I was certain that there was a category for me, but there wasn’t! I was just a number, and so are 11 million other undocumented immigrants in this country.
I was a diplomat’s daughter and grew up in the US during my father’s two diplomatic terms, last being the Consul General to the United States from what was then Yugoslavia. I arrived for the first time at the age of 4. I still remember the smell of my first grilled cheese sandwich and the awesomeness that Barbie’s legs could bend. It was magic!
At 9, back in Belgrade, I asked my father when his term was over so we could go back Home. He responded, “Be quiet, this is your home.” We returned to the US when I was 15 for another diplomatic term and then I returned again for grad school after my dad’s passing in my twenties. In almost every way that counted, I was an American—until an expired visa and a twist of fortune landed me in deportation proceedings, surviving FBI raids and police checkpoints and fleeing a predicament.
I fought long and hard first for my life itself, then for the right to live here. My fight was inspired and fueled by the right this country gave me, an ‘illegal’, under the Constitution, I had a VOICE and with that a CHOICE. It gave me the RIGHT TO FIGHT.
I won my independence and on this harrowing journey of “had it all and lost it all” as you heard me rap (and yes I can I earned my street cred) I met the best version of ME! I owe it all to the HOME of my heart!
Being American is where you were schooled, formed, lived, what is in your heart and how you give back!