like he was doing enough. He worked from nine to twelve hours a day, six days a week but still felt discontent. He told me, “…with my job I couldn’t pay rent, back then rent was like $700-800 for a flat. With all the taxes I ended up with a little over $500 only and rent was $700-800 so how can I afford rent? Sometimes I’m like what am I working for?” Git was forced to work at the cleaners because he felt like he had no other sustainable skills. His father used to own a laundry shop but had sold it before Git arrived. His father still managed to have some connections so he reached out to the men he used to work with in the laundry business and provided Git with a few labor jobs. As time went on, Git started working as a laundry man, working from eight in the morning to around six, with an hour break and dinner at five pm. I asked him if he ever had to work overtime and he told me a lot of the time he did work overtime. “In the first year and a half [I didn’t get paid overtime] but then after [a year and a half] I did get paid overtime. As you stay overtime [after the year and a half] they will [would] throw you some money for a few hours here and there.“ Git didn’t see anything wrong in that but I believe it is an abuse in his human rights to take advantage of people that have just moved to America. Article 24 in the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), a document about equal human rights, tells us, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” In reference to the long hours Git worked with his hands, especially when he pulled up the wet load of laundry from the washers, he told me, “the load of laundry was soaked and when you have to pull it up over and over again. My fingers were throbbing, at night I remember trying to fall asleep and my fingers just hurt so badly.” Git never once had regrets of coming out to America. He felt like America was in the plans and he needed to make the best of it.

As Git started to accept that America was his home, where his family and responsibilities were now, and that he needed to adapt more, he began to socialize and joined social clubs that would take him to places around San Francisco, as well as to teach immigrants how to adapt and fit into America. On top of going on outings, he also watched movies and learned English at the club meetings. Git and his wife actually met some of their friends there. The clubs were a safe place for the immigrants to look for resources as well as talking to others that are going though and feeling the same way Git was feeling when he moved to the U.S.. Oxford Academic has a journal called Social Forces, which talks about the importance of immigrants being social and meeting other immigrants that share similar feelings. In one of their articles, they state, “These networks provide group-based resources that assist immigrants in making headway in their new society.” Git was telling me that as you work and interact with the same people, “people end up talking about you, but you just have to deal with it.” In the beginning he said that adapting to the culture was really hard. He felt like many people took advantage of him including swindlers on the street. Git confided in me:

“One time a regular looking Chinese man came up to me and told me he needed to cash his check. The check was for $30 but the man told me he need the money now and that he would take $20 for the $30 check. I believed at the time it was a good deal for the both of us so I gave him the $20. The next day, I went in to cash the check and the check bounced. I tried to do a good deed and make some money but it turned out I was taken advantage of.”

Git took it as a learning experience to not trust anyone but instead to be more aware. Twenty dollars was a lot of money, especially back then, and Git felt very ashamed that he had been tricked. He never saw the man again. After that Git felt like he needed to acclimate more to his surroundings and be more aware of the people around him.

Git finally felt like he was at home being able to watch his daughters graduate college and start their own families as a result of how hard he and his wife had worked. Git’s dream had always been to teach and learn but he had his dreams cut short due to having his life planned for him by his father, for his kids and his family. Git finally got to teach and go to school again after working so hard six days a week, nine to twelve hours a day for over twenty years. In the middle of my interview, Git actually pulled out a book that he proudly showed me. It was a book that was made for him by this family whose two brothers, six and thirteen, he used to teach origami to. Git showed me pictures of his daughter graduating from college as well as him teaching kids origami.

There were also pictures of him teaching calligraphy to older folks. He told me that he had started teaching origami because, “Someone introduced us in my community center. They told me that their kids loves origami so the couple brings them to the community center for class with me.” Then he showed me another picture that he is also very proud of, “This picture is at the retirement center of me teaching calligraphy.” He was so proud and looked so happy explaining what he had done for the Chinese American community in San Francisco. Git never moved out of SF after he settled here. He moved from Chinatown to the Outer Mission but that’s the extent of the change in his living situation.

He told me that he just really likes the San Francisco weather and that home is where his kids are. He said that he sacrificed a lot for his daughters and there was no point of him living anywhere else; as long as he is close to his family, he is home. He also felt like the San Francisco community has done a lot for him and he wants to be able to be a bigger part of it, as well as finally doing what he loves best, learning and teaching. Git currently spends his days going to the community center to eat lunch and attended class.

Git found his definition of home by being where his family is. Git grew up seeing the sacrifice his father made to America without a second thought of what he himself was giving up for his family. Back in China, Git used to be a teacher but when he finally arrived here he had to be a laborer and work as a washer and dryer at a laundry company. Git put his dream and his own priorities on hold for his father’s dream of moving him and his mother to America. As Git arrived he quickly realized that being in a new country was harder than he ever imagined. Not only did he not know the language, but he couldn’t continue pursue his career while working six days a week. Git agreed to move to the U.S. as a young boy because his father had moved to America first in hopes of finding a better life for him and his mom. Even though his paperwork to come America took so long and Git ended up starting family in China and a career in China, he was always prepared to leave his career and his home in China when the paperwork was finally ready. Home is usually where someone feels the safest, and since Git’s family was so important to him that he has always felt at home with them near by, knowing that he is doing everything he can to provide for them. Some people might say that Git is his own person, he can make his own choices, and didn’t have to leave China, or follow anyone’s dreams but his own, but he had to get away because of the one child rule and he wanted a better opportunity for his daughters. Git felt he was home in China with his mother but has always known that America is also home because his father was living there already. When it was finally time for Git to move to the U.S., he brought his wife and five daughters to move with him. No matter how much Git suffered, he always felt like America was the right direction for him, especially after being able to provide for his daughters, please his father, and to be at home, which is where his family is.

Work Cited

Myers, Dowell, Xin Gao, and Amon Emeka. “The Gradient of Immigrant Age‐at‐Arrival Effects on Socioeconomic Outcomes in the U.S.” International Migration Review. Blackwell Publishing Inc, 02 Mar. 2009. Web. 3 May 2017.

Sanders, Jimy, Victor Nee, and Scott Sernau. “Asian Immigrants’ Reliance on Social Ties in a Multiethnic Labor Market.” Social Forces. Oxford University Press, 01 Sept. 2002. Web. 3 May 2017.

Takaki, Ronald T. Strangers from a different shore: a history of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998. Print.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Wang, Joan S. “Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850-1950.” University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society, n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.

 

Sample Transcription: Git Lee

I: So I want to ask you where you were born?

K: Huh what?

I: Where you were born.

K: Ah, in China, Canton.

I: Oh ya! My dad was also born there, So what year were you born?

K: In 33’ year

I: Ah ok, Can you explain Canton to me, maybe tell me a little more like the weather?

K: What? What?

I: How in Canton including the weather; is it hot, cold, is it a city or the suburbs? Um, Is there lots of vegetation/ farming?

K: Its is small, Guangzhou is a big city, the others are much smaller cities.

I: Are there a lot of plants?

K: Yes there was, especially farmlands there is a lot vegetations

I: ah ok, Do you any siblings?

K: Its just myself

I: wow oh my gosh, What is your favorite place in Canton?

K:(names a park) small park in Canton,

I: oh nice, i’ve never been, How many people live did you live with?

K: It use to be just my mom and I, my dad’s family was here in the US already

I: How did your house look like?

K: It was rented like how I did when I moved here (US) – with three rooms

I: What did your mom do for work?

K: She didn’t really work and was depended on him because my dad was in the U.S, sending money back,

I: so how much schooling did you have in China?

K: I went to school for awhile. I went to school for about 10 years in Canton

I: So what do you miss the most?

K: wha well, (laughs) nothing really to miss

I: i forgot to ask you what your chinese name is

K: My name is (Chinese name)

I: what is your last name?

K: lee

I: what is your english name?

K: Kit lee

I: how old were you when you arrived to America?

K: In my 40’s, i don’t really remember exactly

I: so where did you meet your wife?

K: I met her in mainland china

I: oh so you moved out here together, how old was she when she moved out here?

K: also in her 40’s

I: What about your daughters? You have 5?

K: ya they were in their teens and younger like 8 or 10

I: did your mom move with you?

K: yes but she moved out to the US first then we followed but as we finally arrived she ended up passing away before we made it out here. She passed away for a few months before we made it out here.

I: oh wow. So how long was she here for until you and your family made it out here?

K: probably a few years

I: did you have to go through angel island?

K: i’ve been there but was not required to pass through, we were allowed to arrive here already

I: Was it hard for you to move to America? To acquire citizenship?

K: no it wasn’t, I had applied for my green card and identification before I arrived

I: Were you scared to move here- to lose all your friends? Was your family scared?

K: no, not scared, we knew we were coming to the US so we were prepared. My family was not scared either.

I: Did you have any dreams or aspirations before coming to america?

K: it was hard when we first arrived, we were not used to it, we thought it was going to easy but when we actually arrived reality kicked in and back then rent was still around 700 and we thought it was really expensive. We rented a whole floor for my family and I

I: How big was it?

K: it was comfortable, we had a big living room at washington st and the cross street of something by chinatown

I: How did you find it?

K: through an acquaintance

I: did you have a lot of friend?

K: no, just met people through work

I: how did you find work?

K: my father use to own a clothes washing joint and by the time we arrived he already sold his shares and the shop. The men he sold his share to older men or men that have money or is somebody so my dad introduced us and told me to go work for them

I: Does your dad live nears you?

K: not really, he lives on Stockton st & Vallejo st in an SRO

I: did you only live in sf?

K: yes

I: did you live any other homes? Did you move a lot?

K: in 87’ we moved

10:00

I: So the house you are living at now, is it being rented or do you own it?

K: The kids ended up buying it, because they grew up

I: So did you have the same job as a laundry man your whole career?

K: Yes the whole time, I washed clothes

I: When did you retire?

K: I retired at 62..haha

I: what did your wife do? Did she do laundry with you?

K: No she worked at a garment factory, sewing clothes

I: So wow, you had so much schooling but you just washed clothes in America?

K: ya just laundry, when i retired I started teaching here and there, started out doing calligraphy and then ended up teaching kids how to do origami

I:  How did the laundry job work? Was it just one person working? Did you wash and dry?

K: Yes it was one person, I washed and dried. It was all me.

I: ooooo ahhh (he shows me a book with pictures of him and kids folding origami)

K: here are some pictures of people folding and here are some people writing calligraphy

I: oh wow ooooomg wowww.

K: this is my daughter and I.

I: wowwwww she’s so pretty

K: haha

I: when did you learn how to do origami? Did you learn it here?

K: here and back in China, the kids are my students that i teach origami to

I:  is this your daughter’s graduation

K: yes college. That kid is only 6 in there and he’s really good at folding

I: wow they made a book for you? That so nice

K: yes their father does real estate

I: how did you find you? Was it at school? (he’s my student in an esl class)

K: Someone introduced us in my community center. They told me that their kids loves origami so the couple brings them to the community center for class. The drive them and drop them off. These are brothers. This picture is at the retirement center of me teaching calligraphy

I: So laundry, is that how you met friends, at work?

K: we when i had to work there would be someone else working near me so we would end up talking and getting to know each other

I: So when did you start english

K: I was learning here and there

I: Well your english is pretty good already

K: Laughs** is just spelling that I’m bad at. My memory is bad

I: Noooooo. Even the professor says that your english is good but you just can’t hear. The professor has told me that he wants us to got DSPS because your english is really good but you just can’t hear.

K: hmm. ok

I: soooo do you still keep in touch with any of your friends?

K: ya some of them?

I: who do you know the longest? Do you still keep in touch?

K: This one dude that lives in Oakland. We write letters to each other here and there

I: wow writing letters. So why did you live in sf for so long? Why not move to oakland?

K: well I lived here for so long? Why bother moving? You just get comfortable

I: well I guess all your activities are here and you have so much. So speaking of activities, what did you to pass time when you first moved here?

K: when i first move here I joined this club “asian progressive club” is in Chinatown, (in some famous building across some bank) on the fifth floor. When i first moved here I would go every sunday to meet people and look for activities to do, and ways to explore this new place we moved to

I: What kinda activities?

K: we went to the museums, sometimes we went to the movies, sometimes there would be parties, we went to angel island also

I: was this for everyone? Not just for retired people?

K: No its a club for everyone. You just have to be a member to go to the events. They also brought just to picnic.

I: How many people went?

K: There was about twenty something people

I: What are origami? Did you do that at the club?

K: No that was something I did when i retired. After work I was be so extremely tired so how can I do origami after?

I: In china what did you do?

K: I taught writing

I: did it make you sad that you didn’t teach anymore? To have to go from your your brains to using your body for labor?

K:  Yes of course. I missed china and teaching

I: wow so when you moved here everything was different

K: ya so different

I: I can’t even imagine

K: hahaha

I: umm so emm when you first moved here did you see your dad alot?

K: yes i saw him everyday actually

I: how old were you when he moved to america?

K: I was very young when he moved here

I: So you haven’t see him for a long time, like twenty something years? Wait over 20 yrs like 30ish years?

 

20:00

K: yes

I: So what does he like to do? Like activities?

K: i’m not too sure but I know he likes to go get coffee with his brothers/ friends

I: oh my grandpa use to do that a lot. He use to sit around and get coffee for hours and hours. When I was younger I use to wonder why he would sit there for so long? I grew up around Oakland so I know that Chinatown more. So did you have any expectations when arriving to America? Did you think it was going to be easy?

K: I thought it was very hard to sustain a living in America since i’ve arrived. I felt like I was deaf, mute, and blind. Deaf because I don’t understand the language english , mute because I cannot speak and blind because I can’t read

I: Didn’t you learn english in Canton though?

K: I learned a little but knew mainly just some alphabets and some words here and there but mainly the three, blind, deaf and mute

I: you use to teach so did you think that this job (in america) is harder that your life back in China? You taught for so long and then it was all taken away from you with you feeling mute, blind and deaf.

