Adapting to American Life (An Immigrant’s Experiences)

free essayAntonio is a Filipino immigrant who has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. When he came to the country, he was only 12 years old at that time, and although Antonio was old enough to see what was going on, he could not understand at the time why he was being sent to a new country away from home and all his friends and what he was used to. Antonio stated that on the day of departure, he was suddenly woken up by his mother who gave him a jacket, because as he remembers, his mother pointed out that the cold season had started where he would be going. Antonio could not understand what his mother meant by that, and then he was put in a cab, and the next thing was that he found himself at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, one of the Philippines’ airports. He also remembers his mother introduced him to an uncle at the airport before he got on a plane for the first time. He says he can now comprehend that after his life in the United States, his mother wanted him to have a better life than she could ever give him back in the Philippines. His mother’s parents had earlier moved to the United States before he was sent there, and as he discovered later, his mother was also supposed to join them but could not. His grandparents had arrived at a new country in search of the American dream, and they had found it, and they wanted it too for the rest of their children, and that is why Antonio was brought to the United States.

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Antonio’s first reactions when he came to the United States as he remembers was that he was confused by the sudden move and did not know what to expect in the new environment. According to him, he was supposed to tell anyone who he had met on arrival as to the reason for coming to the United States was that he had come to Walt Disney world. He sarcastically grinned that he did not even know what Walt Disney world was. He arrived at his grandparents’ home in Mountain View California that is in the San Francisco Bay area. Surprisingly to him, he adjusted to his new home quite quickly, and he loved his new home, family, and culture. He was enrolled in the sixth grade by his grandfather, and he soon discovered that he had an interest in the English language, but the only difficulty that he had to encounter during those early years was that it was difficult for him to differentiate between the formal English language and American slang. Antonio also explained that although he had learned the English language while in the Philippines, he wanted to get rid of his accent. During his middle school years, he remembers when some kids in his school asked him “What’s up?” and he replied, “The sky,” causing laughter among them. Antonio said that although he had some difficulties in grasping the English language and adapting to slang, he put in a lot of effort and he became good at spelling. He added that when he was in high school, he would spend tons of hours watching American television just to copy how several characters enunciated their words. He also said that he would read magazines, newspaper articles so that he learn how to write better. In fact, it was at this moment in his life that through the challenges of learning a new language his high school teacher, Sarah, introduced him to journalism. Antonio said that from that moment on he was convinced that him being involved as a journalist would eventually validate him being in the United States.
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Although the only challenge for him at that time was his struggles with language, he said that he was yet to discover one challenge that would define his entire life until this very day. He explained that one day he decided to head to the D.M.V offices to get himself a driving license since all his friends were getting themselves one. He recalled that he was 17 at the time, and when he got to the office as he was required handed the clerk the green card he had been given by his grandfather as proof of his U.S. residency. Upon studying and flipping the green card, the clerk exclaimed, “This is fake, take it, and I never want to see you here again.” Antonio said that at that moment he was so confused that he did not comprehend what had just happened and he rushed back home to confront his grandfather. He explained that he met his grandfather in their garage doing some work, and he ran over to him waving his green card asking in his native language, “Is this fake grandpa?” Antonio said that he remembers his grandfather being surprised at first with his question, with shame on his face, although his grandfather explained to him that all their documents he had were fake. His grandfather confessed to him to have bought the papers, and he says in one final blow that his grandfather warned him that he was not allowed to show it to any other person. Antonio said that he was devastated, he said, “I did not know what to do, or say to anyone from then on.” However, he says that after some time when trying to come to terms with what had just happened, he decided that he had to convince everyone that he was an American. He said that he told himself that if he was to work hard enough, and he achieved enough, he was going to be soon rewarded with citizenship. At this point in his life is where he started facing the challenges of becoming an undocumented immigrant. He explained that what that meant is that he had to live in fear of being found out on a daily basis. He said that on top of that, he had to learn not to trust the people that were even closest to him about who he is. He also seemed to be at pain when explaining that he does not get to do what other normal people do such as in displaying his family photos on the shelves because he does not want his friends or people ask about them. Sometimes, he has also had to reluctantly and painfully, according to him, to do things that he knows are wrong and unlawful just to hide who he is.

