“Your coming to America was a mistake,” a professor who was instrumental in getting my mom and me to America told me one day. The college I had been accepted to, he said, had an unspoken policy of not admitting international students. They feared that admitting them, especially if they were married, would complicate things and possibly lead to their families being brought to America. In a way, their fears were realized when my father’s college application slipped through the cracks, leading to him getting admitted at that college.
I graduated from high school that same year. My intention was to go to university, but my grades were not so great., So I opted to enroll in a college that cared more about my parents’ money than my high school grades. This was about January 1998. A few weeks after enrollment, my mother received a letter from the US informing her that the college where my father was studying was offering to reunite us with him. Within a matter of days, I received my acceptance letter and mom got a letter telling her that she would go to America as my father’s dependent. I was beside myself with joy when those documents arrived.
Now that we had acceptance letters from my father’s college, the next thing we had to do was go to the US Embassy to secure visas. When we arrived at the Embassy, there was a long line of people that snaked around the building. Like us, each of them was hoping to get a visa to the United States of America. The consulate office opened at 9am. At midday my mother and I were finally ushered into the Embassy. I remember walking through metal detectors manned by a stone-faced US Marine, who looked pissed-off at the world. This guy was built like the Incredible Hulk and seemed to be looking for an excuse—any excuse—to unleash his wrath on everyone there.
I went through the metal detector and past the Incredible Hulk without incident, and quickly marched into a large room that resembled the DMV. Everyone in the Embassy formed another line and waited to be called. When my turn came I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and walked toward an unoccupied booth. I handed the stone-faced lady behind the booth all the documents she needed to give me a visa. After 5 minutes of interrogation, the lady asked me to come back later in the day to get my student visa. My mother, too, was successful in getting her F-2 visa.
A couple of days after arriving in America, I got my first on-campus job. This job, I later learned, was the quintessential International Student job. I was handed a toilet brush, soap, a mop and a bucket, and was told to clean all the toilets on the first floor of the college administration building. I scrubbed toilets, vacuumed carpets and took out trash in that building up until the day before I received my college degree.
Now that I am in the process of being kicked out of this country by ICE, I sometimes wonder whether coming to America was a mistake. After much thinking, my conclusion is that it wasn’t. It was actually a blessing in disguise. I came to the US as an infantile teenager and slowly, but surely, became a responsible grown-up–though I know some of my buddies would beg to differ. Living in America has made me realize that no matter how young I am, my opinion matters. I have met really wonderful people whose friendship I will cherish for eternity. I have also had the good fortune of experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly side of this country. Most of all, I feel that coming to America was really worth it, because it was here that I met my foxy wife. Take that professor!