I’m the 3-year-old little girl on the right, with my two older brothers. This is one of the few pictures we have from our childhood because when war breaks out, many things get lost along the way. A few years after this picture was taken, we fled our birth country, seeking freedom and safety after Vietnam fell. We found a home in the greatest country, our beloved adopted country, and were given a chance to rebuild our lives. And rebuild it we did.
When we fled, did I know if we left Vietnam legally? Did we enter the U.S. legally? Were these questions I even knew to consider? Of course not. I was merely a child, following my parents as they sought a better future for us. But for the grace of God, or Buddha, we came during a time when the U.S. still warmly opened her arms to us, whispered these words of salvation to our grateful hearts and gave us refuge and a home:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Lady Liberty’s lamp has dimmed this week. The Dreamers’ dreams are being extinguished. Like me, the Dreamers were children when they followed their parents to safety. The concept of legal status and nationhood were nonexistent in our young minds. We only knew when we reached home. And home is here.
As our country turns its back on the Dreamers, Americans like me, I’m heartbroken and angry. There isn’t much difference between me and the Dreamers of today. Look me in the eyes and tell me I don’t belong here. That this country isn’t as much mine as it is yours. Tell me where I should go back to. Tell me what place could possibly feel more like home than this, the only home I’ve come to know. Tell me that I’m less American than you. Turn your backs on me.
Or lift up your lamps and light my way. Speak up for me. Stand with me, your fellow American and Dreamer.