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With a new reality of his life, Antonio explained that he decided to work and that he had to get a Social Security number. He recalled that his grandfather had already managed to get one for him, because as he explained his grandfather had always taken care of everyone in his family. Soon he had started joining the pieces of how he came to the United States in the first place. His grandfather also revealed that the supposed uncle that brought him was not a relative but a coyote. His grandfather told him that he had to pay a huge sum of money so that he would be smuggled in the country having a fake name and passport. Antonio recalled that he never saw that passport againб and that he has always assumed the coyote has always had it. He also stated that his grandfather got him a new Filipino passport, and a student visa, all of which were fake together with the fraudulent green card. The fake passport is what he remembers his grandfather used to go to the local Social Security Administration to apply for the Social Security number and card. He said that at the time that his grandfather imagined him working in some low paying job, and that he had hoped that he would marry an American girl one day so that he would get his real papers. He recalled that because even the menial jobs required documents, and the documents he had were sufficient then and that his grandfather recommended that he seek many documents because according to him it is better to have more documents.

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Antonio said that he had gotten several part-time jobs over the years as well as several part-time jobs. He stated that he had also gotten a chance to land some few full-time jobs but his employers never seemed too concerned concerning his original social security card. He said that when they asked for it, he showed them a photocopied version which they readily accepted. Over time, he also pointed out that he began to check what he called the federal I-9 employment form on the citizenship box. Antonio claimed that for him to claim full citizenship was easier than declaring permanent resident green card status on the form, because he would have been required to provide an alien registration number. He explained that the deceits he had to perform were difficult and challenging for him, because he had to carry an immense guilt and worry of being caught. Therefore, he said that he had to keep doing it, because it was the only way to survive for him.

Antonio also had another challenge when he was in high school concerning his sexuality. He recalled that one day he accidentally confessed that he was gay after some discussion of the topic in class. He pointed out that his grandfather also found out about that, and it led him being kicked out of the house. His grandfather was Catholic, and as part of the religious affiliation, he believed that homosexuality was a tremendous sin. Secondly, he said that he was making matters worse for himself, because he was supposed to marry an American woman so that he would get a green card. Antonio said that eventually, they were able to reconcile with his grandfather. He further said that although it was tough for him to come out as gay, it was less of a task than disclosing about his legal status, so he had to keep his secret hidden.

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Antonio said that he had a series of full-time jobs as a journalist, and that he continues to pursue his ambitions. He said that his grandparents have always been very scared of him, but he told them that he was now responsible for his actions, because he was different from the confused teenager that his grandfather had first gotten a job. He said that he knew what he is doing now, and that he knows it is not right, but he has nothing else to do, because he believes he is an American. He also said that he has been paying his state and federal taxes although he has been using an invalid Social Security card and writing misleading information on his employment forms. He said that it was better for him to stand on his own than depending on his grandparents or going back to a country that he barely remember. Antonio concluded by telling me that many people are not who we always think they are but that does not mean that they are any lesser than anyone of the rest of the people. He said that the United States is his home, and that he considers himself as an American.

He said that amidst the challenges that he has had to encounter, he had learned a lot from this country, and he is grateful for all the people that have helped him to pursue his dreams. He said that he was grateful to his grandparents, because they provided him with a chance to have a better life. He also stated that he was thankful to many people that provided support for him throughout the years, because they have made his experience worthwhile. Antonio further said that his values might have been forced to change, because he has had no other option all his years, but while they have presented some positive meaning in his life, they have been daunting for him. Antonio said that he had grown tired of all the hiding he has had to endure, and because so many people have been willing to share their stories he will have to make things right so as to secure his future. Further, he said that he had been angry towards his mother for a very long time because of his experiences from when he found out that he was an undocumented immigrant. However, he said that his experience made him who he is today, and it gives him the morale to right the wrongs that have developed throughout his life.