Each year there is a trendy gift that everyone wants. These gifts become most popular around Christmas. The first such gift I remember was the Cabbage Patch Kid. I remember watching news stories of parents fighting over a few remaining at a local Toys-R-Us store. I also remember working in retail when the Furby was the hot gift. One day, a friend and I walked around our store holding one with a little crowd of people following us like cars hoping for a spot in a crowded parking lot. In the end, we made a bet on how long it would last on a shelf, put it down, and walked away timing our bet.
This past year, the commercials I noticed most as Christmas approached were commercials for DNA testing services. Services that promise to give you a picture of your ancestry. Services that can be popular only in America where ancestry for the vast majority can be traced to other countries and regions in the world, and where such tests can provide details long forgotten. Our desire for these tests is an exceptional trait unique to America.
As I watched these commercials, I thought of my own ancestry. I thought about how these tests likely do not cover where I come from. And also how, because of my recent arrival, I know my ancestry without a test.
As much as these commercials remind me of America’s mosaic of diversity, recent comments from our current national leaders remind me of my initial “place” in this country. A place of pain. A place where bullies have continually sought to put me to remind me that I do not belong in their America.
Despite the popularity of these DNA tests exemplifying our immigrant traditions, our government is seeking to end what it dubs “chain migration.” “Chain migration” refers to when a family member already here applies for another family member to come to America from abroad. The phrase is new and traces its roots to anti-immigration movements. It does not exist in immigration law. Rather, immigration law aptly calls it “family-based immigration.”
My life is the product of family-based immigration.
Some sixty years ago, my father and his brothers had the opportunity of a lifetime. They were given scholarships to study in America. Each of them studied hard and took advantage of this opportunity. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to stay here. My father returned to our country and used his education for public service until the public service became impossible because of a communist takeover. My uncles stayed and thrived. Two became professors who spent their lives at various universities teaching future generations of Americans and others. Three became doctors and another became a successful businessman. All of their children are now successful professionals.
When the public tide turned against my father and life for us became untenable at home, my uncles applied for my father and us to join them here. We came to America with our hopes and our dreams, though we may have lacked the “merit” the government now seeks to impose on applicants like us. We knew we had to come to the land of opportunity, even if that opportunity and life’s circumstances required us to leave two of my sisters behind.
Eventually, we were able to apply for my sisters to join us. I remember to this day the feeling when each of them arrived. Though the years apart were painful, the reunions were sweeter.
Since my family’s arrival, all of us have worked from the first day we legally were allowed to work. All of us have attained higher education. All of us have contributed to our economy in every way we can. We did what we could to make the most of the opportunities available to us. We are each successful professionals in our chosen fields. And we spend our days working with people from all walks of life.
And from those walks of life, my American family grew. Growing up with only sisters, I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother. I found my brothers here in America.
After the trials and tribulations of high school ended, I met new friends that within a short time became my American brothers. Brothers that could rely on each other for anything. Brothers for whom I stood as best man and groomsman at their weddings. Brothers with whom we shared some of the best times of our lives. And along the way, I met other friends who have, in the same way, become my American sisters.
As the years went on, something happened I never could have imagined. I met someone that loved me, and that I loved, in a way I had never known before. But I met her in Europe.
Love knows no boundaries. No oceans. No countries.
I resolved to live the remainder of my life together with her, so I applied for her to join me here in America. She agreed and we were married shortly after her arrival.
As this administration seeks to end what it demeans as “chain migration,” I think of the chain of events that led me here. My uncles taking advantage of educational opportunities and an opportunity for a new life years before I was born. My father’s lifetime of work for his country going up in flames forcing him to abandon his life for the life of a salesman in order to give us an opportunity that he did not take. Falling in love thousands of miles from home, but choosing to make our home together in America.
When I see my uncles, I see my father’s brothers. When I see my sisters, I see family. When I hug my wife, I feel love.
We are not “links” in a “chain” to be feared and broken.
We are family. We are your American family. Our shared existence is a gift for all of us unique to our American heritage.