Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DREAM Now Letters to Barack Obama: Chih Tsung Kao

By kyledeb
Crossposted from Citizen Orange
The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service. With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

Dear President Obama,

My name is Chih Tsung Kao. I am 24 years old and am now currently living in Taipei, Taiwan awaiting military service. This is not what I had planned for my life as I entered high school, but it was drastically altered when I found out that I was undocumented at 17.
I arrived in the US on a visitor's visa when I was about 4 years old. My mother had obtained a student visa for me shortly afterwards and moved me to Boulder, Co to live with my grandparents. By the age of 13 my grandparents decided they wanted to retire and move to California. Being raised in Boulder, the only city I've ever known, I decided I wanted to stay and found a friend's parents who would take me in.

I've learned a lot about what it is to be American and to grow up being American from this family. They have been more family to me than my own biological family. I had not lived with my biological parents since I was brought to the US. When I found out about my expired student visa status in high school, I was both ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn't call myself an American. I had felt every bit American as my peers in school, but was not allowed to call myself one due to my lack of papers. My grandparents aren't to blame. They are older and don't know how the system works.

Actually, I'm not too sure a lot of the American citizens know how the system works, how intricate, and how complicated it is to become a citizen and have the freedom that is granted them for just being who they are. My life had two faces then, an American kid doing what kids do, and a depressed individual, feeling alone and unwanted by the country he felt was home. I had never let any of my friends know of my situation until a month before I left for Taiwan.

I graduated from The Colorado School of Mines with a Civil Engineering degree in the spring of '09, and have since decided that I can no longer wait for my life to take a turn for the better by becoming a citizen. I wanted more than anything to be a productive member of society, paying back my debt to society as a working member of the engineering sector. I don't know if I will ever get a chance to fulfill that now.

Currently, I am living in Taipei, and awaiting mandatory military service for all male Taiwanese citizens. Though I know I must fulfill my duties, I feel that this is yet another year of my life delayed, both personally and professionally. I am currently looking for ways back into the United States, but I fear the ten-year bar for overstaying my "welcome" in the US. Due to this bar, I have also considered immigrating to Canada to start a new life in a country as close to the US as possible. Though it may be too late for me, there are still tens of thousands of students and young adults that can benefit greatly from the passing of the DREAM Act. They, if anything like me, simply wish to be contributing, upstanding citizens of the country they know as "home".


Chih Tsung Kao

The "DREAM Now" letter series is inspired by a similar campaign started by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The letters are produced by Kyle de Beausset at Citizen Orange with the assistance of America's Voice. Every Monday and Wednesday DREAM-eligible youth will publish letters to the President, and each Friday there will be a DREAM Now recap.

Approximately 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools every year, who could benefit from passage of the DREAM Act. Many undocumented youth are brought to the United States before they can even remember much else, and some don't even realize their undocumented status until they have to get a driver's license, want to join the military, or apply to college. DREAM Act youth are American in every sense of the word -- except on paper. It's been nearly a decade since the DREAM Act was first introduced. If Congress does not act now, another generation of promising young graduates will be relegated to the shadows and blocked from giving back fully to our great nation.

This is what you can do right now to pass the DREAM Act:

1. Sign the DREAM Act Petition
2. Join the DREAM Act Facebook Cause
3. Send a fax in support of the DREAM Act
4. Call your Senator and ask them to pass the DREAM Act now.
5. Email kyle at citizenorange dot com to get more involved

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