I consider myself a multicultural person. I am a Vietnamese-American woman, a native of Santa Rosa, California, and a practicing Catholic. I grew up middle-class, studied political science and communications in college, and became one of the only Asian-American women in California to rally for the Republican party. Currently living in Boston, I am an advocate of women's rights, access to education, and the end of the war in the Mid East.
Additionally, I consider myself a patriot. I am a defender of truth, justice, and the American way. What concerns me at the moment is the state of our nation, America the Beautiful. During the last few months, some of my close friends have begun discussing politics quite regularly. My closest girlfriends, a Palestinian-American and a Venezuelan-American, enjoy dragging me into debates regarding the 2012 race for presidency, immigration, healthcare, and education, among others.
It's quite a challenge for me, really. Growing up Asian-American, I never felt like a person of color. The majority of my friends were white, upper-middle class, and I lived in a typical American household with a white-picket fence (don't judge me). I never felt like the token Asian that college friends would constantly refer to me as. I looked in the mirror and I saw Asian features, but never identified with Asian-American culture.
My parents emphasized leaving our Vietnamese culture behind when they immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. They came right after immigration laws became more favorable to Asian people. My mom, while she had the heaviest Vietnamese accent when speaking English, never taught me Vietnamese. My father, an accountant, regularly encouraged me to pinch my nose a bit everyday so it could be fair and pretty like the Korean models he adored. I remember one year, my young brother, Brad, and I discussed our interest in learning Vietnamese over a lasagna dinner mom made. Dad hit his fist on the table, looked at my brother and I, and I vividly remember him screaming that "we aren't boat people". I blame my dad for instilling me with a phobia for Asian-Americans with hyphen identities.
During college, I became more familiar with the diversity that is America. I became friends with other Asian-Americans who actually understood their culture, heritage, and language. I was enamored with Mexican food, sushi, and Indian saris. I studied Spanish in high school and decided to pursuit it in college. My professors encouraged me to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I would stay with a host family for 3 months. I decided to pursuit it. In 2005, I lived in the city of Oaxaca with Guadalupe and Pablo de la Rosa, small-business owners with children. To Guadalupe, I was a china, an Asian. To her teenage kids, I was an American who played soccer in her sports bra every evening with the neighborhood kids.
After graduating with a political science degree from a liberal arts college in California in 2007, I moved to Boston where I would work with a local non-profit organization heavily focused on helping inner-city youth. Two days after arriving in Boston, there was a protest against the Iraq war. I observed the protesters and the diversity in their faces. Their struggle, however, was the same. What I didn't understand was how so many people brought other issues to light during these anti-war movements. Signs that read "Legalize now!" and "Amnesty for all!" popped up quite regularly. Who are we legalizing? The war?
A recent topic of conversation was illegal immigration and the DREAMers, as they've infamously been dubbed. Lucia mentioned that she was "content" that undocumented students would no longer suffer deportations, for the time being, and have the opportunities to attend college. Reema felt that Obama strategically is using the issue of illegal immigration as bait to more closely secure the Latino vote.
In my opinion, I don't think Obama, or anyone for that matter, needs to reform immigration or the so-called DREAMers. While I am an advocate of education reform and more opportunities for students during financial struggles, this is simply ridiculous. How is allowing this group of people to attend college and confidently state that they're illegal a sense of pride for the nation? Where have our values, commitment to U.S. citizens, and the security of our own gone?
I offered Lucia my two cents: Obama needs to focus on pulling out of the Mid East and offer more funds for American citizens, the documented ones, who are interested in obtaining higher education. He also needs to work on healthcare reform and alleviate society of the welfare queens out there. I hate to say it, but there are plenty of people out there living off the backs of many Americans, including my own. We should not have to support the lazy and the ignorant simply because they don't want to work. My dear President, offer them jobs: cleaning staff, janitors, crossing guards, Safeway bag people, anything. However, don't use my tax dollars to support welfare princesses too lazy to look for a job.
If we didn't have the illegal immigration problem, these welfare folks could find a job that many are doing illegally. Don't give undocumented people more reason to continue coming to our fine nation illegally. Don't support the DREAMers or their cause.
Lucia thinks me to be a bit ecstatic at time and says my conservative Republican upbringing is the root of "my troubles", as she bluntly puts it. Reema thinks that my Asian face means I should have to be a liberal, a fan of everything counter-culture. The reality is that my Republican friends consider me very liberal. I support women's rights, civil unions for the LGBTQ community, and scholarships for inner-city youth.
Illegal immigration is creating a fundamental problem in our country for many reasons. 1) Illegal people take away jobs other Americans could use, replacing the need for more funds for welfare, 2) Many don't pay taxes and use plenty of our services, such as education and healthcare, 3) Their presence wastes plenty of tax dollars by supporting their children in public education, welfare, and jails.
If I could choose between Romney and Obama, I would choose neither. Let's be realistic, Romney doesn't care about women. I want the choice to do with my body as I see fit and would dislike it if someone governed my decisions. Obama, while his vision is idealistic, fails to act for the people. Take a lesson from the Republicans and start doing something for the voters who put you in office, Mr. President. Let's start by repealing rights for undocumented students and offer those opportunities to documented American citizens who have the same goals. I know plenty of folks made in the U.S.A. who are equally (if not more) talented than these kids who deserve a spot in college. Don't turn your back on American citizens, Mr. President.
Would American citizens living in a foreign country illegally be given the same opportunities we give these kids?
Reema and Lucia think it's funny that I speak my mind so bluntly. After all, no one expects the five-feet tall Asian-American chick to have an opinion.
Samantha Nguyen is a California-native currently living in Boston and working at a top accounting firm. Her interests include photography, travel writing, Cuban food, and political analysis. She considers herself a 'moderate conservative' with a sprinkle of liberal reason.