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Wednesday
Apr052017

Immigrant among US

I was in high school when I became obsessed with genealogy. While writing a paper about the Salem witch trials, I came across a witness who shared my surname. I knew little about my paternal family history other than we were descended from loyalist.

I am Canadian. Half French-Canadian. Half American-loyalist. There is little to mark me as an immigrant. I am Caucasian. I speak English (and a heavily-accented French). I was raised half-Catholic, half-Protestant. And even though my ancestors first settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the late 1600's, I am a foreigner in my country of residence.

A few weeks ago, I started the process of naturalization to become a US citizen. I first came to the USA as a dependent on my mother's visa. As a nurse, she and so many thousands of other nurses trained abroad obtained visas under NAFTA to work in the USA stemming a shortage of nurses. I attended high school in the USA but returned to Canada for my post-secondary education.

My post-doctoral research years were spent in the Ekker lab at the University of Minnesota under another NAFTA-generated visa. My first job was obtained using an H1B visa and later sponsored me for my green card application.

While I have watched the political process with interest, I had not felt the need to participate until this last year. However, green card holders cannot vote.

Even though I pass for an American, I am keenly aware that I am not - yet. I married an American and have two American-born children. Not having permanent status in the USA makes me a little nervous. Although I wouldn't mind returning to Canada, I have made my life in Maine and want to stay here. I also want a say in who runs the city, state and country.

So when someone asks what good NAFTA and H1B programs serve, I tell them my story. I am an immigrant.

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