Order to Leave the U.S.

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

The letter from the INS declared my father to be unlawfully in the U.S. and ordered him to leave. It was another letter from home that brought the order upon him. Dad, a seaman, had jumped ship in Portland in 1955. He made his way to upstate New York working in many Chinese take-out restaurants. In those days, he said, soy sauce came in little glass containers which he refilled every night, unlike in packets that we know of now. One day, needing a haircut, he made the dangerous trek to Chinatown and to an apartment shared with friends. Those were the times where INS was aggressively and randomly cracking down on illegal immigrants. They stopped people on the streets, entering apartment tenement buildings, knocking on all doors, and bursting through when anyone answered. In this situation, people hid in the dark. But for Dad, in a moment of weakness, he left the kitchen light on to linger over a letter from Mom who had been left behind in China while Dad worked in America.  Fierce knocks rained on the door, angry muffled English heard outside, and mad scrambles to turn off the lights. Too late. The kitchen light through the bottom of the door gave INS agents the telltale sign that someone was home. Dad was arrested and ordered to leave the United States. But, he was not ready to go back to China. Instead, he went to Singapore and eventually returned to the U.S. His simple goal was to make as much money as he could to support his young family like many other illegal immigrants. 

By Elaine

Place(s): New York, Portland, China, Singapore

– Gabriella Chu, Seoul Foreign School, 1882 Foundation Me + 3 Fellow

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant