Thursday, April 23, 2009

Family Across Borders

Visa rules widen the rift between Vietnam and U.S. families:

There's something about family...something possibly socially constructed that makes you want to be there for each other, that makes you feel obligated to be there for each other, in good times and bad. I remember visiting my relatives for the first time in Vietnam 2 years ago. It was my first time coming there, and I remember looking for my uncle. We didn't even know how to find each other because we both didn't know how the other person looked. I just told him I'd have a pink backpack. And it was like that that we met. He on his motorbike and me with my pink backpack. He didn't even know me but he housed me, he fed me, he wanted to talk to me and tell me stories about my dad. I learned more about my dad and his family in those few days with my uncle (my dad's older brother) than I ever learned by talking to my dad in over 20 years. There is something about family that crosses geographical boundaries and shared experiences. After all, they're family.

But to be close as father and son and never be able to see each other again over a few Visa rules is definitely a tragedy. Imagine...You've come to a point where death is rapidly approaching and your only heart's desire and last dying wish is to see your two sons for a last time, but you can't even have that. They're able and willing, but the US government won't let them in. The government has reason for not letting them in because so many people with temporary work visas have permanently stayed in the US...but still, what is ENOUGH REASON to prove that you're going to go back. They have stable businesses and families in the Vietnam. Why isn't that reason enough? Is it because they're not going to contribute to our low paid international work force? That may be a bit extreme but I just can't imagine never seeing my parents again, especially if they were going to pass away.

When I was in Vietnam, Vietnamese students kept asking me, "Why is it ok for you to come here, but I can't go to America?" I never had an answer for them. I don't know why and I still don't have an answer. Because I was lucky and privileged enough to be born in America? Because by chance, I was just born in the right country?

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