It is often said that the only natives in America are Native Indians and everyone else is an immigrant. This is why America is called the land of immigrants as well as the land of dreams because more people come here to start new life than any other country in the world. While America is still the most welcoming country when it comes to immigrants, the country cannot afford the open-border policy it might have had at one time during its history because even the richest countries face the economic problem of scarcity of resources. But human nature is such that it always looks for better economic opportunities even if it means bypassing laws. America’s economic prosperity proves too tempting for the individuals in developing countries that they do not even hesitate from entering the country illegally despite all the risks. For this very reason, there are probably more undocumented immigrants in America than any other country. I came to America as a child and have lived here all my life. Yet despite my work ethics and desire to benefit America through my education, I do not only face the stigma of being an undocumented resident but also that of female undocumented resident who face additional stereotypes. Undocumented residents are as American as anyone else because one’s love for country is not determined by passport.
I, like a significant proportion of undocumented population, came to the country as a young child. While I do not deny the fact that my parents broke the rule, no one can accuse me of breaking the rules myself. A child never bears the burden of his/her parent’s crime and this applies to me and every person who came to America as a child as well. This is why I feel puzzled at the accusations that are hurled at individuals like me. If my fellow Americans who are Caucasians do research on their family history, most of them would find that someone among their ancestors opposed equal rights for African Americans at some point and might even have been guilty of owning slaves if they go back further in the past. But it would be unfair to consider my fellow White Americans racist on the basis of their family history. By the same rule, I demand respect and equal rights because I cannot be held responsible for the mistakes of my elders.
I often face accusations that I am not a patriotic citizen of the country because I am undocumented. I remind them that patriotism is not determined by one’s legal status or passport but by one’s genuine concern for the country and there goes not a single day when I feel proud of being in this country and envy my fellow Americans who have all the rights guaranteed to citizens. I also remind them I probably care about America more because you were American at birth while I have struggled everyday to be able to earn the right to be considered an American. We often appreciate things more that we don’t have as compared to those that we take for granted.
I do not only face the stereotypes regarding undocumented residents but also those of female undocumented residents. People often assume that I am going to college just for the sake of degree and would become housewife after marriage. I remind them that people define their own history and the CEO of one of the largest corporations in America which is Pepsi, is a female immigrant. There may not be many examples of immigrant female CEOs but there are also not many examples of female CEOs due to the glass ceiling that exists. I also believe statistics mean nothing as long as one has the determination because there are always those who are first or among the firsts to set examples for others. I am determined to not only serve this country through my education and skills but also break through the glass ceilings to advance the rights of all women in America.
I understand prejudice and stereotypes always exist in the society. Even though many undocumented residents like me are determined to pay back to the country which has taken good care of us, some often accuse of stealing their jobs. They also call us law breakers and unethical for not observing applicable regulations. My question to such critics is that whether corporations are not guilty of the same cry when they break laws to hire undocumented residents so that they could save on costs. In fact, such corporations also break other laws such as paying below legally minimum wage.
In American society, people are not judged by their background or origins but by what they do with their lives and I demand the same privilege to be judged by what I have been doing with my life. My legal status tells nothing about who I am as a person and yet the society looks at me with a prejudiced eye even though I may be more law abiding and American in essence than most legal residents. Being American is not about being the owner of a blue passport but following the principles that make America what it is such as work ethics, integrity, perseverance, and self-believe.
I am as American as anyone else. I am defined by my own life and actions and not by the lives and actions of my elders. My love for America knows no bounds and that should be more than enough to affirm my status as an American. But I do not complain because American has always improved over time and I will gain respect through my actions because this is what American spirit is all about.