I'm Not A U.S. Citizen But This Is My Country — And I'm Not Leaving

I live here. This is my home.

I'm Not A U.S. Citizen But This Is My Country, Too Courtesy of the author

I don't know how long I stared at my computer trying to find the right words to write. As of November 9th, 2016, Donald J. Trump won the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton, and days later I was still processing that.

Out of all the things Trump was campaigning for in the year before the election, the one that stood out to me the most was his stance on immigration. Why? Simple: I'm an immigrant. Granted, I came to the country legally but still, that doesn't change the fact that I wasn't born here. And that doesn't make me a U.S. citizen.


And because I lack that slip of paper that says I'm a U.S. citizen, I'm not even considered American. But ... why not? I've lived here for more than a decade, went to school here and graduated with my B.A. here, made friends, and had relationships here. I Live here. This is my home.


But that's not enough to make me American, is it? Of course not. How foolish was I to believe that?

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Because all I can think of are the times when people are surprised to find out I moved here when I was 14 because I spoke English so well (thank you?) when they ask me if I'm planning on becoming an official U.S. citizen (already in the works) and how, in the past few years, people I've met both online and offline have asked me where I planned to run away to when Trump became president.


I remember joking about running away to Canada or even moving back to my home country (I won't get into the specifics of why I don't want to go back there, at least not right now). But this is not a joke anymore. I had no say in that election. I couldn't vote and I relied on the rest of the country.

I grew up being told that America is the country of dreams, where anything is possible. My parents left behind their loved ones, including me, in pursuit of those dreams. And later on, as a naive 14-year-old, I left my entire life and followed them here to pursue my own dreams because I grew up believing that America will make my dreams come true.

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And it did. America did make my dreams possible. Here I am, writing on this platform telling you all this right now, aren't I?

Yes, Trump's campaign was about illegal immigration and I came here legally, so I should have nothing to fear, right?

So, tell me, why are other people of color who are U.S. Citizens, who were actually born here, still victims of hate crimes? Why are there still cases of American-born people experiencing racist acts, being the butt of racist jokes, and being continually harassed to leave their home?


All because they don't have light skin, have an English-sounding name, or dress "normally"?

Why are people still skeptical of my English skills, despite having received high marks in my high school English classes and graduating with a journalism degree? Why do I and my Asian girlfriends continually get "Ni hao!" and "Konnichiwa" yelled at us when we're out trying to have a good time? (We're not even Chinese or Japanese!)

When I was part of a tour group to the Grand Canyon, I had a conversation with another Asian woman and when I asked her where she was from, she said, "California," and I replied with, "I'm from New York," and neither of us batted an eyelash. But later on, an older gentleman asked us what country we were visiting from, not, "Where are you from?" but "What country are you from?" Why is that?

Why do I constantly have to prove that I belong here as much as the rest of them?


If my American-born friends are still continually asked when their visas expire and how their English is so good, what about the rest of us who don't have even have that as a retort to the racist jokes and comments?

And you know what? I refuse to be intimidated and bullied out of the country that I love and have called home for more than a decade. I'm an immigrant woman of color. I'm not a U.S. citizen and I don't know if a Trump presidency will affect my efforts to becoming one. But I'm going to do what immigrants do best (contrary to Mr. Trump's belief).


I will continue to hope. I will continue to hope, dream, and work for a better future — for my family, for myself, and for my country.

I'm not a U.S. citizen, but this is my home, too. And I'm not budging.

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Caithlin Pena is a writer and editor for YourTango. Her work has also been featured on Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Psych Central, and BRIDES.