K: ya

I: so back then, what was your schedule like? What time did you start work?

K: where?

I: here

K: i would start at 8 in the morning and end work at 8 or 9. Many time around 8 or 9

I: wow ohhh like 12-13 hrs a day

K: they would give me an hour to take lunch. You can rest and take a breath

I: then you would do laundry. Wow ehhh ugh. You did it for around 20 year?

K: yes haha

I: What do you think of America?
K: Well I think SF had really nice weather. Everyone is really nice, very giving

I: but that’s it?

K: well back then my job wouldn’t pay me enough to pay rent

I: you and your wife didn’t make enough to pay rent?

K: I mean by myself with my job i couldn’t pay rent, back then rent was like $700/800 for a flat. With all the taxes I ended up with like $500 something only and rent was $7/800 so how can i afford rent? Something i’m like what am i working for?
I: wow you worked so much and couldn’t even afford to pay rent? But what about your wife? With her job can you both afford rent then?

K: well with her job of course we can afford rent

I: What about your daughters? Where were they born at?

K: They were all born in China, well with normally we just worked till 6ish. We would have lunch from 12-1 then eat dinner at 5

 

I: Then after dinner would you have to start working again?

K: Usually not but sometimes when we have big jobs then we would have to
I: If you stayed longer would you get overtime money?

K: In the beginning I didn’t but then i would get it as I worked there longer

I: In the beginning like you mean the first few months?

K: Like in the first year and a half but then after I would get paid overtime. As you stay more overtime they will throw you some money for a few hours here and there

I: did you think anyone was racist towards you or prejudice ?

K: i’ve always worked in shops with chinese people so there was never any of that. We are all Chinese so what’s there to be prejudice against.
I: what about where you live?

K: no not really?

I: have you been out of sf?

K: I’ve been to vegas, lake tahoe, reno

I: have you been to the snow?

K: ive seen snow but never ski or anything
I: are both you and wife retired?

K: yes

I: was your wife ok with coming to America? Did she like it?

K: I don’t know her thoughts

 

30:00

 

I: Why did you stay in SF? Why didn’t you move somewhere with more space like Oakland?

K: there is no point of moving. Then I would have to look for a new place and its too much.
I: Is your house big?

K: Its comfortable

I: So where do you live now?

K: In the outer mission

I: so is it close to school at the ocean campus

K: ya its close, I live at geneva
I: there is a lot of Chinese people there, So why don’t you live in Chinatown?

K: I’ve lived (CT) there before, since they bought a house there, we ended up moving

I: did you like living in Chinatown?

K: well of course, there is a lot of chinese people there and its easier to get around and acquire what i need. And grocery shopping is close by
I: What about the rats there? There is so many rats?

K: haha ya there are some mice there.

I: You said you use to rent?

K:  Ya back then there use to be many places for rent. Back then 750 was considered a lot to rent a flat. Back then around 300/400 you can rent a whole appartment. Everything above 500 was considered very expensive. That was like over 20$ years ago

I: so back then you can rent a whole 3 bedroom for around 300$? Thats crazy!!!

K: haha ya.

I: So you use to work in sf chinatown also? Did you feel like there was a lot of gossip?

 

33.59

 

 

 

 

 

Two Homes

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Two Homes

by Vanessa Tso, May 2017

Migration has been happening since life appeared on Earth and the reason is simply to find a better place for living. There are a lot of reasons that people move to other countries and those reasons become their own stories. The American Dream attracts people to America, which creates a country of immigrants with diversity. Most people come to America to seek for freedom and better life opportunities as their home countries might not be able to provide for them. However, one person didn’t come to America to seek a better life or freedom, but instead didn’t want to miss the chance and took it as an adventure. That person is my dad, who simply wanted to have an English learning environment for me. The time of submitting the paper to come to America was long; however, the time for making the decision to move was short. He viewed this as an adventure as he didn’t have any particular expectations, so he simply went with the flow. When he first submitted the paper, it was 21 years ago and there was no reason for him to move as he lived comfortably in Hong Kong. With the idea of deciding later, there appeared reasons for him to move with his family as the opportunity to move America came about. While before realizing that he was eligible he had never thought of moving to America as he had a stable life in Hong Kong, he took the opportunity as an adventure for himself as he wanted to provide an English environment for his family; nevertheless, the experiences that he has faced in America have shaped his two identities as an American and a Hong Kong citizen with two homes.

Hong Kong, a crowded modern city with many sky-high buildings, sounds a lot different than San Francisco and he believed it was his only home due to the love that he had had for Hong Kong during his childhood. Grew up and living in Hong Kong for more than half of his at that point, he considered himself a typical person who came from Hong Kong. As he describes them, Hong Kong people are aggressive, hardworking and adventurous. When I asked about his childhood, he said, “I think I’m lucky. I had enough food, I’m able to get into school and graduated after five years of middle school.” Hong Kong was already industrialized before he was born and this led to the increase of population. In the article “A Tale of Two Cities: Factor Accumulation and Technical Change in Hong Kong and Singapore,” by Alwyn Young, a professor of economics, he did a comparison between the economic growth in Hong Kong and Singapore. He stated, “A mass migration from Mainland China to Hong Kong in the immediate postwar era, which cumulatively raised Hong Kong’s population from 600,000 in 1945 to 2,237,000 by mid-1950” (Young 18). Many people from Mainland China moved to Hong Kong for job opportunities and better life as the economy in China during that time was unstable. Space in Hong Kong was small, and a family of six would have to crowd into a small apartment that was originally for two. Although he lived in a small apartment with his parents and siblings, he never felt uncomfortable or crowded. The educational system followed the British system and taught the English language. His parent was a construction worker and he started helping his parent in his early 20’s. He owned a small business and a home, so life was stable that he couldn’t ask for more.

Migration is always the hardest decision to make, as there is a lot to consider; however, he quickly decided to come for an English environment and saw a great opportunity to move as the economy was going downhill in America. After 14 years, the opportunity to come to America had finally come. After a few discussions with his family, he decided to leave everything behind and came to America along with his family. Although it was a short period to make a life-changing decision, he believed it wouldn’t be “too bad.” It was around 2009, which was the time after the Great Recession. He viewed this as a good chance to move. In the book Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, written by Nobel Prize-wining Joseph E. Stiglitz, an American economist and a professor at Columbia University, he discussed the causes of the Great Recession in 2008 and how it affected America and the world. He stated, “In the Great Recession that began in 2008, millions of people in America and all over the world lost their homes and jobs” (Stiglitz xi). Fortunately, his life in Hong Kong wasn’t affected by the recession, but he viewed this as a chance to move. With the knowledge that the economy is a cycle and the recovery eventually comes, he knew it would be easier for him to invest in his life in America during that time. Yet the main purpose for moving was to provide an English environment for his daughter. He said, “I grew up in a British colony environment and I felt having the English environment is good for my daughter.” The idea of moving to America was to provide an English learning environment for his daughter, which was mindset motivated him to move to America. Since he grew up in a British colony, he realizes the importance of English as he considers it a must-learn language.

Decisions are made in order to take action. He didn’t see a reason for him to move due to his stable life in Hong Kong. When he submitted the application for immigration to America with the help of his younger sister, he didn’t make any plan to move at that moment. He said, “When I did the application, I didn’t make any decision yet.” He had the idea to decide when the immigration department approved his application because he knew it would take a few years for the whole process. The time he submitted the application to obtain a visa mailed to him took “14 years of waiting,” as he said. It was 12 years after he had applied when the US started to process his application and another two years of processing the application, which was a total of 14 years. For the book Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective, by James Hollifield, a Professor of International Political Economy, he did a study on immigration policy in the European Union. He stated, “There is a structural element to employer demand for foreign workers, such as in agriculture, construction, health care, domestic help, and hospitality” (Hollifield 4). This means there are policies to control the flow of the immigrants into the counties. The time that the U.S. Immigration Department started to handle my dad’s application was late 2008, which was around the time of the Great Recession. With the idea of starting a new life, he was ready to accept America as his second home.

As a positive person, he believes any problems can be solved; however, the discrimination that he experienced at his second job made him question himself as American or Chinese. Although he was never discriminated due to his name, Wing, he was discriminated against because of where he was from. There was no problem finding a job in America as he described. In the article “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lost Jobs,” by Rakesh Kochhar, a former senior economist at Joel Popkin and Co., he shared a report that analyzes the labor market during the Great Recession and how it affected the job rates in America. According to his report, “foreign – born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million” (Kochhar 1) after the Great Recession in the United States. This shows that the demand for foreign workers increased because of cheaper labor as the economy was slowly recovering and this made it easier for him to find a job. The second job that he worked was at a company that is owned by a Chinese-American businessman. The workers were all Chinese and the language was not the problem at all. He thinks the mistreatment that he experienced by his co-workers was based on where he was from. He said, “They were already in a group, which it was hard for me to join in and the uh…” I cut him off and asked, “Did you tried to?” He continued with an unpleasant look: “I think mainly because of the culture that I have as we grew up in a different world, where the cultures are different.” Although his ethnicity is Chinese, the city that he grew up in a British colony was different from Mainland China. The cultures might be similar; however, the differences are quite different as they can led to contradiction. For the book Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America, by Mary C. Waters, an American sociologist and a professor in Harvard University, she conducted research by looking through the immigration status data in the 1800s and 1900s in America, and about the discrimination against Europeans from different parts of Europe. Later, she looked at interviews of people whose descent was from Europe to see what ethnicity they would answer. She stated, “Sometimes I am tempted to just say American when people ask, especially when I think I might be lumped together with people I don’t necessarily consider to be authentically Irish” (Waters, xii). Just like how my dad simply tells others he is an American when asked. After this experience, his identity as a Hong Kong citizen grew stronger as he felt the culture that he knew was unique. On the other hand, he slowly settled down in San Francisco and this made him confident enough to identify himself as an American.

While most immigrants would compare their home countries to America in many different ways from their expectations that they had before the move, my dad doesn’t compare San Francisco and Hong Kong as he considers both are his home. From the crowdedness of Hong Kong to the lack of nice beaches to swim in in San Francisco, as he joked around, he restated, “Right now, I like, uh, San Francisco more than Hong Kong.” Although he spent more than half of his life in Hong Kong, he likes San Francisco more because he has his family, a job and, lastly “choose to live here.” He now considers San Francisco as his home, where his family is here and his life is as comfortable as his life was in Hong Kong. He never thinks of moving back to Hong Kong as he left everything behind and started a new life in San Francisco, so, “San Francisco is my first home and Hong Kong is second.” The time that he scarified and the efforts that he put into the move, made him fall in love with the place that he lives now as he tries his best. If he ever moved back to Hong Kong, he would have to start over again from scratch. It would not be practical for him as the physical and mental demands for moving are beyond imagination.

The American Dream has been attracting people from around the world, as they want to seek a better future. Funny enough, one person, who is my dad, didn’t seek a better life as he couldn’t imagine a much better life than he was having in Hong Kong. Still, he took the opportunity to come to America as an adventure. Before moving to America, he identified himself as Chinese, and Hong Kong was his only home. However, after moving to America he identifies himself as an American and a Hong Kong citizen: both America and Hong Kong are his homes. Most immigrants who have been in America for generations would identify themselves as American as they consider America their home. However, the identity of a person can never be defined, since the topic of identity is debatable. Only the person can define their own identity and their home as there are no model answers for it. Most people would argue that when people move to another country, they should assimilate to the culture and consider that place as their home, so they should identify themselves from there as well. Still, there is one thing to keep in mind, that identity can’t be defined by others and a person can identify with more than one identity. Also, the definitions of home vary since there is not a definite answer to it. Lastly, our identity and our home might not be important to others, but are something that we treasure as we believe in those, which can reflect on who we are.

Work Cited

Hollifield, James. Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. California. Stanford

University Press. 2014. Print.

Kochhar, Rakesh C. “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gained Jobs; Native Born Lose

Jobs.” Pew Hispanic Center. Washington D.C. October 29, 2010.

Stiglitz, Joseph. Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. New

York. W. W. Norton & Company Inc. 2010. Print.

Tso, Wing. Personal Interview. 9 April. 2017.

Waters, Mary. Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America. London, England. The Regents

of the University of California. 1990. Print.

Young, Alwyn. “A Tale of Two Cities: Factor Accumulation and Technical Change in Hong

Kong and Singapore.”

First 10 min. of the interview – transcript

Where are you from?

I’m from Hong Kong.

Describe that place.

Modern city, there is a modern city, a lot of people there and the population is about 7 million and many sky-high buildings. Anyway a modern city, a big city.

What was it like when you were a child?

When I was a child, Hong Kong was a British colony. We have English subject and also Chinese subject. The educational system followed the British system. At that time, many Hong Kong people, their parents most were from China and at that time, most of their parents were hawkers and construction workers and… my parent are also construction workers.

How was your childhood?

I think I’m lucky, I had enough food, I’m able to get into school and I graduated after five years of middle school. The system is five years of middle school in Hog Kong. Maybe it is equivalence to high school in the US. So yeah, maybe graduated from high school.

When was your first time to America?

Around 20 to 25 years ago… 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to come to the US. That was the time when I participated my younger sister’s wedding ceremony. Oh yeah, attended the wedding ceremony along with the whole family.

What was the first impression?

Actually, we stayed for about… two weeks. (Uhum… mommy was it two weeks?) Yes, two weeks. Not much impression.

Did you have any impression?

I came here… and been to Yosemite but it was during winter time… I didn’t know too well. I have been to Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, but I felt like San Francisco was not much different than now… Yeah… not much different.

When was the whole thing started?

The beginning of the application?

No the first time…

Oh submit the application….

Yeah, when?

Ah, it was 21 years ago.

So it was before I was born

Yeah, my younger sister, who is already a, no when she became a citizen, she helped me to submit the form. This is 20 years ago

You didn’t even know I exist! Yes, I have to wait for 14 years, which the immigration department started to process my application and when the immigration department started to process, we have to wait for two.

