When I was fourteen, I came from the Philippines to New York on a tourist visa where my parents intended for me to stay only for a year of school. To stay for a longer period of time, we tried to convert my tourist visa into a student visa but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denied my request. However, I stayed on. In my freshman year of college, I came out as a gay man after years of emotionally and spiritually struggling with it. I knew I couldn’t go back home to the Philippines because I couldn’t exist as myself because of the stigma and prejudice against gay people. But in the US, I could be out and didn’t have to hide the truth about my sexuality. So I decided to make the US my home, except I constantly lived in fear and was always afraid that the INS would catch up to me and deport me. Though I was out as a gay man, I wasn’t out as an undocumented immigrant. But in 1987, I was granted an amnesty through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, becoming a Permanent Resident and later a US citizen.
I don’t have to hide anymore. Becoming a legal resident, I was able to finish my studies. Because of the amnesty, I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a priest and social worker. For my gift of freedom, I made a choice that as long as I live in these United States, I will live my life in service of the people of this country. Right now, our nation has an opportunity at reforming our immigration system and allowing for undocumented immigrants to live outside of the shadows and out of fear. Important pieces like the paths to citizenship and being able to work when waiting for your green card are ways immigrants can be a part of society without feeling completely isolated and afraid. It is my hope that we can continue to be a nation that welcomes immigrants. This is why I support immigration reform.