March-April 2013

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IMMIGRATION STORIES In Search of the American Dream My Father's Amnesty Chicago Chapter member Shawn Hu is the founding attorney of the Law Offices of Shawn Hu with locations in Chicago and Shanghai. WHAT'S YOUR STORY? VOICE is looking for immigration stories to publish. If you have a story to tell about a loved one, a friend, or yourself, send it to us, along with photos. M He worked hard for his family, his employer, and his community. He bought a small townhouse where my brother and I grew up. He paid his taxes, raised a family, and was a model citizen, just without the naturalization certificate. The year is now 1986. After years of giving and some luck, it was his turn to receive. President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, making my dad and many of his friends eligible for amnesty. The word spread like wildfire among every crevice of the immigrant community: kitchen staff, construction workers, nurses, entrepreneurs. News anchors became mainstays on TV, waiting to get more information about how to apply. "Beginning tomorrow, you can bring your passport to the office located at … ." Could this be real? Most people could not believe the good news. "It's a trap," one man said. "You walk in that office and they'll arrest you!" Nobody had any reason to believe it would be this easy. Regardless, my dad went to the office the next morning. Shawn Hu's father enjoying American life to the fullest. The parking lot was empty. The room was empty. Only three fold-out tables and a handful of uniformed officers were standing in the front. My dad approached the officers and they handed him a packet of information. They said if everything checks out, he will get his green card. "I can't believe it worked," my dad thought. As he turned around and walked toward the exit, the room was still empty. An officer shouted, "Hey! Wait!" Suddenly, my dad's stomach dropped. He couldn't breathe and his palms got clammy. He turned around, stopped, and listened. "Tell your friends this is real! They aren't going to get arrested!" My dad laughed nervously. He told his friends, but they went three days later, just in case. M ARCH/ A PRIL 2013 COURTESY PHOTO by Shawn Hu y father is a citizen of our great country, but before that, he could have been your client or mine. The year was 1982 and my dad was an "illegal immigrant," juggling two jobs in the food industry. During the next four years, he got married and had two children. He did not have "papers," but he had a family and a job, which gave him more comfort (and sometimes more discomfort) than any immigration status could. 23

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