DENVER, Colo. — Sitting around the dinner table, sharing stories, sharing laughter has built a sense of belonging for Chau Phan and her family. She and her family arrived from Vietnam 24 years ago and have worked to build their own "American Dream."
“We came over after the Vietnam War, where my father was in the reeducation camp. Poverty was real, finding a job was extremely hard,” said Phan.
They imagined America as, “a land of opportunity,” said Phan. But, creating that opportunity wasn’t so simple.
“I got lucky when my father applied for citizenship. A lot of my sisters got it through him, because we were under 18,” said Phan.
But her mom, Be Tran, was left out. They couldn’t afford her application right away.
“Her entire focus was on being financially stable, taking care of her family,” Chau explained, translating for her mom. “When you come over from the casualty and effects of war, that's going to be your first priority.”
Years later, the family saved up and helped her apply.
“I think that's kind of part of the immigrant story, especially for a large family like ours.” said Phan. “I have five other sisters, and we all had some, kind of like, part in her application, you know, having to translate, having to help fill out the paper."
Now, they wait, left in limbo, hoping the application will get accepted.
“Recently, like 33 Vietnamese refugees were deported,” said Phan. “My first reaction was like, ‘Oh, no, my mom.’"
That’s why her family is hopeful for President Biden’s new citizenship plan.
“She's ready to kind of have that title and the privilege of what it means to be an American,” said Phan of her mom, hoping the president’s streamlined plan will include her in it.
The citizenship bill would offer an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants who passed a background check and paid taxes, impacting more than 11 million immigrants currently in the United States.
It would expand worker visas so more people could come to America to work and, it would make it easier for spouses and children to join their families already in the United States.
“Even with this bill, it's not the be all end all of everything,” said Chau of the work yet to be accomplished. “Yes, let's push for 11 million people in the United States to become citizens, but let's also stop deportation. Let's stop putting money into the detention camps.”
And Phan is not waiting for this bill to pass to help the immigrant community.
She now works for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, helping people like her mom understand the citizenship process.
“It's literally my duty, and my right, as a citizen to give them the same opportunity that I've had,” said Phan.
Phan’s fellow advocate, Ian Pham, said this bill has renewed the community’s interest in the citizenship process, but the process is still extremely difficult.
“I think it's finally time that this immigration bill streamline the process for these 11 million people who need citizenship, who deserve to stay with their families just like everyone else that came here before them,” said Pham.
Phan is waiting and working for the day her mom has the security of citizenship, hoping this plan will help her get it.
“This is this is why I'm here, and I'm not going to stop,” said Phan. “President Biden, we are holding you accountable. You have a long way ahead of you and the community is watching."