Two years?

So the process was like that, so I submit the application it was 20 years ago and i have to wait 14 years, no, after 12 years, the United States became to process my application about two years. So 14 years of waiting.

So 14 years, really?

Yeah, the process has different categories, like parent and daughter would be shorter, brother and sister would be longer.

The wait? So different relationships are different…

Yeah, different relationships have different waiting.

And at that time, why do you…

Oh, at that time why did I take the action?

Yeah, like why you took the action. No, like what made you decide to move

When I was in Hong Kong, I grew up in a British colony environment and I felt having the English environment is good for my daughter.

But I was not even born yet!!

Ohhh, when I did the application, i didn’t make any decision yet. So, i just submit the application. After…

So, it just like the idea of submitting the application and decide later

Yes, when the United States starts to process my application, that will be the time…

That will be the time to start making the decision.

What are the difference between Hong Kong and America?

In America, there more races and in Hong Kong, there are mostly Chinese… Hong Kong is crowded. San Francisco has fresh air, which Hong Kong does not have. San Francisco doesn’t have good beach to swim.

Where do you like more? To live…

Right now, I like uh San Francisco more than Hong Kong.

Why?

I have my job, I have my family… oh no… why?… Because I choose to live here

Do you consider United States as your home?

Yes, because I’m United States citizen.

So…

My family is here

So you consider America your home, how about Hong Kong?

Eh… Hong Kong is my second home.

So America is your first and Hong Kong is your second home.

Yes

Okay, done!

Feeling Whole: From Jordan to Palestine to San Francisco

Feeling Whole: From Jordan to Palestine to San Francisco

by Jose Castillo, May 2017

Being in exile in a foreign country tends to affect immigrants’ identities giving them international perspectives because it brings back memorable and hard memories as they imagine their futures. When people are in exile, meaning separated from their countries, leaving home involuntary, or by force of circumstances, it affects people’s perspectives. Many immigrants who are in exile in the United States also experience memories of their homelands, international perspectives, and legal or human rights abuses, since they are affected due to the political situations of poor countries. Abdul, a nineteen-year-old, my research partner from Jordan, describes how he was affected when he came to the United States by saying, “When I came to the Unites States, it changed my….my action, values slightly…your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home, life changes.” It is common to see an immigrant being affected while he experiences some personal changes when arriving in the United States. It is clear that personal values can also change, but also comparing his new life with his life in his home country, his life has changed because of a political conflict. In his country he was struggling with his family to defend his land from military invaders. Abdul claims that he was armed to be brave as an adult, ready to defend his family and land. This is a real story of a young man who immigrated to the United States in order to seek a better education, and the immediate challenge he faces when dealing with his immigrant identity, as well as legal and human rights violations while he is in exile. The human rights abuses he faced in Palestine, which lead to his exile, forced Abdul to immigrate, and affected his personal identity. This made him feel like he had two conflicting identities here in the United States. This transition proves that Abdul’s memory has gone through certain changes while in exile and left him fragmented; However, Abdul’s memory has been through a healing process that has allowed him to feel whole.

Abdul’s human rights were violated when he was unlawfully arrested, which left him traumatized while living in his native country. Today, many immigrants relate how oppressive their governments were while they were living in their home countries. Oppressive governments are those that have authoritarian law and oppressive system, which is the main reason people seek political asylum as refugees in distant nations. From my interviewee’s perspective, he relates how he was affected while living in Palestine when he says in a worried tone:

“Ah…I want to talk about as I mentioned before I am Jordanian, but also my background is Palestinian, and when I was back there…ah…the military was taking my land…they were offending me by shooting in the air. They also entered our own house and arrested me and my family, and they also occupied my house and stayed there for three days. Can you imagine the military staying in the house for three days like you cannot do anything right?…and it…it is just really super abusive and affects emotionally…its my land, and I was just fighting back for my land…”

Frankly, this statement explains a difficult situation, because it narrates an oppressive situation that affects people’s lives while they are detained inside of their own homes by a suppressive military that does not want people to protest for their human rights.

In addition, Abdul’s human rights were violated when the military invaded his homeland. When foreign militaries invade an outside territory, they take land and scare people. In many countries where there are conflicting military conflicts, military invader governments do not care about territory, whether it is independent, or has a limitation of sovereignty.  Likewise, Peter Orner, a professor and writer at San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing Program, worked with Voice of Witness to collect and edit the personal undocumented stories of immigrants in the United States. He shares the story of Diana. Through her story, Diana exposes violations to her human rights such as an arrest and harassment by ICE agents when they were asking persistent questions to her, and she was in arbitrary detention for not having right the documents. In her words, Diana explains the illegal actions against her:

“The agents put the fingerprints into a machine and asked me where I was from. I felt calm, more and less, I said, ‘No, I need my lawyer, I have a right to a lawyer. I have the right to make a phone call.’ They told me I’d get a lawyer and my phone call later and   asked me again where I was from. But I refuse to tell them. ‘Cooperate with us,’ they said. ‘Why are you making this so hard?’ But I insisted on the rights I knew I had’.”

Obviously, there was not a reason to answer these types of questions, since Diana knew that she did not have the appropriate documents.  If she had the right documents given by the U.S. Immigration Department while she was in exile, she would gladly have given her recognition before the arresting agent. Otherwise, human rights violations against immigrants and my interviewee make no sense. When we see The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2 of this declaration states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind of race, (…) Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of territory” (UDHR).  This article clearly shows the right of freedom people deserve without the political oppression of an outsider military government, who wants to oppress an independent community. It is true that it is something unusual, because it makes people leave and go into exile instead of risking their lives in a dangerously militarized land. This transition proves that certain aspects while in exile left Abdul fragmented; therefore, Abdul’s memory has been though a healing process that has allowed him to feel whole.

Learning English has been difficult for Abdul because he has become an adult and has worked through this by taking some English classes while he is in exile in the United States.  Learning the English language is a way to communicate important issues because it is the way people or society give and exchange information and ideas with each other.  Immigrants in exile notice the difficulty of learning the English language because in order to learn the language, they need to have a little backup, or a little information in order to know more about it. Abdul says in his own words, “Ah…It was very hard the English language…the first language…when I was young was very good, I had a little back up of the English language.”  This means that some immigrants experience difficulty when they do not know the language, but also not all have difficulty if they have a little knowledge of the English language. The effects can be reduced if they have a little important information that might help them when learning at a later time, or when they go into exile. According to Becky H Huang, a Harvard professor, and Ah Jun, a university linguist, in “The Effect Of Age On The Acquisition Of Second Language Prosody,” in which they emphasize how an exploratory analysis of the age of arrival effects the production of a second language and affects Mandarin immigrants:

“Owing to its theoretical implications for the mechanism of second language (L2) acquisition and practical implications for L2 education, the age-related decline in ultimate second language (L2) attainment is one of the most controversial topics in the L2 acquisition field. Among the various L2 linguistic domains, phonological production is arguably the least controversial candidate for an age of learning effect.  In fact, Scovel (1988) argued that the age effect exists only for phonology because the ability to master the sound patterns of an L2 is susceptible to neurological development.” (388)

For the same reason, this statement proves the variables in which my interviewee’s perspective is affected by his learning of the English language while he is in exile. Also, many immigrants are affected in other areas like: writing, speaking, and reading, when they are told to interact in these areas just like native students do, who are less affected. For this reason, learning English has been a difficult process for Abdul because he has become an adult, and has worked through this by taking some English classes while he is in exile.

Experiencing a different type of lifestyle, or assimilation, is another challenge for my interviewee’s perspective and affects him because it takes time for him to assimilate while he is in exile in the United States. While Abdul continues his life in America, he experiences a new culture inhabited by diverse people from other cultures, which America requires him to integrate with. The difference with his culture and his homeland is that his school and values are drastically connected to his culture. Abdul, in his own words, says, “When I came here into the United States, I feel like I was at home” (4). This statement means that despite coming to America, Abdul as an immigrant still feels attached to his culture and homeland rather than feeling as an American, or telling anyone he feels as an American resident. Also, he might feel half assimilated to the American culture just like when he was in his country, or not at all. In “The Lebanese Diaspora: The Arab Immigrant Experience in Montreal, New York, and Paris,“ by Abdelhady and Dallas, they say, “I could not explain this dilemma to the receptionist. I could not tell her that I had never felt American, despite the various indictors of my successful assimilation” (1). Obviously, it is hard for an immigrant to feel that he or she has become part of the American culture, because his or her roots are still attached to their culture. Of course, it will take time for them to assimilate into the new lifestyle of the American culture when they are submitted into the assimilation process like Abdul.

Abdul has become culturally integrated by participating in a new society while he lives in exile.  When people are integrated into a new culture like Abdul, they have to identify themselves with the new people, which is one of the new challenging situations that has affected Abdul’s identity while he lives in exile in the United States.  Exile means to be separated from one’s country or home involuntarily or by force of circumstances, which affects people’s perspective while they live differently in other countries. For instance, Abdul, my interviewee from Daly City, has to experience some changes as a result of exile, which affects his entire identity.  When I asked him the question “How does exile affected your identity?”, he replied with a kind of worried tone.  On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at 5: 23, he responded regarding the effects on his identity, and states as follows:

“Ah…so…basically…ah…when the first time I came here, I just certainly… When I came to the United States, it changed my action, values slightly…ah…I am just feeling the life out…your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home life changes.  Identity is one of the challenges that affects immigrants because it changes the way they act, their values, and they feel that their life also tends to change to a certain degree.”

Practically speaking, it is obvious to see these changes that people have to go through when they integrate and move to another region. They go through changes in values and are often surprised by the new amazing changes they go through, because it is not easy to make changes immediately. Once immigrants arrive and integrate in the new region, the process of change takes place in their identity. This means that immigrants or groups of people who immigrate to another nation due to any oppressive circumstances, have to face the causes, effects, and circumstances, which shape their new identities while they are in exile. For example, in modern times, many Jewish people are separated from their ethnic community, and have suffered a horrible persecution, which also affects their identity while they are in exile for a long time. In the section “Jews,” in Funk &Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, it says, “Modern Jews are members of a separated ethnic community or fellowship rather than of a race, a community that, in the face of incessant and terrible persecution, has maintained its identity for almost 19 centuries, from the final dissolution of the Roman province of Juda in AD 135 to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948” (Funk &Wagnalls). As has been noted, people from different backgrounds and religious cultures also face some challenges of oppression, and no one disputes the fact that it affects their identities while they are in exile just as it is with my interviewee. At the same time, Abdul’s integration into the new culture has made him participate in the society and feel whole.

Another challenge that Abdul has faced is how he deals with his reminiscences about his past while he lives in exile in the United States. Many immigrants tend to have memories of what their past lives at home was like, or their schools before they went into exile. Being at home means being in one’s native country, thinking of what kind or school or university people would like to go to study before exile takes place. For example, Abdul has experienced some memories when he was in his country, and remembers where he wanted to study before his exile, which affects his identity. When I asked him the question, “How do you envision home?,” it logically made him remember his school life from his native land, and where he wanted to go to study. He replied enthusiastically by remembering his fresh memories of these thoughts during the interview. He states, “Ah…so when I began my school I was thinking like…where I wanted to go to study at university abroad or home, or so I was thinking in the United States, because when you graduate you have a good jobs you know, a source of jobs any time.” Thinking is a way to remember, to consider when there is an opportunity to choose a better place to go to study, since memories affect immigrants who are in exile. The use of memory has fostered a healing process and helped Abdul to feel whole.

In the same way, Abdul as an immigrant is affected because he uses his imagination to interpret his memories about his family while he is in exile in a distant homeland. Many immigrants tend to have imaginations about critical moments with their families when they were in their homelands. For instance, Abdul used to have imaginations about difficult moments with his family in Palestine when he was invaded at home by the military. In his own words, “…They were offending me by shooting in the air, and they also entered our house and arrested me and my family.” Immigrants like Abdul almost always tend to have imaginations about some hard moments together with his family in Palestine, a place where he grew up to adulthood. In “Child of Two Words,” the author, Andrew Lam, has on imaginative interpretation of his memories of his mother’s words during his childhood back in his native homeland, Vietnam. He recalls her saying, “’Your umbilical cord is also buried in an earthen jar in our garden,’ she said. The incident and the knowledge of my own earthly ties made a strong impression on me; our ways were sacred and very old” (1). It is obvious to think that a part of oneself is buried in a place where we lived before, and is not forgotten, because there is always a strong imagination of what happened in the past, but also there is the effect of his memories while he is in exile in the United States.

Being in exile is not an easy challenge because it affects people’s identities, since most immigrants who are in exile in the United States experience hardships. These challenges include: effects on their identities, human rights violations, and effects on learning the English language, since they are affected by their personality’s perspectives while they are in exile. Some may say that immigrants are affected when they go into exile, and face issues like identity fragmentation, education, and challenges of human right abuses, since they do not expect them while living abroad. The United Declaration of Human Rights declares that people should be protected anywhere living in their homeland or abroad, or regardless of identity. Regardless of the UDHR, there will people who don’t agree that immigrants should be protected when they travel abroad. What was described is a real story of a young man who immigrated to the United States in order to seek a better education, and who has faced challenges when dealing with his immigrant identity.  As we can see, there are certain aspects that have affected his personal identity while he was in exile, and caused him a challenge issues in the United States. Immigrants like IAbdul have to pass through a process of challenging effects in order to begin healing as a whole human being.

Works Cited

Abdelhady, Dalia, The Lebanese Diaspora: The Arab Immigrant Experience in Montreal, New York, and Paris, NY: NYU Press. 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 1 May. 2017.

Green, Penny, and Amelia Smith. “Evicting Palestine” State Crime Journal.  5.1. (2016). 81.Vocational Studies.  Complete. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Hasler, Beatrice. S, et. al.  “Virtual Peacemakers: Mimicry Increases Empathy In SimulatedContact With Virtual Outgroup Members.” Cyber Psychology, Behavior, And Social Networking 17.12 (2014): 766-771. MEDLINE.   Web. 1 May. 2017.

Huang, Becky H., and Sun-Ah Jun. “The Effect Of Age On The Acquisition Of SecondLanguage Prosody.” Language & Speech 54.3 (2011): 387-414. Academic Search Complete. Fri.5 May. 2017

Lam, Andrew.  “Child of Two Worlds.” “Perfume Dreams.” Jun. 1998.

Orner, Peter. Editor. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives.  McSWeeney’sBooks.   2008.

“Jews.”Funk&Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia(2006). 1p. 1. Funk &Wagnalls New WorldEncyclopediaAcademic Search Complete. Web. 1May. 2017.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  60th Anniversary Special Edition, 1948-2008. [New York]. United Nations Publications, 2007. eBook Academic CollectionEBSCOhost)   Web. 1 May. 2017.

Sample Oral History Transcripts

Jose Castillo: Hello, today we are makig an interview. Today is Tuesday. Its 5:23 PM in the afternoom, March 14 of the year 2017. We are makig an interview with Hashem’s friend, and his name is Adbul. He replied:

Jose Castillo: What is your name?

Abdul: Abdul.

Jose Castillo: Ok, nice to meet you Abdul. Ah..How do you feel today?

Abdul: I’m feel very good.

Jose Castillo: Oh that’s fantiastic that’s great.

Jose Castillo: What is your age?   He replied, I am nineteen years old.

Jose Castillo: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic.

Jose Castillo: Where are you from?

Abdul Ihsun: I am from Jordan.

Jose Castillo: That’s fantastic, That country is so beutiful. That’s wonderful.

Jose Castillo: Lets see and let me asking you some few question during the interview. How does it feel to be in the middle of a war?

Abdul: Ah does it feel unsafe…I mean…like your life is under threat under any time, and you doesn’t feel any safe right?..

Jose Castillo: Ok..and the…

Abdul: Do you want to be find again…like…?

Jose Castillo: Oh right!      Yeah, I know that people have that kind of feeling about to be in the middle of a war.

Jose Castillo: Ok…ah..the next question is…What make you to come to the United States?

Abdul: I came for the main reason to study for a bachellor degree, and civil engineering study, I am curretly enrolled at City College , and I am taking basic to tranfer to San Francisco University State, and also working a part time job for a secure restaurant.

Jose Castillo: Whoa, I can see you can management your time to work.

Jose Castillo: The next question is: How does exile have affected your identity?

Abdul: Ah…so…basically..aahh…when the first time I came here, I just certainly    When I came to the United States, It change my..my action, values slily…ah…I am just feeling the life out..your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home life changes.

Jose Castillo: Ok..that’s fantastic. Because at the same time for surely you can fell the emotional way when you were back home you can  feel the safety here in the United States, and is a great opportunity where you can developed a more a…, a more emotional time for your can develop your personality, your idetity, and the same way you can see how the cultura here in the United States is about you know…you can learn or even assimilate your own cultura where there is another opportunity where you can see both sides of the point of views in the cultures in the country, because we live in a country where there are  so many diverse cultures comming from around the world. But at the same time, I see that your immagination of your identity has been affected…your security here away from a situation of a war where there is situation that put life in danger, but here you have an apportunity where you can have a life to study of your wonderful profession, and to apply with your own identity, and  I think that that is very interesting.

Jose Castillo: Ok…ah..as we continue our interested interview, and my nex question is: How does this interview envision home?

Abdul: Ahm…can you expaling more?…

Jose Castillo: Lets see in a specific story. What was your specific story if you were in your country at home, and then comming here to the United States? Can you explain?

Abdul: Ah…so when I began my high school I was thinking like …where I wanted to go to study at university abroad or in home, or so I was thinking in the Unites States, because when you gradurate you have a good jobs you kow, a source of jobs any time, ah…to emigrate to the United States, and to have besically…ah…I apply for a lotery and immigrate to the United States..ah..and I just won the visa lotery from the United States. I came here and went to City College and to tranfer to San Francisco State as I mention before to complete my bachellor degree. That’s it.

Jose Castillo: Whao…that’s amazing you envision your story at home, and the way you won the visa lotery. You’re so lucky you won the lotery, since there are many students who envision the same opportunity, but you were selected to come to the United States with the dream to come true. Congratulations to you. As we continue our interesting interview…how does this brochure of perspective of your international has affected you regarding of law of human rights?

Abdul: Ah…I want to talk about as I mention before I am Jordanian, but also my background is Palestinian, and when I was back there…ah…the military was taking my land…they were offending me by shooting in the air, they also entered our house and arrested me and my family, and they also occupaid my house and stayed there for three days.  Can you immagine the military staying in the household for three days like you cannot do anything right?….and it…it is just really supper abusive and affects emotional…its my land, and I just fighting back for my land..

Jose Castillo: Ok…yeah..I can see. You were passing through with your friend and family, and the military violating your rights , and your friends and  your family seeing the military standing there so long…is imposible, because is a condition where people would feel frustrated, and feeling bad because is a severe violation of a human situation. People has the right to protest that even other people don’t like it, and I understand, I know a situation your went through yur family.

Adbul: Ahm…so bacically as I said before myself we were palestinian …ahm..as against human rights…against what the military do against the human rights…ahm..we were throwing rocks at them… and they shoot at us and and a cousing got shot …ahm..we actually went to the hospital…ahm…I mean… there in Palestine you can fight from freedom, which we can fight these country, which is the United States because of the free speech to protest..protest..ahm..you feel whatever you want is right to be yourself, but there  ….    you can not express by yourserlf…ahm..the way you want… because people there are abusing you, because they want to take your land and more and more land and that we wold not except.

Jose Castillo: I see…your frustration is kind of….the opression forcé….I see the moments of desperation, the moments you experience…your friend getting shot…..I see the opposing forcé oppresing you, opressing your family, oppressing your people…they don’t have civil rights to be protected, I see the moments of exesperation because is a time of oppression…whao I can believe how hurful your freind was shot…it was a moment I can see your friend being bloody in a frustrating moments and taken to the hospital and seeking help …

Adbul says in the middle of my talking: they want to take the whole land….

Jose Castillo: Whoa, I can see is a very difficutl situation…ah..at that point I can see…ok..ah… the next question I would like to make …is how hard was for you when comming to the United States without speaking the English language?

Adbul : Ah..it was very hard the English language the first language…when I was Young was very good, I had a litlle back up of the English language. I came to the English schoo before I came here…ah…I learned a lot of skills, listening, writing, lots of skills that were able to speak to people in the community…you know…basically they do not have language can not speak with people because…ah..most people in the United States speak English . As I said before, the English school I was enrolled, I learned a lot of staff right there…ahm….I was able to speak….to speak

Jose Castillo: Oh…I see. That’s interesting to see you already spoke the English language…you know.        , which also is an opportunity…you here in the United States…you know…and find a career and education. That’s interesting, you are part              As far I can see, there is an area you know, a hardest part you strugle..you know…  Adbul say: (to communicate….)   one you communicate, you have the facility to communicate your though..you know…     Adbul : (Caugh…)       where you can find a nice career you know. I see…is something you know, is a hardest countering English language when comming to the United States.  That’s fabulous.

Jose Castillo: Let me see with the last question: how does this interview make you to feel after telling this story in this interview?

Adbul : I feel happy because I told you a really story…the real…ah…the real aspect of my…because when I was…ah…(he looked a Little nervous..)  when I was standing in front of you…ah…I just released the pain by bringing here…ah…also was fun to meet with you…you know…you know…ah… talked about me…ah…yeap.

Jose Castillo: Whao..that’s interesting, you feel a Little…you have come out with a nice talk, you have come out of a liberation..you know…because you were able to tell with confidence…you know…your personal history…you…   Adbul say: (be whatever you want…)  you…have at home..you know…a conflictive situation..and now you are at a place where you feel secure…

Jose Castillo: Congratulations….welcome to the United States, and thank you so much.

Adbul : You welcome.

Jose Castillo: This interview ended at 6: 05 PM in the afternoom of Tuesday, March 14 of the year 2017.

 

Clothed With Bravery and Peace: Refugees Shall Remain Undeterred

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Clothed With Bravery and Peace: Refugees Shall Remain Undeterred

by Jimmy Gonzalez, January 2017

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The UDHR document was established in 1948, and articulates the basic human rights that all human beings are born with. The United Nations (UN), an international organization established in 1945, adopted this document, whose rights member states agree to protect, defend, and uphold. The United States of America has been and continues to be a country of opportunities and refuge for those who come from distant lands. However, for the past several decades, little has been done to support the majority of these immigrants as they settle in America, so much so that there are approximately eleven to twelve million undocumented people in America. Marginalized from society, misjudged by many, and oftentimes misunderstood, the majority of these men, women, and children live as outcasts and are subject to having their basic human rights violated on a daily basis. It is clear that our immigration system is broken. In his book Underground America, Peter Orner, an American author and professor in San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing Department, illuminates this human rights crisis in America through the oral histories of undocumented immigrants. To use Orner’s words, most if not all undocumented immigrants, “live in a state of permanent anxiety” (9).

People immigrate to other countries for economic, social, and political reasons. In recent decades, immigration from Central America, specifically from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, has increased significantly due to the gang-violence, poverty, and the lack of security. El Salvador, which is located between Guatemala and Honduras, is considered to be one of the most violent countries in Latin America. El Salvador’s Civil War between the military and the guerillas during the 80’s lasted for about twelve years and resulted in over 75,000 deaths. According to Norma C. Gutiérrez, a Senior Foreign Law Specialist who works for the U.S. Department of Justice, a department that sets out to ensure the public safety of all citizens, reported, “With an average of thirteen Salvadorans killed daily…El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America” (2). For the time being, the terror in El Salvador is ever-increasing. Continually oppressed by two of the deadliest gangs in Central America, known as the “Mara Salvatrucha Trece” (MS 13) and their rivals, “Barrio Dieciocho” (18th Street), men, women, and children have no other choice but to flee El Salvador and seek refuge in other nations, particularly in the U.S. These two gangs originally formed in Los Angeles, California during the 90’s, but because the majority of these gang members were undocumented Salvadorans, many, including its leaders, were deported. During this time, El Salvador was very vulnerable due to its Civil War, which allowed for these two opposing gangs to practically take control of the nation. Pushed by poverty, gang-violence, and the lack of security in El Salvador, tens of thousands of Salvadorans emigrate to the U.S. yearly in hopes of a safe and secure life. According to the UN, “Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.” In her book They Take Our Jobs!, Aviva Chomsky, an American author and teacher who specializes in Latin American history, sets out to dismantle twenty-one of the most common negative misconceptions about immigrants in America. Chomsky states, “Over the course of the 1980’s, up to a million Salvadorans and Guatemalans sought refuge in the United States” (72). They risk life and death to come to a country that has historically oppressed them. Without a clear solution to this intricate dilemma, the people of El Salvador will continue to come to the U.S. even if it means death.

In the fall of 2014, I met Jose while working a part time job in San Francisco, CA. Jose was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador, which is located in the highlands. He came to the U.S. at the age of sixteen to be reunited with his mother; meanwhile, his father and older brothers decided to stay in El Salvador. The notion of a better life and more importantly, the sense of security, propelled Jose to come to the U.S. According to Jose, he and his family “lived in a zone that was surrounded by lots of gang members.” In other words, the sense of security didn’t really exist for him while growing up in El Salvador. Prior to coming to America at age sixteen, Jose believed that “The United States has always been a place of many opportunities, in which whatever person that comes over here can be involved in better things.”

When Jose arrived at the US border, he was handed off to Mexican drug cartels, who commonly extort immigrants prior to crossing the border. Article 5 of the UDHR states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Jose, along with twenty-four other people, were guided by a coyote [human smuggler], who lead them across the border between El Salvador and Guatemala and then from Guatemala through Mexico. However, as they arrived at the border between Mexico and the U.S., Jose became suspicious of the coyote when he noticed that they were being handed off to the drug cartel. According to Jose, the drug cartels are “dangerous because those who are arriving as immigrants are being kidnapped, tortured, and being asked for money that is beyond them.” Fortunately for Jose, there was an agreement between the coyote and the drug cartel, under which if a small ransom was paid, the drug cartel would lead them through the Sonoran Desert. However, this type of deal did not automatically insure anyone’s safety. Oftentimes, immigrants from Central America do not know that at some point in their journey, the drug cartel will be the ones guiding them through Mexico and into the U.S. Jose states, “The coyote does not enter the desert, only those who work with the cartel.” Unlike the coyote, who was unarmed, members of the cartel carried guns while crossing the border. For Jose, this meant that if he disobeyed any of their orders, they could simply aim and fire. Jose states, “They are crossing the people, always armed and they are always talking…They place a gun like this and they threaten you and they place fear within you…Yes, yes they are bad people.” Jose, like the millions of refugees, has human rights, but it is clear that these human rights exist only to a certain extent. Against all odds and with his himan rights practically ignored, Jose courageously navigated his life at a time in which life seemed to be dissolving.

In order to come to America, Jose was funneled through the Sonoran Desert, in which his “right to life” (Article 1) was slowly diminishing as he walked tirelessly for a total of three days and three nights. As one of the many difficult ways in which immigrants come to America is through the Sonoran desert, Jose recalls that the most treacherous part of his journey to America was when he had to walk through the desert. He states, “There, it is more difficult… One of the ways that I had to go through was to step into the desert and walk… Yes, yes, in the desert. More than that, it was night time.” His chances of making it to the other side were quite low due to the fact that those who are funneled through the Sonoran Desert oftentimes die from dehydration and heatstroke. Basically, when these men, women, and children enter the desert, their bodies tend to overheat because of the lack of water. Their bodies begin to cook from the inside and as a result, these immigrants often lose their minds, faint, and die. These grave conditions could have resulted in Jose’s death, ultimately violating his right to life. According to Jose, the only things that sustained his life at that point were “a backpack, bread, and tuna.” These men, women, and children lose their lives because they are not equipped with the necessary tools that they need in order to survive. Jose acknowledges, “This is the risk we take as immigrants to come here.” In spite of the impossibilities, Jose, like millions of immigrants, comes to America risking the precious gift of life in order to get a sense of security, peace, and opportunity. Jose at this point was pushing his limits and would by all means continue to push until reaching his goal.

Mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged, Jose no longer felt safe or secure because this journey seemed ever volatile. In fact, right before entering the Sonoran Desert, Jose started to develop feelings of stress and fear because it was now his turn to navigate through this unforgiving terrain in order to come to the U.S. With his mother waiting on the other side, he remembers, “Well, I felt distressed because they make you go into the desert and you don’t know what will happen in there once inside.” Enveloped by the fear of the unknown, Jose kept reminding himself that the U.S. was only a desert away and soon enough he would be reunited with his mother. At this point in time, Jose was in survival mode, which meant he could no longer be feeble-minded for he knew that such a mentality could jeopardize his entire life. There was no time to waste, so the cartel along with the other twenty-four people stepped into the Sonoran Desert. All bets were off at this point, with the cartel guiding them, the relentless desert conditions before them, and the border patrol ahead of them. According to Jose, “The immigration is there and you are always scared because you are hoping that they do not find you or get you, the only thing you want is to cross and arrive, you know.” Having overcome the financial hurdle, the checkpoints, and the cartel, Jose was faced with a new challenge yet again: this time it was the border patrol. The desert is vast and it is practically impossible to run away from the border patrol while suffering from dehydration. Jose was prepared to run from the border patrol even though they might shoot him or cause a separation between him and the rest of the group. It is clear that Jose was not protected while walking in the desert; in fact, as long as he remained in the desert, no one would be there to protect him. Laws are meant to protect us, but unless these laws are truly enforced, immigrants’ rights will continue to be abused. In the case of Jose, his “right to security” dissolved right before his eyes while walking in the desert amid rattlesnakes and the deadly drug cartel.

While walking in the Sonoran Desert, Jose and the twenty-four other people experienced moments of dehydration, hunger, and in some occasions, separation from one another as they were running away from the border patrol. Jose was not alone while coming to America, but as he arrived to America, he realized that only a few had made it to the other side. According to Jose, “So, you go with that mentality, but like I told you, I was in a group of twenty five people and in the end only thirteen of us went through.” At this point, some people had been captured by the border patrol, others had gotten lost as they were separated from the group, and some died because of the lack of water. In an interview with Robin Reineke, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Colibri Center for Human Rights, a non-profit organization in Arizona that works with families to end migrant deaths along the border, she states, “Not only are we losing lives in the border every year, but we are losing them in degrading, harmful, and painful ways” (NPR). Looking back at Jose’s story, and those of the thousands of others, how might the U.S. work to establish policy that would allow others to avoid these human rights abuses?

Immigration Detention Centers

Every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are arrested and detained in immigration detention centers while they await their asylum cases, hearings, and sentences. In her study “Locked Up Far Away: The Transfer of Immigrants to Remote Detention Centers in the United States,” which describes the emotional and psychological effects of being transferred, Alison Parker, director of the U.S. Program of Human Rights, states, “They are held in a vast network of more than 300 detention facilities, located in nearly every state in the country” (Human Rights Watch). In essence, because there are so many facilities throughout the U.S., the majority of these immigrants experience being transferred from center to center without legal representation. Parker cites an attorney who says, “[The detainees] are loaded onto a plane in the middle of the night. They have no idea where they are, no idea what [U.S.] state they are in. I cannot overemphasize the psychological trauma to these people. What it does to their family members cannot be fully captured either” (Human Rights Watch). To understand these detention centers, it is vital to understand the fact that not all of them are adequately regulated by the government. In fact, the detention centers that aren’t adequately watched are being operated by private corporations that have been allowed to operate as for-profit centers.

Without government control, these detention centers often go unpunished for violating these immigrants’ basic human rights, such as the right to a public defender. Anthropologist Dr. Lucy Fiske, Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow & Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, in her study “Human Rights and Refugee Protest against Immigration Detention: Refugees’ Struggles for recognition as Human,” wrote, “Life inside immigration detention centers is precarious, filled with uncertainty and monotony and, too often, degrading treatment” (19). An extreme yet common strategy to deter refugees from applying for asylum is to place them inside what the refugees call hieleras, Spanish for iceboxes. In his study “U.S. Immigration Policy: Enforcement and Deportation Trump Fair Hearings,” Jacob Oakes, J.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina School of Law, examines US Policy regarding unauthorized migrants and asylum-seekers. He states:

Reports of harrassments, threats, and attempts to ‘dissuade from applying for asylum’ included the use of ‘iceboxes’ (or ‘hieleras’), extremely cold rooms where migrants are placed while they await their fate, sometimes giving in and signing the removal papers and other times falling ill.” (859)

Often neglected of their basic human rights, these immigrants are treated like animals simply because they lack a piece of paper. In 2009, the U.S. government implemented what is called the “Immigration Detention Bed Quota.” According to the National Immigrant Justice Center, an organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protection to immigrants and asylum seekers, “The immigration detention bed quota requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain 34,000 immigration detention beds on a daily basis.” As a result, immigrants who have no criminal record—even legal residents—are placed in these detention centers to meet the annual quota. Studying the immigration detention system, in her article, “Liberty and Justice for All: The Violations of Basic Human Rights in Detention Centers Across the United States,” Olga Verez reports:

But as illegal crossings from Mexico have fallen to near their lowest levels since the early 1970’s, ICE has been meeting Congress’s immigration detention goals by reaching deeper into the criminal justice system to vacuum up foreign-born, legal U.S. residents convicted of any crime that could render them eligible for deportation. (197-198)

Immigration detention centers were primarily built to temporarily detain immigrants before they were granted asylum or deported, but it is clear that their main focus has shifted. The focus has become to fill beds regardless of their immigration status. When detained immigrants should at the very least be provided with a public defender to have a fair chance in the asylum process.

Southern Border Plan

In July 2014, Mexico announced its new Southern Border Program, through which it would strengthen its border between Guatemala and Mexico. Seldom spoken about, this program has allowed the U.S. to extend their southernmost border in the sense of border patrol. President Enrique Peña Nieto promised that Central American migrants would be treated better and provided a less dangerous path to come to the United States. WOLA, an organization that advocates for human rights in the Americas, has studied how Central American migrants have been effected since the Southern Border Program was enacted in “Increased Enforcement at Mexico’s Southern Border,” which aims to educate the general public in regards to the new challenges that Central American migrants face. The overall purpose of the Southern Border Program, according to President Peña Nieto, is to “Protect and safeguard the human rights of migrants who enter and travel through Mexico, as well as to establish order at international crossings to increase development and security in the region” (WOLA 5). Once enacted, Mexico began to strengthen its Southern border by setting up several checkpoints to arrest anyone who was trying to come here unlawfully. The Obama administration strongly supports Mexico’s strong hand on these immigrants because this ostensibly means a decrease in migrants arriving to the U.S. border. However, what both governments fail to realize is the fact that most of these Central American migrants are fleeing from gang threats and extreme poverty, which forces them to come even if it means death.

In general, one of the common ways in which Central American migrants are smuggled through Mexico is on a cargo train nicknamed La Bestia, Spanish for “The Beast.” The reason this train is called “The Beast” is because thousands of migrants have lost their lives riding this train and it runs along a common route on which gang members assault immigrants. However, due to the Southern Border Plan, this train has become less accessible to Central American migrants because the speeds of the train have “Increased from about 10 kilometers per hour (6 mph) to 60-70 kilometers per hour (37-43 mph)” (WOLA 21). Instead of aiding these immigrants as the President of Mexico said he would, people are now coming to America by coming through even more dangerous paths. According to WOLA, “With decreased possibilities of boarding the train in Chiapas, migrants and smugglers are now relying on different and dangerous routes and modes of transportation, including by foot and boat” (2). Even though the majority of these immigrants are men, there are thousands of children and mothers who also have to face these challenges. Strengthening border patrol will not stop Central American migrants who are fleeing from the violence of this country, many of whom are in desperate need of asylum. According to WOLA, “These routes expose migrants to new vulnerabilities while isolating them from the network of shelters established along traditional routes” (2). Even more disturbing is the method with which the government of Mexico decides whether or not Central American migrants are worthy of asylum. According to WOLA, “Mexico has a broader definition of ‘refugee’ than the United States, which only grants asylum when an individual can demonstrate ‘that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group’” (25). How can an immigrant who is running for his life have enough evidence to persuade the Mexican government that he is worthy to be considered a refugee? A Central American migrant is not able to document the horrors from which he is running from, so to be judged based on the lack of evidence is simply senseless.

Prevention Through Deterrence

Prevention through Deterrence is a strategy that has been implemented to decrease immigrants from Central America reaching the U.S., but in order for this strategy to work, the U.S. would have to provide protection for asylum seekers in Central America. They have tried to build walls and fences along the Southern parts of CA, which then force immigrants to come to the U.S. through the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. In his book The Land of Open Graves, Jason De León, an Anthropologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, introduces Prevention through Deterrence and explains how it was built to purposefully kill hundreds of thousands of Central American immigrants. According to De León, “Border zones become spaces of exception—physical and political locations where an individual’s rights and protections under law can be stripped away upon entrance” (27). Like Jose, thousands of immigrants who are funneled through the Sonoran Desert walk through terrain on which their rights no longer exist. Countless people have died in this desert because there is little to no water at all to sustain them while walking in the desert. They are forced to travel through this type of terrain because of Prevention through Deterrence. The government believes that by building the walls and fences, this will automatically deter immigrants from coming to America in the first place. De León notes, “At the same time, these policies expose noncitizens to a state-crafted geopolitical terrain designed to deter their movement through suffering and death” (28). The U.S. government knows that the Sonoran Desert is the deadliest region any immigrant could be smuggled through, but they refuse to do anything about it. In essence, that was the purpose of Prevention through Deterrence from the very beginning. Strategic and well played, Prevention through Deterrence has been working. For the time being, somewhere in the vastness of the Sonoran Desert, a refugee is fighting to stay alive. De León states, “Although no public record explicitly states that a goal of PTD is to kill border crossers in an attempt to deter other would-be migrants, the connection between death and this policy has been highlighted by both academics and various federal agencies charged with evaluating Border Patrol programs” (34). Immigrants are dying without the justice they deserve. Stepping into the desert is like stepping into one’s fate: there are only two outcomes, life or death. Even though these immigrants have the chance to turn around and go back to their countries, they refuse to do so because deep within their hearts, they hold steadfast to the idea that the U.S. will grant them the refuge they so desperately need.

Prevention through Deterrence seems like it may be working according to the goal of leading them to their deaths, but the reality is that refugees continue to come. When Jose came to the U.S., Prevention through Deterrence was not officially in place, but he still experienced walking in the desert for three long days in which he could have died like thousands of other immigrants have. According to De León, “Many have died since the implementation of this policy, and the correlation between the funneling of people toward desolate regions of the border and an upsurge in fatalities is strong” (35). The fact that the U.S. government supports these policies is absolutely appalling. They consciously enact laws in the hopes that this will overall decrease immigration by making them walk into their own graves. The Sonoran Desert will continue to be a gravesite unless the U.S. decides to do something about it. Until then, men, women, and children will have to continue to navigate these difficulties.

Solutions

It is clear that our immigration system is broken. Although there is no clear and absolute solution to this ever-growing dilemma, there are several things that the U.S. could do in order to help these refugees in particular. First, the U.S. should close all privatized immigration detention centers. By not shutting them down, these privatized detention centers will continue to mistreat these detained refugees. Now, for the one’s that do remain open, the government should carefully and regularly regulate whether these centers are meeting the federal and human rights standards. Kimberly Hamilton, candidate for Doctor of Jurisprudence at the University of Tennessee, College of Law, in her study, “Immigrant Detention Centers in the United States and International Human Law,” which explores the many different ways in which detainees’ rights are abused, suggests, “The key to effective and uniform application of policies is comprehensive training of employees and regular oversight and monitoring of policy implementation.” If the US government made it its goal to properly train the employees who work at these facilities and constantly check them, it would minimize the acts of dehumanization towards detained immigrants. These privately run detention centers should be brought to justice like any other organization so that it can be clear that treating these refugees in a totally indignified way results in serious consequences. Furthermore, immigrants in detention centers must be represented by public defenders. It is no longer acceptable that these refugees walk into their asylum case without anyone to represent them.

Secondly, the Southern Border Plan should actually live up to its decree. When Central American migrants apply for asylum, their cases should be considered even if they do not have any proof of the dire circumstances that they are currently in. The reason is because the majority of these immigrants are under life or death situations. Overall, building and maintaining the walls and fences along the Southern U.S. border uses money that can be invested elsewhere. As for the Sonoran Desert, the government has got to stop funneling immigrants through this type of terrain and take proper care of them while they await their asylum cases. This means that they should be housed and fed at least until they know whether or not they will be granted asylum to this country.

As we see with Jose’s journey and those of the millions of migrants that come to the US annually, privatized immigration detention centers should be outlawed and those that remain must be constantly regulated by the government so that these migrants human rights aren’t at risk of being abused; Secondly, the Southern Border Plan should commit to its initial plan, which would help Central American migrants as they pass through Mexico; Lastly, although walls have gone up to stop migrants from attempting this journey, Prevention through Deterrence will never deter these immigrants, many of whom can never go back home; therefore, the money which is spent in building and sustaining these walls should be invested elsewhere. While some may argue that many of these immigrants are criminals and should be detained, it is important to realize that the majority of these immigrants are refugees, including mothers and children, all of whom deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” which is commonly used, makes it easy to blame Mexico for the many types of abuses that the Southern Border Plan has generated since enforced. However, it is vital to realize that the US, along with Mexico, drafted the Southern Border Plan; therefore, both should also assume responsibility for this human rights crisis in Mexico. Humans will continue to survive and thrive many things; therefore, it is merely impossible to stop a human whose natural instinct is to survive by migrating to a foreign country. Documented or undocumented, we are all humans, and should treat each other with love, respect, and kindness.

Works Cited

Chomsky, Aviva. “They Take Our Jobs!”: and 20 Other Myths about Immigration. Beacon Press, 2007.

“Detention Bed Quota.” National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, 15 Nov. 2016, http://www.immigrantjustice.org/eliminate-detention-bed-quota.

Fiske, Lucy. “Human Rights And Refugee Protest Against Immigration Detention: Refugees’ Struggles For Recognition As Human.” Refuge (0229-5113) 32.1 (2016): 18-27. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

Gutiérrez, Norma C. “El Salvador: Gang Violence.” US Department of Justice, 1–7. http://www.justice.gov.

Hamilton, Kimberly R. “Immigrant Detention Centers In The United States And International Human Rights Law.” Berkeley La Raza Law Journal 21.(2011): 93-132. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

Hinojosa, Maria et.al. “By the Dawn’s Early Light.” Latino USA, Futuro Media, 18 Nov. 2016, www.npr.org/programs/latino-usa/502594534/by-the-dawn-s-early-light?showDate=2016-11-18.

Isacson, Adam et al. “Increased Enforcement at Mexico’s Southern Border – WOLA.” WOLA, WOLA, 9 Nov. 2015, www.wola.org/analysis/new-report-increased-enforcement-at-mexicos-southern-border/.

Leon, Jason De. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. Oakland, CA, University of California Press, 2015.

Oakes, Jacob. “U.S. Immigration Policy: Enforcement & Deportation Trump Fair Hearings–Systematic Violations Of International Non-Refoulement Obligations Regarding Refugees.” North Carolina Journal Of International Law & Commercial Regulation 41.4 (2016): 833-918. Business Source Complete. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

Orner, Peter et al. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. Edited by Peter Orner, McSweeney’s Books, 2008.

Parker, Alison. “Locked Up Far Away.” Edited by David Bathi, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, 29 Apr. 2015, www.hrw.org/report/2009/12/02/locked-far-away/transfer-immigrants-remote-detention-centers-united-states.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

Velez, Olga. “Liberty And Justice For All: The Violations Of Basic Human Rights In Detention Centers Across The United States.” University Of Florida Journal Of Law & Public Policy 25.2 (2014): 187-204. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

 

Sample Transcripts

Jimmy: Okay perfect, first of all, um, I want to know where you were born

Jose: Uh-huh

Jimmy: Um, what brought you here to the United States, and how are you right now?

Jose: Um okay well, okay I was born in El Salvador in the capital, mhm, the reasons I decided to come here were for security and to seek a better life.

Jimmy: Security, security from?

Jose: From, like well El Salvador is a country with a lot of violence and all of that, and it is not safe. It is not safe for the same reason, the gangs, there is no security.

Jimmy: Did you have experiences with the gangs or with the military, the police?

Jose: Um, yes, with the gangs more than anything else, because in school right, we go to school and like in El Salvador from a very young age they begin to be in school so, the school is mixed with them and if they see that if you have a little money on you or something like that, they begin to bother you so that you have to give them money or they want you to become part of or a member of the gang.

Jimmy: Understood.

Jose: They force you.

Jimmy: Understood, did you have friends in your school, like you stated

Jose: Yeah

Jimmy: That went into the gangs?

Jose: Yes they were gang members and they want you to go with them. If not, they can, kind of like they want to do something to you. I don’t know.

Jimmy: Understood, I understand

Jose: Well, where I lived it was like that, but maybe in other places it is not like that, but that is how it was for me.

Jimmy: That’s how it was.

Jose: Which is why like my mom told me that, well I told her that I did not feel much security there and that is one of the reasons why she wanted to bring me and one of the reasons why I wanted to go

Jimmy: So, your mom was already here in the United States?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: She was already here, and were you living with your family or friends over their?

Jose: Yes, with my brothers.

Jimmy: Were they older than you were?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: And were they also going to school?

Jose: Yes, yes all of us were going to school, but like how I have told you, we lived in a zone that was surrounded by lots of gang members. Many times their were organized groups of them and it you felt no security, to live in that type of ambience, you do not feel any type of security. Um, well, sometimes in front of my house, a lot of things happened many times, that, for example, there was a gang and the contrary gang and they would start shooting at themselves.

Jimmy: Which ones were they?

Jose: The gang members, the MS and the eighteenth. Sometimes, their was like encounters and they began shooting bullets in front of the house.

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: And sometimes the people that were walking their, well, maybe a lost bullet right, would fall on them. Understand Me? Because I lived an experience like that. Close to where I lived, there was a pupuseria stand, in which they sold pupusas their

Jimmy: Mm

Jose: And one time they began to shoot right there between the opposing gangs, and the lady was only doing her business, and sadly one of the bullets hit her.

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: And she was only working

Jimmy: And you saw all of this?

Jose: No no, I did not see it, but it was a couple of blocks away

Jimmy: Oh so you heard it?

Jose: Yes I heard it, and I went to see, and the lady was their, a bullet had hit her in her back.

Jimmy: Wow, wow

Jose: That’s why, that’s why it does not feel safe to grow up in El Salvador, it is not very safe. So, all those things make you think, of immigrating, you understand me, to get out of all of that. There are also other factors, like poverty and all of that, you understand me that force you to leave. That is why, well like in the United States, you know, this is a country which does not often see things like that. That forces you, that same thinking makes you want to come

Jimmy: Of course

Jose: To gain strength, to come here

Jimmy: Of course

Jose: To get here to seek something better, you understand me.

Jimmy: And when you were in El Salvador, what was your image, or your expectations of the United States?

Jose: Um, well, well I have always thought since I was very young, well that here, there is a better way of life and it is a place where, the United States has always been a place of many opportunities, in which whatever person that comes over here can be involved in better things, you understand me.

Jimmy: I understand

Jose: Studies, work, all of those things. That is why

Jimmy: Which is why

Jose: Which is why this country, that is what I have always thought about this country.

Jimmy: Yes yes, so, when you shared this with your mother, about the situation in El Salvador, she encouraged you, or encouraged you to come to the United States? What did you think in that moment?

Jose: Um

Jimmy: Did you think it was a good idea to leave all your brothers behind?

Jose: Yes, yes that was, well a good opportunity, and I do not regret coming over here.

Jimmy: How old were you when?

Jose: I was sixteen years old

Jimmy: Sixteen years old

Jose: Yeah

Jimmy: Wow, so when you were sixteen years of age, you had decided to come to the United States?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: How did you travel to the United States?

Jose: Um, well I came here as an immigrant, because their wasn’t any other option, you know. It was the only option to come here. I had no other choice, sadly that’s the way things happened and yeah, I came here like everyone that comes here.

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: You know, you pay a coyote and the coyote brings you all the way here.

Jimmy: Describe your trip

Jose: My trip

Jimmy: How was it?

Jose: How was it?

Jimmy: Yeah

Jose: Oh okay, well the first thing you do is to get in contact with a person that brings people here. Um, and they charge a specific amount of money to bring you here, okay.

Jimmy: Is is safe?

Jose: Um, I think that it all depends, I think that the time has to do with a lot of that, you understand me. Well, before, you know like ten or thirty years ago, I think it was more accessible to come here. There weren’t many problems to come here as an immigrant

Jimmy: That was thirty years ago.

Jose: It was a little bit safer. There was security, there was security when coming here, but lately like in Mexico, it is very problematic. For the last ten years, you know the Cartels and all of that are the people that do the human and drug trafficking, they are the ones that posses the control their.

Jimmy: I understand

Jose: So, now many times the news shows how their is a lot of violence their in Mexico, for territories that belong to the Cartels.

Jimmy: The Zetas, right?

Jose: Everyone, all of the Cartels from Mexico. So, they see that they work with the people, with the immigrants, those who are arriving and so sometimes the people, well it’s dangerous because those who are arriving as immigrants are being kidnapped, tortured, and being asked for money that is beyond them.

Jimmy: Right

Jose: Right now, I think that in this moment they are not safe, it is a little bit difficult, as opposed to ten or fifteen years ago.

Jimmy: And in your opinion, was it something easy to travel this journey?

Jose: Um

Jimmy: What were the difficulties?

Jose: Yes, no, yes, throughout the course there will always be difficulties, it will not be easy too.

Jimmy: I understand

Jose: Above it all, well the majority of time it was easy, but the most difficult thing is

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: To cross the border from Mexico to enter the United States. That is the most

Jimmy: And why is that the most difficult thing?

Jose: Their, it is more difficult because their are many ways that they pass the people from the border of Mexico to the United States. They have many forms of how to bring people through. One of the ways that I had to go through was to step into the desert and walk.

Jimmy: Hm… Wow, in the desert?

Jose: Yes, yes, in the desert. More than that, it was night time.

Jimmy: Where did you guys sleep?

Jose: Um..

Jimmy: In the desert?

Jose: Wherever

Jimmy: Wherever?

Jose: Yeah, you had to seek a place

Jimmy: And what did you have, did you have your backpack, your

Jose: Yeah only

Jimmy: Water?

Jose: A backpack, bread, and tuna, yeah.

Jimmy: And was was the group that you were with a large one?

Jose: Yeah we were like twenty-five people

Jimmy: All men, women, children?

Jose: No, there were women, yeah, how is that called, the majority were only men and like, like about six or eight women.

Jimmy: Were you guys all from El Salvador, or from other countries as well?

Jose: No no no, we were from all over the places

Jimmy: From all the places

Jose: This is the risk we take as immigrants to come here, because sometimes you do not know who you are with because they are bad people. They do not let themselves be seen and they are always armed. They are crossing the people, always armed and they are always talking. They speak to you in a strong manner, they are violent people you know, they are the type of people that want you to do this, if not, the one who wants to play smart, they will shoot a bullet towards you. They place a gun like this and they threaten you and they place fear within you. They place fear in you. Yes, yes they are bad people.

Jimmy: Wow, could you describe to me the moment when you were in the desert. How was it like? How did you feel?

Jose: Um, um, well I felt distressed because

Jimmy: Hm.

Jose: Because they make you go into the desert and you don’t know what will happen in their once inside. The immigration is their and you are always scared because you are hoping that they find you or get you and the only thing you want is to cross and arrive, you know.

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: So, you go with that mentality, but like I told you, I was in a group of twenty five people and in the end only thirteen of us went through.

Jimmy: Only thirteen?!

Jose: Only thirteen.

Jimmy: What happened to the twelve that did not go through?

Jose: Um, the rest of the group, some couldn’t endure because for three days, we were walking in the desert.

Jimmy: Three days in the desert

Jose: Three days inside the desert.

Jimmy: And

Jose: And many couldn’t resist, some stayed and others were caught by immigration because sometimes they see immigration and start running. You know in their, there is only luck you know.

Jimmy: So, those who stayed behind, did they stay with someone, or?

Jose: They stayed by themselves.

Jimmy: Alone

Jose: Alone, depending on luck. So that immigration may get them.

Jimmy: Because the coyote had to keep moving forward?

Jose: No, the coyote does not enter the desert, only those who work with the Cartel

Jimmy: Oh no, ah.

Jose: [Laughs] Those are other people, you know, the coyote that one decided to pay only takes you to the border of Mexico. From their, you are now a part of the Cartel. The Cartel begin to work with you.

Jimmy: Okay now that you are in the United States, what is something that you miss the most from El Salvador? Or do you miss it or no?

Jose: Hm… Well, the rest of my family I do, I do miss that, the food, and the style of life that one has over their, you now, because I think that life over here is more stressful, more fast

Jimmy: More fast

Jose: The people here never, they are always busy. Their is no sensation of being relaxed without having to worry. That is what I miss the most from my country, and that you have your own house over their

Jimmy: In your country?

Jose: Yes, that is what I miss the most, you have your own house and you do not have to worry about rent, you only worry about food and clothing.

Jimmy: Do you plan on returning to El Salvador, and why?

Jose: Yes, I would like to return to El Salvador. Um, yeah because it would be a good experience to return to the place where one was born and raised.

Jimmy: Would you go back to live their or simply visit?

Jose: Um, no, well I don’t know

Jimmy: You don’t know

Jose: I don’t know, I do not have an answer to that question right now in this moment.

Jimmy: Now, now, when you first arrived to the United States, you were sixteen years old. What were you thinking? Did you think of working? Did you want to study? What were your plans?

Jose: Um, yes, well in that moment, I the thought of continuing to study,

Jimmy: Of studying, you wanted to keep on studying?

Jose: Yes, I wanted to keep on studying.

Jimmy: What did you want to do with your studying? Did you want to become a lawyer, a doctor?

Jose: Um…

Jimmy: Teacher?

Jose: I wanted to be a history teacher, yeah

Jimmy: History Teacher

Jose: Yes, yeah that was my dream, to become a professor of social studies, or history

Jimmy: Why? Have you always liked those subjects?
Jose: Yes, I have liked them. I like to teach the things of the past and things like that.

Jimmy: I understand. So, when you first came, you enrolled in school?

Jose: Yes, thank God my mom gave me the opportunity to go and study.

Jimmy: You went to study?

Jose: Yes, I went to school for four years.

Jimmy: So, you went to high school, got your diploma

Jose: Yes, I graduated from high school

Jimmy: And did you continue by going to a university?

Jose: Um, no, due to my social status, well I couldn’t continue. It was very difficult. Well, yes there were options to continue, but, well, I felt a little depressed because I had a dream to continue studying. But when I tried to apply for a university.

Jimmy: Uh huh

Jose: And then, when I realized the costs, it was disappointing. I did not want to continue and instead I opted out and began to work.

Jimmy: So, it was the money that stopped you?

