Resident Alien

I am a resident alien. My port of entry was Seattle, and my family was headed to Philadelphia. Our visit with extended family and friends in Chicago lasted a lifetime. But, I am still not an American.

Initially it was because of a misunderstanding. My parents had mistakenly been told that their application for citizenship would automatically include their child. Instead of citizenship I was issued a green card (which actually isn’t green, FYI) and retained Korean citizenship.

But no one knew. Resident aliens aren’t green. Resident aliens don’t look a certain way, sound a certain way, act a certain way. However, I learned that Americans must look a certain way, sound a certain way because telling people over the years that I was from Chicago rarely sufficed.

Asian American sisters and brothers, you know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the “Where are you from” conversation that must include an explanation of where you, your parents, grandparents, etc. are from since “Name your all-American city, town, village” couldn’t possibly be the simple answer. Even though I had no recollection of being in Korea (I was 8 months old when I immigrated to the states), America couldn’t possibly be my home.

The lesson was reviewed after the VTech massacre. Seung-Hui Cho was identified as a resident alien, an immigrant. He was not American. In very few instances was he even Asian or Korean American. Korean government officials apologized and sent their condolences. Even though Cho had left Korea more than a decade before, he was still Korean. Even though Cho had lived longer in America than he had in Korea, it seemed that America wanted nothing to do with him, his isolation, his darkness.

Well, apparently Pat Buchanan wants others to believe that Cho and my Korean American brothers and sisters are part of an invasion. His op ed piece scares me, angers me, exhausts me:

“Almost no attention has been paid to the fact that Cho Seung-Hui was not an American at all, but an immigrant, an alien. Had this deranged young man who secretly hated us never come here, 32 people would heading home from Blacksburg for summer vacation.
What was Cho doing here? How did he get in?
Cho was among the 864,000 Koreans here as a result of the Immigration Act of 1965, which threw the nation’s doors open to the greatest invasion in history, an invasion opposed by a majority of our people. Thirty-six million, almost all from countries whose peoples have never fully assimilated in any Western country, now live in our midst.
Cho was one of them.” Pat Buchanan, May 1, 2007

I am one of THEM. I am one of those 864,000 Koreans who have invaded this country.

Days after the shootings, I downloaded the INS application for naturalization. I began to fill it out, and I cried. I’ve waited years, hoping that South Korea and the US would offer dual citizenship because I am a daughter of both countries. My father strongly recommended I complete the application as soon as possible, but I couldn’t. Maybe in the days or weeks to come I will…

I’ve had lengthy conversations over the years about how our identity as Christ-followers should or should not be qualified by our ethnic or racial identities, how loving Jesus means it does or doesn’t matter that we are gendered beings. I am first a Christian, a Christ-follower, a sinner. I am a resident alien to this country and to this world.

But does it matter that I am a Korean American woman?

1 Comment

  1. thaberean May 6, 2007

    I share your anger at Pat Buchanan’s inane comments. I think he’s just using this tragedy as a platform for his views, just like Newt Gingrich did (in that case it was to promote the right to bear arms). Both men came off as sounding idiotic to everyone I know. As you mentioned, it was America that made Cho (along with whatever mental illness he struggled with that was unique to him as a person), not his Korean homeland. Buchanan needs to read how Cho was ridiculed in junior high and high school by American children who mocked how he spoke and repeatedly told him to go home (back to his country). Cho’s not a poster child for anti-immigration; if anything, like the Columbine teen shooters, he speaks to the need for anti-bullying training and sensitivity to differences. BTW, people conveniently forget that Dylan and Klobold were ‘home grown’ killers, as was Timothy McVeigh. Anyway, I am so upset that I’m going off on a tirade…

    Kathy, I’m really writing to tell you I read your comment on my blog and I couldn’t send you an email back, so I posted a response on my blog.

    Loved your book and like your blog.

    Peace.

    Reply

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