My daughter, who is ten years old and in 5th grade, participated in her School's Immigration day and wrote a beautiful letter about her experience that I thought some might enjoy reading.
Immigration day is held each year for 5th graders at our elementry school. They participate by researching their heritage and writing a report about one of the countries in their ancestral line. The event's climax is the day they arrive to America and have to pass through an imaginary Ellis Island. The teachers take on the character of the officers and the 5th graders take on the character of one of their ancestors. They spend the day in reenactment passing through long lines and answering questions.
At the end of the day, each child is asked to write a letter back to someone back home (the old country) about their experience. When I read what my ten year old daughter wrote, I was stunned that a ten year old could grasped the experience as it appears she did. So, in the same light as showing off pictures of your children - I am sharing this letter with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
For this event, she was in character as a Syrian girl (my wife is part Syrian) and she wrote a letter home to her make believe cousin - Elizabeth.
The boat was crowded and hot. I was miserable, but at the same I was glad. I could see the statue everyone was talking about at home. The statue was more wonderful than I had imagined it in my dreams. Her tall body towering over the ferry, her strong arms grasping the torch and a book in the other. She had a crown on her head and was said to welcome immigrants, I was glad.
When we arrived everyone was pushing and shoving me around trying to be the one to get off the boat first. America was not as good as I imagined it, as soon as I stepped off a nightmare I was hurled into another. The Officers were yelling orders to us "Be Quiet!", "Get in Line", and "Don't you know what a line is?". They did not seem happy to have us here even though the Statue Of Liberty was.
I stood in line. I was afraid and pressed against numerous bodies just like on the boat. I was stiff and nervous of what would happen if I did not answer a question correctly. I was afraid they would chalk me for being stiff, then I was afraid they would chalk me for being slumped, officers were chalking people for reasons like that all around me.
When I got into a chair waiting for people to question me on my background. I felt as though I was going to throw up. I got a lady with a sharp face and mean eyes, she shot questions at me like dart flying out of someone's hands into a target. I was the target. I think I did Okay, I think I got 48 points even though I lied for two questions. I did not tell the officer at the health station I had a slight fever and she did not know.
I was shoved into a room where people add up my points. They gave me a certificate for being allowed to live in America. I can't describe how happy I was. I felt like crying! I had made it! I said the oath proudly that I promise to be faithful to America.
Zena (now) Shaheen