By almost any measure, Caroline Vang is a typical young American woman. At 18, she dresses, talks and acts the part of a bright teenager ready to blossom into adulthood.
Though she was born in France, “I guess I think of myself as an American,” she says.
Like her entire family, Caroline’s future in this country is in doubt, thanks to the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s failure to deal with her father’s application for political asylum in a timely manner.
She lost her rights to be dealt with as a minor in any immigration proceedings when she turned 18. “And that leaves her with no form of relief whatsoever,” says attorney Jason Peltz.
Caroline Vang is in no-woman’s-land.
Caroline, who came to the United States with her parents in 1989 at age 5, accepts what is happening to her with dignity and grace, but not without real worry.
“I think about it every day,” Caroline says. “Sometimes I cry. I don’t want to go back. I like it here. I have my friends here.”
Her greatest concern is for her brother, 12, and her sisters, 14 and 6. She says her siblings are not fully aware of the consequences of next May’s deportation hearing.
“I try to be positive about this,” Caroline says. “I don’t want to be all sad about it. I’m hoping for the best. But what about my brother and sisters? They don’t speak French. They’re going to have to start all over.
“My sister’s just starting 9th grade. My brother, I think he’s going to be just furious. He loves his friends; he loves his life here. There’s a lot of stress, especially for my parents.”
She has not spoken to many of her friends about her predicament.
“I’ve only told my two best friends. I think it’s embarrassing. You don’t want people to talk to you like you’re an illegal alien. It’s kind of hard to talk to even my best friends. I think they were, sort of like, shocked. But they try to be understanding about it. They were, like, worried.”
Caroline is a freshman at Macomb Community College. She hopes to study photography. But that hope, like much of what her family has worked for during the past 13 years, is out of her hands. She accepts that.
“I think I’m going to cry a lot to myself. I’m going to miss America. It’s like, move on. Do what you have to. But it’s going to be very hard.”
Check out the rest of Tom Schram's "Expatriot games" series
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Laos' forgotten "killing fields"
Genocide is far from over in Southeast Asia
INS' legacy of dysfunction
If the United States is a country that loves to hate its goverment, then the INS is our current heartthrob.
Tom Schram is co-chair of the National Writers Union of Southeast Michigan. E-mail [email protected]