Remember you’re family
Selena Ponio | Wednesday, January 17, 2018
I lined up in the U.S. Customs and Immigration line which was, as I had predicted, discouragingly long. While officers drilled the people in front of me on what kind of livestock they touched abroad, I checked my phone.
Suddenly, there it was. I stood in the line for U.S. passport holders, in front of the large American flag waiting to talk to the officers who would give my first welcome back on American soil, yet I was fighting the urge to turn around and go back to the Philippines.
As I waited in line, a news alert popped up on my phone about President Trump using a word to describe countries he contended were unfit to send immigrants to the United States in comparison to other countries.
I stood in that customs line among people who were either returning or visiting the United States for the first time, staring at the expletive that came out of my president’s mouth. An expletive that I had heard only once in my lifetime during my freshman year of college when my mom used it to describe the state of my dorm room, which was buried under half-empty coffee cups and cereal boxes.
But this was not a college student’s messy room. These were countries, homes and people that were blanketed under that unbecoming word.
I was lucky enough to go home to the Philippines over break, my first time back in seven years. My uncle, aunt and cousins took me in as though it had been seven minutes and reconnected me with a country and culture that I had never forgotten, but felt further from as the years piled on.
I saw the house I grew up in, the hospital I was born in and the rooms I used to play in. With every new memory that rekindled the old, I fell in love with a country I was proud to say I came from.
One of the reasons I am most proud to be American is because the only predictable factor among citizens is the unpredictability and variance of their backgrounds. Diversity is celebrated in our history and easy to see, whether I am talking to my bilingual friend who spent most of her childhood in Chile or my friend who can trace her family roots back to the early 1700s to the same area in Pennsylvania that she currently lives in.
When I came home to a president that implied certain countries should not be celebrated or welcomed with open arms, I suddenly felt further from home.
Before my flight back to the United States, my uncle dropped me off at the airport and said, “Remember you’re not a guest here, you’re family.”
To the people who have come from Haiti, African countries, El Salvador and any other country that may have been implied under his tactless word choice, you should never be made to feel anything other than pride from where you came from.
My uncle’s words apply to you as well: You’re not a guest here, you’re family.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.