I’ve been waiting for this presidential election for a long time, and no, I don’t mean for four years. I mean for almost 15 years, because that’s how long it’s taken me to get here. I became a US citizen with dual citizenship a year-and-a-half ago after moving here with my family from Canada in 2005, and the 2020 presidential election will be my first time voting in a presidential election in the US. Even just saying the words makes me giddy (who would’ve thought voting could give you butterflies, right?).
As a Canadian immigrant, a lot of people assume my transition to the US was a fairly easy one — but the reality is, it wasn’t. My family moved here through my dad’s work visa over 15 years ago, and it took us around 12 years of living as permanent residents to even qualify for the citizenship application. There were times the process was challenging, like when we weren’t allowed to leave the US to visit our family, who all still live in Canada, without jeopardizing the whole application process and potentially not being allowed back into the country. Or when my brothers and I had to miss school for our green card interview, where we were taken into a separate room from our parents with a man who asked us questions like “Have your parents ever committed a crime?,” “Have you ever committed a crime?,” and “Have you ever been arrested?” I couldn’t have been much more than 10 years old at the time.
But it wasn’t just these events that made my time as an immigrant in America hard — it was everyday interactions I had with classmates, teachers, friends, and even strangers. For years I was bullied and taunted by classmates, and would be the butt of jokes at school for being Canadian. I was constantly reminded that I didn’t belong here, that I was different, and that I would never quite fit in. As I got older, I’d hear people talk about how immigrants are taking all the jobs in America. In college, I even had someone I considered to be a very close friend tell me if I wasn’t happy here, I should go back to where I came from.
I was left feeling like I didn’t have a home for most of my life. I didn’t feel welcomed in the place I grew up, but I couldn’t go back to Canada because my life was here in the US. Growing up I’ve always had a different perspective from many others around me due to my upbringing, and it isolated me from a lot of people. Oftentimes, I truly felt silenced by people’s anger and intolerance for anything different. I became afraid to speak my mind and felt like my views were automatically deemed invalid because I wasn’t from this country.
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