An Immigrant Story - One of Many

June is commonly known as Pride Month, but in 2014, it was proclaimed as National Immigrant Heritage Month. Now, we all know that America has a long, problematic history of how it became established as a country. It’s nothing to really be proud about considering we still deal with issues today that stem from these origins, but that shouldn’t deter us from celebrating the people who have shaped and continue to shape the American work ethic – immigrants.

Not every immigrant is the same. We all come from different places, speak different languages, and have different desires. But from my experience, there are commonalities that tie us all together. We have resilience and determination to build ourselves from the ground up. As quoted in the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

Seeing as Father’s Day is coming up, I would like to kill two birds with one stone in this post and share my father’s immigrant story.

As I have mentioned previously, I am Vietnamese American. Both of my parents were born and raised in Vietnam, and they came to the US as refugee “boat people” after the Vietnam War ended. My father fled his homeland in 1980 when he was 16 years old. He told me that he would have had no reason to leave Vietnam if the North had not won the war, but they did, and he was subject to oppressive conditions that were inhumane and unlivable. So, he fled.

I admire my father so much for what he has lived through. His boat endured seven attacks by Thai pirates, and he was one of the lucky ones who survived. Eventually, he landed in Thailand and spent six months at a refugee camp before he was sponsored by a Lutheran church. They arranged a one-way flight to his new home, Chicago.

Eventually, he met my mother and had three beautiful daughters. They both worked extremely hard for the life we live, instilling a strong work ethic in us. My father held the same job he first got when he arrived in America up until the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m sure there are many who share a similar story.

That says something about the structure we have in place that prevents many immigrants from climbing out of the initial position they find themselves in once they come to America. The so-called “opportunities” they are given can easily translate to labor exploitation.

Yet, my father never complained. He simply did what he had to do to survive.

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