My name is Padma, I’m 18 years old and I’m a senior in high school.
When I was 8 months old, I took a life changing flight from India to the Boston Airport. This was my first flight ever, and was the beginning of my life in America—the only life I’ve ever known. Growing up, I always saw myself as every other American. My friends and I played in our backyards together, learned in the same classrooms, and our parents were friends. I grew up speaking English and doing every normal American activity. I was on a soccer team, I played with barbie girl dolls, and I enjoyed fast food.
However, when I was in middle school, my parents explained that I’m not like every other American. As an immigrant, I remained on a H-4 visa dependent on my mom’s work, even though we applied for residency in 2013. I realized living on an H-4 visa, waiting in an endless line for a Green Card, has major drawbacks. Every 2 or 3 years, we have to file for an extension for our visa, even after almost 20 years of living here. Each time is anxiety-inducing for me and my family, as we never knew if we will be denied and sent back “home.” This was particularly scary for me because I had no memory of India, yet it is technically considered my place of permanent residence. Becoming a teenager I learned that I can’t work, get a normal driver’s license, or accept scholarships for college. Worst of all, I could be deported at age 21 if I don’t switch to another visa and start the immigration process all over. Even if I do switch to a student visa, I would be considered “international,” and my whole existence growing up in America wouldn’t matter. I would be switching to the same visa my parents came to America on 18 years ago.
My best friends talk excitedly about going to college, earning money over the summer, and even voting. I can’t do any of these things, despite us having the same experiences in America. I hope one day I can truly call the only country I’ve ever known “home.”