Jose: Yes, it was the money that stopped me from continuing to study. There were options, like borrowing money, but I did not like it, because this is a great country, and for them to not help you and your studies

Jimmy: You had been disappointed

Jose: Seemed like garbage to me.

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: More money is spent in other things and in education, never. Here they never, in fact I think that the government wants to make business from us, you know. Well, well, for someone who comes as an immigrant to this country and wants to continues his or her studies, it is no easy task. Which is why to those who have arrived here and do not have papers or anything, and have been able to overcome through their studies, I congratulate them. Because I think it is not something easy, you know.

Jimmy: I understand

Jose: If they, uh, the people that are born here, you know, don’t do much, but a person who comes here without any documents and achieves to have graduated from a university from here in the United States, they do five times the work than someone that was born here, you know.

Jimmy: Due to their obstacles, wow.

Jose: Yes, you know.

Jimmy: Due to their present status.

Jose: Uh-huh, yes, if you do one percent, they have to do ten times more than you, and it is not something easy to do.

Start at 16min 15sec talks about if they taught about the war in schools

Jimmy: When you were in school, over their in El Salvador, did they teach you guys about why their was so much war?

Jose: What?

Jimmy: Did they teach you guys when you were studying, why their was so much war, a lot of violence in El Salvador or?

Jose: If they taught these things in school?

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: Um, well, they really didn’t teach about that. Well in regards to the war, they did teach us about the war, it’s motives and all of that, but well it wasn’t that important.

Jimmy: Yes, yes

Jose: Well, in school they taught what was supposed to be taught you know, the normal.

Jimmy: The normal

Jose: Like here

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: Like here, well they would teach about it like a topic to discuss about, I don’t know, for maybe about six weeks and that’s it, you know.

Jimmy: That’s it

Jose: They talk about the civil war, and the independence of the United States more than anything. In regards to recent wars, they don’t say much.

Jimmy: I understand, and

Jose: It wouldn’t benefit them [laughs]

Jimmy: It wouldn’t benefit them, oh man. [laughs]

Jimmy: So, what do you think about the situation right now, in regards to immigration? The opportunities that the people have when they are here? Do you think they come to a country, where for them it is something or a place where they can succeed, are their to many limitations, what do you think about that?

Jose: Okay yes, I think that coming here as an immigrant to this country, their are many limitations for us.

Jimmy: Like which ones?

Jose: Um okay, you know that by not having a social security it is very difficult to find a good job. Um, you do not have many privileges like being able to get a licence or the ability to travel freely, you know without fear. It is very difficult you know, in fact to even rent a place to live, you sometimes even need papers

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: If you do not have a number, no one wants to give you a place to rent to your name. You always want to give rent to someone who has papers. You know.

Jimmy: Prior to coming

Jose: Many things

Jimmy: Prior to coming to the United States, did you think that this was how it was going to be?

Jose: No no.

Jimmy: Or did you think.

Jose: No no, I had never imagined that. I had imagined many things of how it was going to be here, for example, I thought that I was going to have a house,

Jimmy: Ah

Jose: You know that having a house, it is no easy task you know, to be a proprietary of house. So, okay that is how I thought, I had expected that

Jimmy: You were going to be able to buy your own house

Jose: That I was going to have my house, my room, my garage and everything, you know. Not to have to pay so much money for rent and all of that. I had never imagined the high cost of living here.

Jimmy: Wow, and when you first came to the United States, or when you had finished studying better said, um, where did you begin to work?

Jose: Um well, I began to seek work and in whatever you know

Jimmy: In whatever

Jose: I did not have a specific field that I wanted to work in. I only wanted to work, but just didn’t know where.

Jimmy: And

Jose: The idea was to start making money

Jimmy: Money?

Jose: Yeah

Jimmy: Um, with the money that you earned, did you send part of it to El Salvador?

Jose: Well, well, I have never helped anyone from my country because, mhm, in reality they are all doing okay. They are poor you know, but they are living, they work and all and they have enough to manage, you know.

Jimmy: And when you first started working, did your employers treat you with, let’s say kindliness?

Jose: No, when you are an immigrant, all the jobs know that you do not have a good social, so because they know, they always take advantage of you, you know.

Jimmy: Always

Jose: In one way or another they always pressure you

Jimmy: The employers?

Jose: So that you can give the maximum, so that you can keep your job, you know. That will always remain

Jimmy: And the immigrant cannot do anything?

Jose: Well, yes yes, here you are able to complain and all of that, but what’s the point

Jimmy: Maybe because they will not listen to you

Jose: Um yes that is what I think, nothing will happen, it is not even worth it

Jimmy: Simply because one does not have the papers

Jose: Yeah exactly, there isn’t much

Jimmy: Respect?
Jose: Yeah yes, the people do not respect you and so they always want to take advantage of you because of the status you possess. Even though it is not directly right, they will not tell you this directly, but their is always the sensation that someone who is working their legally, will get treated better than someone who does not have, you know.

Jimmy: Does not have

Jose: And they will want for the one that does not have to work more than the one who does have, you know, the one who has papers. The one who is legal and the one who is illegal, there will always be a difference their.

Jimmy: A difference

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: Wow, wow

Jose: But that is how life is you know

Jimmy: Here in the United States

Jose: Yes, but I do not get weary

Jimmy: You do not get weary

Jose: But that is how life is, and when life is like this, you have to learn to adapt to how it is, you do not want to step out of the norm.

Jimmy: Of course, of course

Jose: Exactly, well that is one what has, no choice. It is like one is in life, but it’s okay nothing happens.

Jimmy: Yes yes, I understand.

Jose: Yeah

Jimmy: So, now that you are here, you have been here for twelve years I believe

Jose: Uh-huh

Jimmy: No, yes twelve years here in the United States, um have you had the opportunity of becoming a citizen?

Jose: Well, okay I have tried, well, because I am married to an American you know,

Jimmy: An American

Jose: My wife is American and she has an American passport. I am trying to see if she can ask for me, I am trying to see how I can solve my status in this country and I hope to one day achieve it you know.

Jimmy: Yes, is the process difficult?

Jose: Yes, the process is difficult, due to the way that I came to this country, because those who enter through plane legally, for them it is more easy. However, for those who come through land, if their is no law to protect one

Jimmy: It is very difficult

Jose: It is very difficult, yeah

Jimmy: Wow and so now you have a wife?

Jose: Unless their is an amnesty [laughs]

Jimmy: An amnesty [laughs] yes yes, 1983 I believe their was an amnesty

Jose: Yes their was one in 1999

Jimmy: Uh-huh and

Jose: But since then there has not been any

Jimmy: Now you have a family, do you have any children, boys or girls?

Jose: Yes I have a daughter

Jimmy: A daughter

Jose: And I have a wife

Jimmy: A wife, wow. So now you tend to them, you help them?

Jose: Yes normal, yes, of course, like any other family.

Jimmy: Like any other family

Jose: When you form a home, you have to do what the man has to do, you know.

Jimmy: Of course [laughs]

Jose: [laughs] You are the man of the house, of course, family is family you know.

Jimmy: And your daughter was born here, right?

Jose: What?

Jimmy: Your daughter was born here in the United States?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: Yes, she has papers?

Jose: Yes she does

Jimmy: Do you think that she will have better opportunities than let’s say that you had when you were growing up?

Jose: Yes of course

Jimmy: Of course

Jose: Yes, of course, I hope she takes advantage of them, yeah.

Jimmy: If you were in, or had you not came over here where do you think you would be in El Salvador?

Jose: Um, okay, perhaps I would be working with my dad

Jimmy: Oh, your father is in El Salvador?

Jose: Yes, my father is in El Salvador

Jimmy: In El Salvador

Jose: Uh-huh, I think that I would have been working with my father

Jimmy: Ahh I understand

Jose: In the company that he works

Jimmy: Ah, and do you miss your father?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: Yes, a lot?

Jose: It was with him that I was grew up with.

Jimmy: You grew up with him, of course because your mother was here in the United States

Jose: Uh-huh

Jimmy: Oh wow, do you still keep in touch with him?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: I speak with him every now and then

Jimmy: Would you like to bring him here one day or maybe he doesn’t want to come?

Jose: Um, or go and visit him or bring him here, but he does not want to travel here.

Jimmy: He does not want to come here

Jose: No he doesn’t

Jimmy: He doesn’t

Jose: He’s okay over there [laughs]

Jimmy: He’s okay over their?

Jose: Yeah

Jimmy: Oh okay, that’s good

Jose: He feels good being over their

Jimmy: Yes yes, and now talk to me about your future? About your, your dreams? I know that you work, but what are your goals now? You now have your family

Jose: Okay, um,

Jimmy: Where do you see yourself ten years from now or something like that?

Jose: Okay yes, maybe, well, um,

Jimmy: What are your dreams, maybe getting those papers?

Jose: Yes, my dream is to get something at least to change my immigration status you know, and then I don’t know, seek a better job.

Jimmy: So,

Jose: Something better you know

Jimmy: Once you get that status changed, you can, say

Jose: There are more opportunities for you

Jimmy: More opportunities?

Jose: Yes, logically of course. Maybe I won’t be able to find them fast or something like that, it may take time, but it is something that you are sure of, finding better opportunities work wise, maybe better respect, you know. In some places they ask you for a type of identification and the only thing that one has is a passport, you know.

Jimmy: Uh-huh

Jose: And the people look at you weird because that is the only thing you have

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: So, maybe some more respect in that form you know, because it is not the same to show a passport as opposed to show some form of identification from this country of yours.

Jimmy: What would it mean for you to have those type of papers?

Jose: Um

Jimmy: Of being a citizen, what would that mean to you?

Jose: Oh yeah, it would mean a lot for me, of course.

Jimmy: How would you feel?

Jose: A lot because, well because of course your life would improve, you know. It is something that, when something improves your life, it becomes very significant, you know.

Jimmy: Of course

Jose: It is something that is very important

Jimmy: So, that is something you see in the future?

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: Envisioning yourself a citizen of this country, of the United States

Jose: Yes, but you know, I think like that, but, and I want to keep on thinking like that.

Jimmy: Yes

Jose: I don’t think that I am a bad person. Many people are immigrants, and they give them their papers and everything, but many of them do not take advantage of that opportunity that they have, and are doing bad things, you know.

Jimmy: Oh do you know people that

Jose: No, it is not that I know them, but those types of cases sometimes happen you know.

Jimmy: Mhm, and you wish that

Jose: Maybe they don’t want to work anymore because they now have their number and they want the government to tend to them.

Jimmy: Wow

Jose: Disability and all of that, you know.

Jimmy: It is not good

Jose: Yeah, makes the Hispanic community look bad, you know

Jimmy: Yes, yes, mhm, so,

Jose: But anyways, that is the way it is

Jimmy: And how are you doing right now, presently?

Jose: Good thank God, what mostly interests me is to have health and work. Right now I am healthy and have work, so I feel good.

Jimmy: You feel good

Jose: Yes

Jimmy: How good, how good, do you work everyday or do you have?

Jose: No, I only work a part time, yeah

Jimmy: Oh okay

Jose: I earn enough for my expenses, it’s sufficient, even to put some in savings

Jimmy: And the good thing is that you know both languages, English and Spanish?

Jose: More or less yeah

Jimmy: Yeah

Jose: I understand enough to speak it a little.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, um do you think that you are living the American Dream right now?

Jose: Um…

Jimmy: Or for you, what is the American dream [laughs]

Jose: [laughs] Tell you the truth, I do not think their such a thing as the American Dream

Jimmy: [laughs] That does not exist

Jose: [laughs] That does not exist [Laughing] The American Dream, you yourself are the creator of that.

Jimmy: Yeah [laughs]

Jose: There is no American Dream

Jimmy: What do you think when you hear that?

Jose: What would the American Dream be for you?

Jimmy: To have a house, a family, working, to have an education.

Jose: Ah okay, well, okay that’s good

Jimmy: For you, what would the American dream be?

Jose: There is none [laughs]

Jimmy: None

Jose: For me their is no American Dream

Jimmy: And in El Salvador, did they talk a lot about that?

Jose: Yes, but they are only sayings

Jimmy: They are fantasies, it is not real

Jose: Fantasies, yeah

Jimmy: Because once you are here it is a whole different story?

Jose: Yeah, exactly, they don’t know [laughs] But yes, like I have told you, if someone comes with a positive mind, and the mentality of overcoming, that is all one needs.

Jimmy: So, you are not regretful for coming over here to the United States to live your life?

Jose: No, I do not regret it

Jimmy: You do not regret it

Jose: Because I am better here

Jimmy: As opposed to being in El Salvador

Jose: Yeah, in El Salvador, my life would be much more difficult in El Salvador than here [laughs] Even if I am working

Jimmy: Even though you feel the pressure

Jose: Even if I am working the most difficult jobs, to say it like that

Jimmy: Uh-huh

Jose: But even then, I would be better off here than if I were still over their

Jimmy: Uh-huh

Jose: Even though I am doing that job

Jimmy: Yeah yeah

Jose: Yeah [laughs] that’s the truth

Jimmy: Even though, like you had mentioned earlier that over here, you are under a lot of pressure, and life is fast, but even though that accompanies life here, it is still worth it?

Jose: Yes, it is still worth it because over their, well, like say you have a family and all of that, you have to go work in order to bring food to your home. Over their, there isn’t much work and if there is work over their, it is very heavy and the pay isn’t enough.

Jimmy: It’s not enough

Jose: Yeah, and you work like an animal.

Jimmy: Like an animal. Did you work when you were in El Salvador?

Jose: No I never worked their

Jimmy: Never, how good

Jose: Yeah, but my father taught me how to do things, how to work and all of that. To not be lazy.

Jimmy: Lazy yeah, yeah, I don’t think their are a lot of lazy people over their in Central America?

Jose: No

Jimmy: Everyone knows how to work

Jose: Knows how to work, they can adapt to any type of job, you know.

