Every other Friday, we will feature a guest blogger who has written to us with thoughtful commentary about a relevant and interesting topic. Please note that views expressed by guest bloggers represent solely their own. ECAASU believes in open dialogue and multiple perspectives and welcomes (civilly worded) thoughts different from our own, but we do not necessarily endorse any writing done by the author elsewhere. The following is a post from Giao Tran. Giao is entering her third year as a community college transfer student at UC Berkeley, where she will study Political Science to better understand how to engage disadvantaged and underserved groups of Americans, particularly communities of color. Her interest in activism grew from her involvement with the Vietnamese community in Orange County where she worked with youth in the local community and on her campus. As a member of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC’s Youth Advisory Council, Giao has raised awareness on family immigration reform through direct outreach to college students and a Facebook photo campaign.
My mother was born in 1968 and grew up with five other siblings in Vietnam. My grandmother, or bà ngo?i, raised them singlehandedly by selling soup as a street vendor after my grandfather had passed. My mom often told me stories of her childhood while I was growing up. She and her siblings shared just one toy – a baby doll – and often ate water spinach with rice when there was nothing else to eat. They even made a song about having to eat so much water spinach! Yet while they did not have much, they at least had each other.
My mom told me that, while growing up, she had always dreamed of coming to the United States to escape the poverty of Vietnam. After she married my father, this dream became a reality. My father had become a U.S. citizen through his service in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War. In 1993, I was born in Vietnam and by 1994 had immigrated to the U.S. with my mother under my father’s sponsorship.
My parents came to the U.S. with only $300 in wedding gifts to begin building their lives. She told me how it devastated her to be separated from her mother and siblings. At the time, international calls were expensive, but she called home as often as she could afford to. She would cry each time she called, causing my father to ask our family to stop calling so she could avoid feeling so depressed. All she had in the United States were my father and me. During this time, she could not speak English, had almost no friends, and nothing to fall back on.
Despite their struggles, my parents eventually owned their own business a nail salon in Tennessee, where they later bought a home and also had my sister, who was born in 1999. They were contributing Americans; they voted in elections, paid taxes, and contributed to the local economy through their successful nail salon. Throughout these years, my mother dreamed of sponsoring her family to reunite with us in the United States to give them a chance at building new lives together. Some of them are entrepreneurs in Vietnam; their contributions to the United States would be incredibly valuable, just as my parents’ contributions have been.
Today, my mother’s brothers and sisters have waited over a decade to receive their visas. One of my uncles has only a year left to wait and the prospect of having his family join us in the United States is so exciting that it’s almost surreal. He, like the siblings of many other immigrants, is an important part of our family and one that has been missing for years.
Current immigration reform efforts in the House are threatening to dismantle our family immigration system. The SKILLS Visas Act (H. R. 2131) will not only eliminate the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings, but would void the majority of the 2.4 million sibling applications that have already been approved but are caught in the visa backlogs. If the House passes the SKILLS Visas Act, my family’s approved applications and many others will be treated as rubbish, and the dreams of a reunited family for many citizens will be destroyed.
My family’s story is only one of millions. The United States has historically excluded certain groups from immigrating. This cannot continue with the SKILLS Visas Act. Today, I’m fighting for my family.
Join me and tell your U.S. Representatives to support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship and protects family immigration. Say no to bills like the SKILLS Visas Act that will only weaken the family values that have built this country. Call 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative today.
Giao Tran 2012-2013 AAJC Council Member