by Phoenix Chene

 

Five hundred sixty thousand

That is the number of undocumented immigrants living in Illinois.

Of the 1.5 million undocumented Asian Americans in the United States,

67,000 of them live here, and I am one of the people

making up 12% of the “unauthorized population” in the state.

You probably haven’t heard much about my existence

because I have been hiding my immigration status,

trying to protect my family, trying to protect myself,

from the government, from the white-washed society,

from the people who look down upon me

simply because I don’t have a document

saying I have as much right to be here as they do.

You probably haven’t heard much about my existence

because I have been suppressing my own voice,

wondering if my mother had made the right choice

when she sent me to visit my father in America

with a new set of clothes and a tourist visa,

neglecting to tell me that the visit was meant to be temporary.

Yet, even if my parents had told me that I couldn’t stay

in this exotic place called U.S.A.,

I wouldn’t have understood why,

the way I didn’t understand why

they wouldn’t allow me to work part-time when I was sixteen,

saying I should concentrate on my studies and keeping the house clean,

or why they wouldn’t allow me to apply for college after high school,

saying they didn’t have the money to pay for my tuition or graduate school.

For years, my parents kept my immigration status a secret.

It wasn’t until I demanded for answers

that they reluctantly told me the truth.

“You are undocumented”, they said, and they said no more,

as if those three little words had the power to explain everything,

but they didn’t.

Yet, my immigration status wasn’t something

my parents and I discussed about openly,

the way it wasn’t even mentioned in many Asian American families

because we had allowed fear and shame to devour our voices.

As undocumented immigrants,

we fear of deportation and separation.

We fear of losing the place we have been calling our home

and the people we have been calling our friends.

As undocumented Asian American immigrants,

we feel ashamed for not meeting the expectation of the American society.

We feel ashamed for not living up to the model minority,

but what is the model minority but a myth?

Undocumented. Illegals. Aliens.

These are the labels preventing us

from achieving the dreams and success

we came to America to achieve in the first place.

These are the labels covering our mouths,

preventing us from speaking,

and society expects us to stay speechless

because we are deemed as the model minority,

and we are expected to be politically silent.

But why must we remain silent

when the government is threatening

to take away everything

we had worked so hard to create?

Why must we remain silent

when it is not even our fault

that we are labeled as undocumented?

We know we are capable of achieving

as much as the people standing in front of us.

We know we belong in this place

as much as the people standing next to us.

We are more than the labels placed on us,

more than our immigration status,

more than black ink on white paper,

so why must we remain silent?

We must let our voices be heard

in order to prevent ourselves from being

another minority within a minority!