Confused and scared, I pedaled home and confronted Lolo. I remember him sitting when you look at the garage, cutting coupons. I dropped my bike and ran over to him, showing him the card that is green. “Peke ba ito?” I asked in Tagalog. (“Is this fake?”) My grandparents were naturalized American citizens — he worked as a security guard, she as a food server — plus they had begun supporting my mother and me financially when I was 3, after my father’s wandering eye and inability to properly provide for us resulted in my parents’ separation. Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face while he told me he purchased the card, and also other fake documents, in my situation. “Don’t show it to many other people,” he warned.
I made a decision then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I became 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.
I’ve tried. In the last 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a lifetime career as a journalist, interviewing a few of the most highly successful people in the united states. At first glance, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And therefore means living a kind that is different of. It indicates going about my in fear of being found out day. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest for me, with who I really am. This means keeping my family photos in a shoebox instead of displaying them on shelves in my house, so friends don’t inquire about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things i am aware are wrong and unlawful. And contains meant relying on sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, individuals who took a pursuit during my future and took risks in my situation.
The debates over “illegal aliens” intensified my anxieties. In 1994, only a year after my flight through the Philippines, Gov.
was re-elected in part due to his support for Proposition 187, which prohibited undocumented immigrants from attending school that is public accessing other services. (A federal court later found what the law states unconstitutional.) After my encounter at the D.M.V. in 1997, I grew more alert to anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotypes: they don’t would you like to assimilate, they have been a drain on society. They’re not talking about me, I would personally tell myself. We have something to contribute.
But soon Lolo grew nervous that the immigration authorities reviewing the petition would discover my mother was married, thus derailing not just her odds of coming here but those of my uncle as well. So he withdrew her petition. After my uncle stumbled on America legally in 1991, Lolo attempted to get my mother here through a tourist visa, but she wasn’t in a position to obtain one. That’s when she decided to send me. My mother told me later that she figured she would follow me soon. She never did.
The “uncle” who brought me here ended up being a coyote, not a relative, my grandfather later explained. Lolo scraped together enough money — I eventually learned it had been $4,500, a big sum for him — to pay for him to smuggle me here under a fake name and fake passport. (I never saw the passport again after the flight and have always assumed that the coyote kept it.) After I arrived in America, Lolo obtained a unique fake Filipino passport, in my real name this time, adorned with a fake student visa, aside from the fraudulent green card.
Whenever I write my essay began trying to find work, a short while following the D.M.V. incident, my grandfather and I took the Social Security card to Kinko’s, where he covered the “I.N.S. authorization” text with a sliver of white tape. We then made photocopies regarding the card. At a glance, at least, the copies would seem like copies of a typical, unrestricted Social Security card.
Lolo always imagined I would work the kind of low-paying jobs that undocumented people often take. (Once I married an American, he said, i might get my real papers, and everything could be fine.) But even menial jobs require documents, I hoped the doctored card would work for now so he and. The greater amount of documents I experienced, he said, the higher.
For more than ten years to getting part-time and full-time jobs, employers have rarely asked to check on my Social Security that is original card. I showed the photocopied version, which they accepted when they did. Over time, In addition began checking the citizenship box on my I-9 that is federal employment forms. (Claiming full citizenship was actually easier than declaring permanent resident “green card” status, which would have required me to provide an alien registration number.)
This deceit never got easier. The greater amount of it was done by me, the more I felt like an impostor, the greater guilt I carried — additionally the more I worried that i might get caught. But I kept doing it. I needed to live and survive by myself, and I decided this was the way.
Mountain View twelfth grade became my second home. I happened to be elected to represent my school at school-board meetings, which provided me with the opportunity to meet and befriend Rich Fischer, the superintendent for our school district. I joined the speech and debate team, acted in school plays and finally became co-editor of this Oracle, the student newspaper. That drew the eye of my principal, Pat Hyland. “You’re in school equally as much as i will be,” she told me. Pat and Rich would soon become mentors, and over time, almost surrogate parents for me personally.
Later that school year, my history > Harvey Milk
I hadn’t planned on being released that morning, that I was gay for several years though I had known. With that announcement, I became the actual only real openly gay student at school, and it caused turmoil with my grandparents. Lolo kicked me away from home for a few weeks. On two fronts though we eventually reconciled, I had disappointed him. First, as a Catholic, he considered homosexuality a sin and was embarrassed about having “ang apo na bakla” (“a grandson who is gay”). Even worse, I happened to be making matters more difficult for myself, he said. I needed to marry an American woman so that you can gain a green card.
Tough because it was, coming out about being gay seemed less daunting than coming out about my legal status. I kept my other secret mostly hidden.
While my classmates awaited their college acceptance letters, I hoped to get a full-time job at The Mountain View Voice after graduation. It’s not I couldn’t apply for state and federal financial aid that I didn’t want to go to college, but. Without that, my children couldn’t afford to send me.
But when I finally told Pat and Rich about my immigration “problem” — as we called it after that — they helped me look for a remedy. In the beginning, they even wondered if one of these could adopt me and fix the situation this way, but an attorney Rich consulted told him it couldn’t change my status that is legal because was too old. Eventually they connected me to a scholarship that is new for high-potential students who have been usually the first in their families to attend college. Most critical, the fund had not been focused on immigration status. I was one of the primary recipients, using the scholarship covering tuition, lodging, books and other expenses for my studies at bay area State University.
. Using those articles, I put on The Seattle Times and got an internship for the summer that is following.
Then again my lack of proper documents became a nagging problem again. The Times’s recruiter, Pat Foote, asked all incoming interns to bring certain paperwork on their first day: a birth certificate, or a passport, or a driver’s license plus an authentic Social Security card. I panicked, thinking my documents wouldn’t pass muster. So prior to starting the job, I called Pat and shared with her about my legal status. After talking to management, she called me back with the answer I feared: I couldn’t perform some internship.
This was devastating. What good was college then pursue the career I wanted if i couldn’t? I decided then that if I happened to be to succeed in a profession this is certainly exactly about truth-telling, i really couldn’t tell the truth about myself.
The venture capitalist who sponsored my scholarship, offered to pay for an immigration lawyer after this episode, Jim Strand. Rich and I went along to meet her in San Francisco’s financial district.