“Documented or undocumented Aliens”. That’s how immigrants are welcomed in the USA. Nothing less than registered or unregistered bastards. It is so amusing to think how the word immigrant turned into such a disrespectful and intriguing one. Although, the foundation of United States has always been greatly influenced by immigration. For hundreds of years it has been the melting pot for many cultures and generations of hardworking immigrants. However, it is now a pot of boiling oil. Once you jump in, you have an ending no different than the forty thieves in Ali Baba and the forty thieves. A tale from Arabian Nights where forty thieves were shown greed of hidden treasure and convinced to jump into big drums and then poured boiling oil on. A fried alien that’s how I thought of myself. Never have I imagined migration to a place would give me an Identity that would be so irreverence. I was now lost. Sank in the ocean of my own questions. Who am I?
My Mother, Father, younger sister and I migrated to the united states on 23rd April 2016 under F3 category visa. F3 category visa is for families who can migrate to the United States together with the permission of permanent residence or green card. A very long process. It all started in 1995 after my grandparents’ immigration. To apply for someone else, the petitioner had to be a citizen either by birth or naturalization first. Luckily, both of my grandparents were legal American citizens. Thus, they applied for their offspring. And that’s how we’re here. It took almost 16 years for USCIS(US citizenship and Immigration services) to accept our applications and after going through an exhaustive background check, they called us for an interview. The day of interview seemed like the day of judgement. Early in the morning all applicants scheduled for the day had to be in the forefront of the gigantic-locked embassy gates just like classy vagabonds. After 5 security check-ins, finally to the interview station. We were handed tickets that had numbers on it. Whenever the number was called we had to immediately report to the interviewer’s window. A shiver moved down my spine, giving me goosebumps. I took a deep breath and started to Zikr(prayer) in my mind. The interviewer made us take an oath that “In my honor, every information that I have provided in the documents are true and not any kind of scam.” Something in me started to make me feel like a prisoner and at that point, I wouldn’t mind sinking in the floor. I wanted it to stop there. However, that wasn’t the end. They pushed us in the labyrinth of questions. If anything looked fishy even for a teensy-weensy bit, They hand you a paper that says “Further investigation required.”They handed us one too. Were we now being accused of skepticism? Maybe. Although, it reminds me of a quote from “Pedagogy of the oppressed”. “We cannot become the subjects, if we entered as objects.” Likewise, my identity couldn’t be more or less than a prisoner counting his/her days and I had no chance to complain about it. That’s when I learned, that complaining doesn’t resolve but turn things into a chaos. Finally, after two years of deliberate halt, the embassy sealed our passports with visas.
After a long 21 hours journey and two transits each for two hours, we arrived in the United States of America. The dreamland of opportunities and freedom. A blow to kingdom come filled our hearts with explosion of joy, and eyes with unfathomable hopes rising higher than any tide. But little did I know what awaited me was mortifying. As soon as we reached the immigration officer’s desk, we were handed four individual documents to sign that read “Registered Aliens” at top of the paper. In the tray of innumerable words, that was the only word that caught my eyes. Thereupon, I froze. I few minutes later, my eyes decided to move on. As I proceeded to the next step, I was asked to answer questions- “who am I?”,“Why did I come to the US?”, “Does the Alien intent to live with the petitioner?”, “Is the Alien registered and acknowledged by the USCIS?(US citizenship and Immigration services)”, “Is the Alien aware of the laws and intend to reside in the US permanently?” I never experienced such severe identity crisis as I was at that moment. I didn’t know who or what I was anymore, for I was now officially declared an alien. Now my identity was promoted to an alien. Which brings me to the issue of Foreign Culture Acceptance is still a matter of contention in a country like USA. It is for sure very out of one’s mind because it is a culture that fancies diversity but not willing to assimilate.
People tend to boast about their ancestry. Globalization has created a new channel where the way of life of various countries exchange effectively. For example: Denim jeans are regarded as one of the most significant items that display “classic Americana”. At this point, almost the entire world is familiar with jeans. It is not unnatural for USA to incorporate something from different country in its culture since that is the foundation of USA in the first place. Americans make an active choice whether they want something or not mostly without even realizing of them making that choice. They do accept the people and their customs almost immediately. Rather, Americans adopt an element from foreign culture and then improve upon them making it their own. Just like they let in immigrants like us in and shape our identities according to their measures. Usually, the third generation of the immigrants are more familiar to the American culture than they are to their native one. Those Immigrants become more American than anyone would admit. I am one of them too. My salwar(pants made of cotton fabric) is replaced by denim jeans now, my tongue rolls out a different language, and most importantly, I now yielded to and got sucked into the new, completely different culture and shaped my identity according to its color. But I was still recognized as an alien every time I was positioned beside an Americans
Immigrants are a part of this culture now. And that’s what makes USA the juggernaut as we see it today. Think about not having China-towns in major cities, think about not celebrating St. Patrick’s holiday, imagine not having Eiffel Tower, the great pyramids and sphinx of Egypt in the Eiffel tower. The exotic and delicious foods from all around the globe. These are the essences that gives USA its identity and makes it so special that it is sanctioned as the best country in the world. Imagine for once, people of all ethnicities got completely under the spell of being Americanized. Can you envision the same USA as you do today? Would it be in the spotlight anymore? Not to mention about the hypocrisy it would be to give up one’s own culture. It is not less than neglecting your own mother who held you in her womb for ten months, birthed you, nurtured you, abandoned everything and made passel of sacrifices in every step of her life just to raise you. This matter gets a more notable issue to focus on when you are in a place, specially a student of a dejectedly diverse educational institution. In a class of 40 students, there’s approximately 5-7 students who hail from different regions. Friends of different ethnicities who grew up in different culture. And that difference makes it special. The beauty of diversity is what gives the institution its unique identity. Just like mine. My background, my culture, my colour, my name, my immigration, my difference shaped me into Me. I am, different and I bring diversity to this country and its culture. That’s my Identity.
Albeit, many different aspects played very important role in shaping my identity, However, my migration to the United States played the most powerful one. It constantly prodded me to discover who I am and how it shaped my identity. I have pledged my allegiance to the American flag. I obliged by the American laws and customs. I agreed, consented and dispensed myself to the American custody. I have adapted to the American culture. I have engaged my efforts in the development and prosperity of this country. I am an American now. A Bangladeshi-American in specific. And nobody should have the right to call me an Alien. For my difference is my identity and it makes me “ME”, certainly not an Alien. However, that’s what I’ll always remain to them.