A reporter talks about his illegal American dream. Internet Explorer 9 or earlier. Go to the home page to see the latest top stories. One August morning nearly two decades ago, my my personal life essay woke me and put me in a cab.
She handed me a jacket. It might be cold there. More news and information about Philippines. Go to the Philippines Travel Guide.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport with her, my aunt and a family friend, I was introduced to a man I’d never seen. They told me he was my uncle. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993, and I was 12. After I arrived in Mountain View, Calif.
San Francisco Bay Area, I entered sixth grade and quickly grew to love my new home, family and culture. I discovered a passion for language, though it was hard to learn the difference between formal English and American slang. I won the eighth-grade spelling bee by memorizing words I couldn’t properly pronounce. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.
Don’t come back here again. Confused and scared, I pedaled home and confronted Lolo. I remember him sitting in the garage, cutting coupons. I dropped my bike and ran over to him, showing him the green card. Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me.
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful.
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