Jimmy: Yeah

Jose: They push forward

Jimmy: Yeah

Jose: [laughs] Those who are born here right,

Jimmy: [laughs] Are lazy?

Jose: They haven’t experienced anything. A small type of job

Jimmy: [laughs]

Jose: [laughs] Right? They, they don’t know that in other places, life is way worse.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah

Jose: They don’t appreciate it

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah

Jose: Yeah oh well, changing subject

Jimmy: Perfect, perfect, okay, um, uh, right I don’t know if you mentioned your name [laughs] but introduce yourself

Jose: Okay, my name is Jose, Jose Izaguirre and I am Salvadorian

Jimmy: And proud? [laughs]

Jose: [laughs] And proud, and yeah

Jimmy: Well,

Jose: Yeah, I will never forget, I am proud of where I come from

Jimmy: Of course, of course. Thank you very much Jose, it was a pleasure to know more about your story, your dreams, your present, of what you overcame in order to come to this nation

Jose: Uh-huh

Jimmy: And I appreciate your time, I wish you

Jose: Yeah, your welcome

Jimmy: I wish you a good future, to keep moving forward with your family and yeah

Jose: Thank you, you too, that you may graduate, move forward in your studies and represent the Hispanic community

Jimmy: [laughs] Come on! Thank you, thank you, okay.

A Window in the Dark

philip-wong-image-1

A Window in the Dark

by Steven Wong, December 2016

This is about my mother, the hardships she endured to support her family, and the sacrifices she has made for us. She was born in Fa dao, China. Back in her school years she was always a good student, earning almost all A’s in her classes until she graduated from high school. There was no college to attend so she went to the work recruitment office and signed up for work. Her first job was in the chemical department of a factory that manufactured ammonia. She dealt with coal remains from midnight until the morning, containing and disposing them when she was only sixteen years old. Her next job was at a clothing warehouse, where she quickly rose to the rank of supervisor and then to inspector because of her hard work. Her aunt then introduced her to a man who was from the U.S. and who eventually became my dad. There were already signs pointing out that he wasn’t who her aunt had said he was, but my mother accepted the marriage proposal anyway, not for her own happiness but for her mother’s; her mother never came to the U.S. and always wanted to come. Although my mother had never been here and did not know the language, she came along to the U.S. She studied wherever she could although she didn’t know English, so she would always have her translator with her. From one job to another, she kept finding ways to make more money so she could support her children. She chose to give up her teen years to work and relieve some financial stress on her parents, gave up being able to choose who to spend her life, and has endured physical and emotional abuse in order to be in her children’s lives.

In China, instead of going out to party like other teenager would do, she helped support her family after she finished high school, and immediately went to the work recruiting office to get a job at a factory working in the chemical department. Her job was to maintain the coal remains to make sure they weren’t going everywhere by spraying them down once in a while. Then she would dispose of the coal remains by shoveling them into a big cart and pushing it to be dumped. About the time when she was working there, she said, “I was so small I couldn’t push the cart so the guy that worked with us had to push it with me.” My mother worked in a factory, which was a rough environment, and was doing what was considered a man’s job, not a job for a sixteen-year-old girl, but she did it in order to support her family. She also worked in a clothing factory, at which she quickly rose to the inspector supervisor position due to her hard work and dedication, to support her family. In the article “Where Are All the High School Grads Going?” which hypothesizes about why high school graduates choose to work over college, Alia Wong, a researcher, states, “They are also the ones who can land jobs that aren’t traditionally associated with higher-education degrees—blue-collar fields such as manufacturing, mining, and agriculture.” Because my mother didn’t have a college degree and needed to support the family, she chose to work in factories and warehouses instead of doing what any other teenager would.

My mother sacrificed the biggest parts of a person’s life and happiness in exchange for her mother’s happiness. My mother’s transition from China to the U.S., started with her marriage, which brought her over to the U.S. since my father was already an American citizen at the time. Recalling when she was about to get married, she said, “I wasn’t happy or sad about it I was just like whatever. I didn’t really care.” Although she didn’t like my father, she married him just because my grandma had never been to the U.S. before and she always wanted to go so my mother married my father to fulfill my grandma’s wish. She sacrificed one of the biggest parts of her life, marrying someone she didn’t even like, leaving everything in China to go to a new country she had no knowledge of: “When I got here, I didn’t know any English and was at Safeway. I didn’t even know how to say excuse me.” She allowed herself to come to America without knowing the language and having to learn to communicate. She said, “I was going to adult school and working at the warehouse across the block every day. I worked [whenever] there wasn’t school including Saturday and Sunday.” She worked hard and put herself into school so she could survive and afford to take care of my sister and I. She put herself through adult school and worked at the same time with no free time for herself. With this persistent dedication to adapt in order to provide for her children, she sacrificed her last chance at youth and happiness.

In the year 2008, my mother was extremely generous to my father even though he was cheating on her, but in order to keep the family together, she endured it for months. In August, my father came back from a trip to Vietnam. He had met up with a woman that he had been friends with. He called her his girlfriend. Every night around one in the morning he would call back to Vietnam to talk to her and my mother didn’t care about it too much until three weeks later. She asked him, “Are you serious? It has been almost a month and you’re still calling this late at night?” She gave him an ultimatum and told him he could call until the end of September. She wouldn’t care but if he called anymore after that she would divorce him so he could be with his girlfriend in Vietnam. I guess my father didn’t like the idea of my mother leaving him so he was trying to come up with any reason to make her feel as if she had done things to wrong him as well, although all those arguments were unreasonable and incomparable to him cheating. She said that “He yelled at me all night for about a week for any small reasons he could think of.” On those nights my father would yell at my mother. I sat there watching, making sure he didn’t cause any harm to her; I watched her look to the floor, not replying to him as he was yelling throughout the night. He stopped and it was almost two in the morning. Sarah Buel, a Colorado lawyer, said in “Fifty Obstacles of leaving,” her article about why domestic violence victims stay, “The victim believes the batterer’s threats to kill her and the children if she attempts to leave” (Buel 19). She could have left during those nights but chose to stay with her children thinking my father would harm us if she left.

My father did not let my mother go to work during those times; his reason for not letting her go to work was that she “worked too much,” although he didn’t help support the family financially for years; she had to work. A couple of nights later, he brought her into their room and locked the door. The yelling was more violent that night. My younger brother and I were standing outside in the dark hallway listening as we were coming up with possible ways to get our mother out of that room. We decided to get pool sticks from the living room and we ran back to the door thinking of ways that we could approach this. The yelling got louder. As I stood there I thought that that was enough and we really needed to get her out. We hid the pool sticks around the corner. I opened the door and pushed it in, but the chain latch was still holding the door. I yelled to him as I was pounding on the door. “OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!” My father stopped yelling for a bit as he turned towards the door. This was it I thought, time to finally end all this yelling. He closed the door and unlatched the chain. He opened the door and yelled “FUCK ME? FUCK YOU!” As I saw my mother just standing there crying over his shoulder, I pushed him aside to go to my mother. I told her that we should go outside. My father grabbed me by the collar of my sweater. I yelled at him warning him that if he ripped my sweater I would hit him. With that being said, he ripped my collar, probably thinking that I wouldn’t do anything. I pushed him down to the side of the bed and he rolled on top of me so I punched him on his head but I held back my strength because he was old. He got off of me and I took my mother outside. He came out to the living room on the phone with his best friend telling him that I had hit him and he was bleeding. He said that his disobedient son hit him, and was making me seem like the bad guy since he didn’t tell his friend the whole story of why I had hit him. He yelled at me saying that I would get struck by lightning for hitting him, but I thought that at least he’s stopped yelling at my mother; things calmed down that night and my mother went to sleep with my sister at 10 pm. She could have left and run away but didn’t know what he would do to us children out of anger if she left. The following day he snapped, and was yelling, “Are you sure you want a divorce?” My mother replied with a yes. He swiftly and violently walked into the kitchen and I could see that he was searching for something in the drawers until the swinging door closed behind him. He grabbed a meat cleaver. Slamming the door open, he quickly walked towards my mother, towering over her with the cleaver over her head, threatening to kill my her; luckily, I was there watching as always so I grabbed his hand and pried the cleaver out of his hand as I shoved him away. After that afternoon, my mother felt that it was no longer safe for her to stay home so she called up her younger brother to pick her up since he was in town. My uncle was bigger than my father so he picked my mother up. My father didn’t stop her from leaving. In an article of an interview by Sonia Nazario, “The Heartache of an Immigrant Family,” she said:

“She followed Enrique north a few years later, leaving their daughter, Katerin Jasmín, behind. Enrique was determined that his daughter not endure the long separation he had faced, so when Jasmín was 4, he sent for her to come to Jacksonville, Fla., where the family had established a home.”

My mother left us knowing that I would be able to protect my siblings and that she would come back for us. The lady next door saw my mother and uncle leaving. She waved them over. She invited them inside and already had a gist of what was going on so she told my mother, “Ever since you guys moved next door I heard yelling frequently. Can you tell me what’s going on? Do you need help?” My mother replied that she shouldn’t say anything and that she was scared to say anything because she didn’t want to endanger her. My neighbor told her that it was okay, and she was more worried that something would happen if she didn’t step in. She asked my mother if she had gone to the police yet and if she had filed charges for domestic violence. My mother replied, “No, I didn’t know that kind of service existed.” My neighbor told her that she would call domestic violence services for her. Like my mother, many other immigrant women have no knowledge of public services that are available. In a survey asking 400 Vietnamese and Korean women participants how they feel about domestic violence, whether they feel if it is okay or okay to an extent, and if they had the knowledge of services that would be able to help them, by Mikyong Kim-Goh, a professor in the Master of Social Work Program at California State University, and Jon Baello, a researcher in the Department of Research and Evaluation at Paramount Unified School District, the results concluded: “First, the findings of the study suggest a need for active community education and outreach targeting less acculturated, more recent immigrant groups.” Kim-Goh says that there should be more knowledge of services throughout communities, especially in communities in which immigrants have recently migrated to the U.S. If my mother ha known of the services before, she probably would have left my father years before this incident. So after hearing about domestic violence services, she decided to give them a call. Domestic violence services told her that they would process her and find her a shelter, and in the meantime they offered to get her a hotel room.

My mother had to leave first to find a shelter that was in a livable condition so she could bring us after. My father still drove us to school like always after that but he didn’t bother us. After a couple of days went by, after school when my father came to pick my sister and I up, he was venting to us about how our mother took our little brother away. My sister and I were confused that we didn’t get picked up too. That night he went out scouring places where he thought my mother would be, and I felt abandoned thinking that our mother was supposed to pick us all up. My father was really mad because his youngest son was his favorite child, so I felt that my sister and I were going to be in danger. My sister slept in my room as I sat there with the chair against the door, making sure that I kept my sister safe. About a week went by, and I was sleeping in class when suddenly I was told to go to the vice principal’s office. I thought it was because I was sleeping in class. But I was met by a police officer and my sister in the vice principal’s office, and was told that we were going to be sent to a shelter where my mother and brother were already hiding. At that moment I found out that my mother hadn’t abandon my sister and I but she was leaving first to find a place, and she didn’t want to be alone so she took our little brother along: she had always planned to come back for us and she did. In an article about why some parents that are victims of domestic violence leave first and then send for their family after called “The Living Arrangements of Children of Immigrants,” by Nancy Landale, a Professor of Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University, she says:

“One particularly troubling difficulty posed by migration is that it can separate child from their parents, either because one family member migrates first and later brings over other family members (stage migration) or because a parent is deported or deterred fro the dangerous border crossing.”

Immigrants parents first migrated without their family to make sure they have a stable living condition before they bring their family so that they are able to survive. Like my mother she left without us because she felt that even she had no idea where she was going and that she had to make sure she had a place to go before she sent for us.

I recently painted my mother when she worked in the factory as a girl, with dark colors and the smudges on her face representing how dirty it was, and the bright orange coal for the hot and dangerous environment. I portrayed her as a small girl pushing a cart of coal remains bigger than her. In the painting she struggles to push the cart signifying that this job is obviously not for a small sixteen-year-old girl, but she does it to help earn money to support the family. “I was so small I couldn’t push the cart, so the guy that worked with us had to push it with me,” she recalls. She worked after midnight so I drew a clock showing that it was after midnight. The smudges on her face show how dirty and rough it was in the warehouse and how she was willing to do almost anything to support her family. I used dark colors to portray how unpleasant the job was. I only painted one part of the factory because I wanted to focus on the department she worked in, the chemical department. I painted a bright orange in the coal to emphasize that it was still hot and inside the factory it was hot, to show that the job was a hazardous job.

I also pained a sunset framed by a round window of an airplane, against the dark inside of an airplane, to contrast the new world she was looking forward to, in contrast with with the dark old world, where she worked so hard. The light of the new world is glowing into the plane in hopes of changing her old world. I drew a sunset because it shows how beautiful San Francisco was while my mother wasn’t happy in the picture or sad, since she came here just to fulfill her mother’s dream of coming to the U.S.

She gave up the biggest parts of her life so that life for her family would be better. Although she could have made different choices, she put her family before her own wants and happiness, because all mothers want what’s best for their children and all children want to repay their parents by relieving them from work hard. She gave up her teen years to support her family, gave up being able to choose who she want to be with for the rest of her life, gave up her homeland, her friends and did it all for her family.

Works Cited

Landale, Nancy S. “The Living Arrangements of Children of Immigrants.” EBSCO. Future of Children, Spring 2011. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

Kim-Goh, Mikyong. “Attitudes toward Domestic Violence in Korean and Vietnamese Immigrant Communities: Implications for Human Services.” EBSCO. Ed. Jon Baello. Journal of Family Violence, 15 May 2008. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Buel, Sarah M. “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, A.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay.” EBSCO. Family Violence, Oct. 1999. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Nazario, Sonia. “The Heartache of an Immigrant Family.” Google Scholar. N.p., 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

Wong, Alia. “Attitudes toward Domestic Violence.” The Atlantic, 11 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.