Gil Laroya

Gil Laroya

Santa Clara, CA

I was born in Mountain View California, a place that was once known as a small sleepy Pacific state town, but is now known as the center of Silicon Valley. Growing up in a neighborhood which was of mixed race, the idea of nationality never came up in my young mind. But as I grew up, I began to take note of how people treated me. Kids would occasionally make fun of my slanted eyes and my dark skin. At the store, adults would mistake me for someone who couldn’t speak English, speaking to me very-slowly-and-methodically as if I were retarded. My story is not one of illegal or legal immigration, but rather its a story of what its like to not “look American” in America. The sense of alienation, of being “different”, of not belonging, of not being “one of us”. I remember feeling sad, feeling rejected by American society, feeling like I hated not being caucasian. I wished my hair was blonde, my eyes were bigger, and my skin lighter. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be called “illegal” in America. After all, if you’ve been paying taxes, studied hard, obeyed the laws, been a model citizen, and are committed to our beautiful country, then who’s definition are we beholden to? There will always be a part of American society that defines what it is to be an immigrant, legal or otherwise. But laws aside, nothing should prevent someone who is truly American at heart, to be considered American.

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