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Translator: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Krystian Aparta
Four years ago, I almost got deported.
It was a couple of days before my 21st birthday
and I had just come home from a ski trip in the mountains with my college friends.
I remember pulling my suitcase up the stairs
and just as I pushed opened the door to my childhood bedroom,
I heard my dad's voice from behind.
That's when he said four words I'll never forget:
"You don't have papers."
In his hand was a letter from The Department of Homeland Security -
a notice to appear in Immigration Court.
The letter said that I had overstayed my visa
and now had to go before a judge
who could issue me a ten-year bar from re-entering the only home I know.
How do you prepare yourself for the realization
that you are less than legal?
That suddenly, you're an unwelcome guest in your own home?
Facing eviction.
That moment of truth sent me flying into a new chapter of my life
that I never wanted or imagined I could ever be a part of
because I had heard about those illegal aliens,
how they're criminal, they take our jobs,
they don't even speak English!
But my dad's words exposed me to a reality that wasn't mine,
until suddenly it was.
And suddenly, that illegal alien was me.
Today, I want to take you on that journey of transformation.
To help you understand what it's like to be undocumented in America.
My story starts about 300 miles north of the Montana border
in Edmonton, Canada.
My family didn't have much money,
so in 1995, when I was five years old,
my dad went to the US to search for something more,
while his wife and his two young kids stayed behind.
In Florida, he made five bucks an hour behind a counter of a Dunkin' Donuts.
It wasn't glamorous and the future was really uncertain,
but my dad believed in the American dream.
The American dream is - it's what you tell your kids
or maybe what your parents told you -
that if you just stay in school and if you eat all your vegetables,
you can be anything you want when you grow up.
It's the idea that if you just work hard, you can do great things.
And our founding fathers believed in the American dream.
And did you know that none of our founders were born American?
They all became American over time.
In fact, many of our nation's immigrants were paperless,
but their dreams of prosperity
gave their children and their children's children
the ability to call themselves American.
Many of those children are in this audience.
I was six years old in 1996,
when my dad got me a visa to come here.
And I can still remember learning the words
to the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of school.
I remember when I traded in my snow boots for cowboy boots
and when "washroom" became the "bathroom".
And when I learned "The Star-Spangled Banner"
and how it replaced "O Canada."
I remember how in elementary school,
I spent five years learning how to square-dance,
which, by the way, is not a transferable skill -
I can't take that to Canada with me.
My parents loved it here and they wanted to stay.
So they hired an attorney, filed the paperwork,
they paid the fees and they waited for an approval
that just never came.
We never imagined our attorney would file the paperwork late.
Or that an employer would refuse to sign a document
in the final stage of a years-long application process.
Things went wrong.
But we played by the rules
and 18 years later, we have nothing to show for it.
Not even papers.
You know, handling immigration paperwork is sort of like filing taxes -
it's an adult's issue, not something you would concern the kids with.
So I didn't know I had overstayed my visa,
because I was left out of that decision-making process.
And instead, I focused on other things, like school.
I got accepted to Northwestern University
and when I left for college, my parents came with me
to make sure there's air conditioning in my dorm, which there wasn't.
But also to make sure there were no boys living in my dorm,
which there were.
But that was the last time they ever got on a plane,
because a couple of months later their driver's licenses expired
and that's really when their life of invisibility began.
You know, living in this country
without a valid, government-issued ID card, is hard.
Because while my parents can't renew their driver's licenses,
they still pay car insurance.
They can't open a savings account, can't get a credit card,
can't sign up for Obamacare,
and forget retirement without social security.
My parents have a 20-year track record
of paying income tax, sales tax, property tax,
Medicaid tax, Medicare tax, Social Security tax,
and yet we are still undocumented.
Growing up, I felt the burden of being undocumented
in so many other ways.
I felt it when I took out six figures in loans to pay for college
because I didn't qualify for federal financial aid.
I felt it when my parents wouldn't let me study abroad
because what they knew at the time, and what I didn't,
was that if I left the country, I wouldn't be allowed back in.
I was sitting at my college graduation ceremony in June 2012
on the day that White House launched a new program
that allowed young people brought to the US, including myself,
to get our work permits.
And it was a huge sigh of relief, because before then,
I didn't know what I was going to do with a diploma in one hand
and without a work permit in the other.
But that work permit is a temporary solution
to a much longer-term problem.
Because it expires in two years.
And beyond then, my life is uncertain.
How can you really plan for a life,
when that life can come crashing down at any moment?
It's scary knowing your status is a secret you always have to hold.
That you always have to fear.
So, we hide in plain sight.
We drive below the speed limit,
we stop at every yellow light.
And we try to stay positive,
but it's hard to keep your head down and your chin up at the same time.
I feel American.
I always have.
But every day I'm reminded that I'm not.
I was reminded when I got called in for jury duty a couple of years ago,
and during election season, since I can't vote.
I was reminded a few months ago,
when immigration officers took my dad.
I had to rip up my student loan check
and re-write it to the Department of Homeland Security
to get him released from behind barb-wired fence
surrounding the South Texas Detention Center.
That's a kind of place where you're given a dirty white jumpsuit
and known by your serial number.
How did we get to a point in this country
where 11 million people are living in the shadows?
Eleven million people!
That's the population of New York City and Los Angeles combined.
It is a massive number.
Here's immigration in a nutshell.
About half of the undocumented population came here without authorization -
there's no record of them having crossed the border.
The other half, including myself - we came here legally.
But over time, things like 9/11 made immigration laws more complex.
And so while we waited for our applications to process,
we developed strong ties to our communities.
So we never left.
The numbers are pretty stunning, actually.
About 60% of the undocumented population has lived here for at least a decade.
25% of the undocumented population -
they've lived here for more than 20 years.
Twenty years!
For some of you, that's a generation.
For me, twenty years is a lifetime.
A couple of months ago I went to SXSW, the festival in Austin.
And I went to a panel on immigration reform.
One of the questions that came up was,
what do we do about the 11 million people who are living here without papers?
A senator responded, and he said,
"You know, I wish those immigrants would just go to the back of the line."
So when the floor opened up for Q&A,
I took the mic and I said,
"Senator, what does the line look like?"
He didn't have an answer for me,
because the truth is, there is no line.
It has to do with how old you were when you got here,
the kind of visa you came in on,
what country you're from, what your occupation is,
and a whole host of other factors.
But for people like me, who were brought here when we were children,
there is no line.
And that's why immigration reform matters to so many people.
Because it gives us a chance to get in line.
You know, my dad had the guts
to step into total darkness with nothing but big hopes and a bold dream,
when he made that decision to come here legally,
twenty years ago.
And I'm glad he did.
Because even though no one asked my permission or my opinion
to bring me here when I was six years old,
I know that I'm American in every single way,
except by virtue of birth.
I think that we all owe a debt to those who came before us,
because somewhere in your lineage
someone took a leap of faith to come to America
and they gave you the chance to fulfill your dreams.
So as I walk off the stage today,
I want to leave you with just one simple question.
Will you please help me fulfill mine?
Thank you.


Hiding in plain sight -- my life as an undocumented American | Leezia Dhalla | TEDxSanAntonio

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robert 2018 年 12 月 4 日 に公開
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