Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive June 2017 Show 1725 Red Tape: Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Red Tape: Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Akash Patel shares his experiences as a once illegal immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2005.
Red Tape: Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Red Tape: Becoming a U.S. Citizen

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Aspiring Americans

University of Michigan - Akash Patel

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Show Details

Show 1725: Red Tape: Becoming a U.S. Citizen
Air Date: June 18, 2017

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Becoming a U.S. citizen can be an arduous journey that is not only time-consuming, but frustrating because of all the red tape. Yet living inside these United States illegally is even more difficult, and no one knows that better than the young man we first met last summer. Akash Patel became a U.S. citizen in 2015, but for the vast majority of his life he was undocumented, and it is through his experiences that we take a closer look at immigration.

Akash Patel: Being undocumented is very, very challenging – very hopeless sometimes. Because as you’re navigating the immigration system, you’re also going through the public school system, you’re also going through the health care system. And so you’re navigating all these different realms of social life as an immigrant, and it paints all of your experiences that can make you very fearful. You hope that no one asks you about your papers or your status. It makes you hopeless about future for college. You can’t get financial aid. You can’t get a social and work to save up for money. You can’t get a driver’s license. Being undocumented really paints your entire young adulthood until you can figure out how to adjust your status and utilize your potential as a student and as an adult.

Rob: Born in the UK and of Indian descent, Patel grew up as an ambitious student with a secret.

Patel: When we came I was a year and a half old, and we came on visitor visas. And we applied for our green cards, but we were told, “Oh, it will take a few years, it won’t take very long.” But in that time of course, your original visas expire. And what started out as a few years became 16 years. It took that long to get a green card. And then five years after that you’re allowed to become a citizen, so it took me a total of 22 years to become a citizen. I’m 24 years old now, so it’s taken my whole life to get here. It’s bittersweet though because even though my parents and I became citizens, my sister still isn’t because of the immigration issue I mentioned before called “aging out.” She was kicked off the application because of her age. So now we’re trying to figure out a way for her to get her green card and her citizenship. So now she’s going to graduate in two years with her Ph.D. in microbiology, but no legal pathway to citizenship.

Rob: And this prompted Patel to found Aspiring Americans, a nonprofit group that helps undocumented students go on to higher education.

Patel: People aren’t aware of what it means to be immigrant anymore. It is, see, what they see in the news and think that’s what it’s like. They don’t really get to know the neighbors, their coworkers, their friends, their relatives who have lived lives as immigrants and understand what it’s like, that it’s not what you see in the news. It’s not just about quotas. It’s not just about people south of the border. Immigration is a global experience that affects everybody – the most profound of human endeavors. And what we need to do is just empower each other – not, not subjugate each other.

Rob: Now, since we first visited with Akash, I am happy to tell you he has just finished his first year at the University of Michigan law school.