As some of you may or may not know, I am an immigrant. From the day I was born up until my eleventh grade of High School my official name was not Michelle. I had been going by the name Michelle ever since my obsession with Full House really took root and I decided that being named after the Olsen Twins would be the fulfillment of my life’s wish. I was about seven years old. However, no matter how many people called me Michelle, Ye was the name on all of my official documents. It’s what really connected me back to my motherland. The given name from my parents, named after my cousins. All of our given names meant “bright.”
Now why am I telling you all this? Because when I had my name officially changed to Michelle I did this to fully reflect who I had been for a whole year. An American Citizen. I didn’t have to take the test or the oath myself. That honor was all my father’s. Few years prior to my official name change my father came home, with papers in hand, announcing that he no longer wanted to be a Green Card carrying alien, but rather a full voter-card carrying citizen. For a year I helped my father learn the history of this great country. Learn the different branches of the government and its purpose. Learn who our representatives were at the time, etc. All the things one needed to learn to pass the test. And he passed with flying colors. Red. White. And Blue.
My dad grew up at the end of the Cultural Revolution in China. Living in a house with barely a roof, in a home that barely had enough food to eat from day to day, with a family where everyone had to work to provide for everyone else. He went to school six days a week from morning until evening, worked from evening until well into the night. And when that was done, he had homework to do. Even while struggling with poverty and the need to help provide for his family he was able to finish as one of the tops of his class. He graduated High School, College, and even made it so far as to obtain a Masters.
All his hard work paid off when he was invited to work in Philadelphia. And so began my family’s journey to America. He packed his bags and left my mom and me behind. About 2 years later he was able to bring my mother here. A year later, little Zhang Ye with a passport, a box of crackers, and 2 cans of Sprite, made it to the great land of the free.
Thirteen years later I became an American Citizen.
As an immigrant we often see a different side of the legal versus illegal immigration debate. We have a unique view of what it feels like to not be a naturally born citizen. We have a unique view into why some people work so hard to be able to come, live, and work here.
For this, some people believe that immigrants should be more sympathetic to the hardships that illegal immigrants go through. I recently read a blog piece by another Chinese-American who called anti-illegal-immigration immigrants people who “want to close the door behind them.” She accused us of not wanting others to enjoy what we have enjoyed. This view is simply absurd because she assumes we would close the door even to someone who was immigrating here legally. Can you imagine me standing at the doorway of a plane, tugging at the door and not letting legal aliens the opportunity to step off a plane like I did? This fellow Chinese-American seem to think I would.
My parents worked hard their whole lives to come here legally. They did that because they love this country enough to respect her laws. To respect her need to secure her border. To respect her desire to protect her own against those who wish to bring harm into her lands.
Some of you wondered about my journey alone on a plane with my cookies and Sprite. I will have to save that story for another day.