In Search of the American Dream
My Father's Amnesty
Shawn Hu is
attorney of the
of Shawn Hu
in Chicago and
publish. If you
have a story
to tell about
a loved one,
a friend, or
it to us, along
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
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
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.