Sh!t Legal South Asians Say To Me

I’m speaking at the South Asian Awareness Network (SAAN) conference this weekend in Ann Arbor, to a bunch of awesome young people.

I’ve charted a workshop that starts with exploring why people migrate, how they may become undocumented (including what that means), and created a timeline of South Asian immigration to the United States, which I hope people find fascinating. I’m hoping students place their own family’s immigration stories on the timeline.


While generally supportive, these are just some of the statements I’ve heard from my own community over the past few years. It’s rather nice:

  1. “What, you aren’t smart enough to hold a visa?”
  2. “Everyone knows about aging out. Your parents didn’t plan well. It’s their fault.”
  3. “You seem angry at the U.S. That doesn’t reflect well on our people.”
  4. “Your parents didn’t strike it rich in the U.S.? Maybe you should all go home.”
  5. “Being undocumented is a character test. Think of it as a life lesson and you’ll go far.”
  6. “I have a visa that took a lot of work. HOW is it fair that you get to go to school without one?”
  7. “I can’t go to high school here on an F-1, but you can as an undocumented person? HOW is that fair?”
  8. “So how exactly does someone become undocumented?”
  9. “Your victimhood won’t get you anywhere. You just need to work hard. Become a doctor or engineer.”
  10. “If you were a guy, I’d marry you” or “If you are less like a guy, I’d marry you.”
  11. “You just make us all look bad. Be quiet and don’t say anything about your status.”
  12. “I’ve never met an illegal Indian person! Wait, you are really only half illegal anyway.”
  13. “Fiji is a great place. I mean, I haven’t been there but I’ve heard great things. Just go back.”
  14. “Why don’t you just immigrate to another country, like Canada?”
  15. “Look, you are pretty educated. Supporting you distracts from more genuine cases of injustice.”
  16. “Your story just doesn’t add up. What did you do wrong?”
  17. “You aren’t even really South Asian.”

Additionally, during my own research, I found out that it it is the 100-year anniversary of University of Michigan’s ban on South Asian students! This is on the timeline, among other awesome newspaper clippings that describe “Hindoos” as undesirable immigrants:

The timeline shows us that South Asians are part of a long history of exclusion directed towards people who are not “white persons.” We’ve certainly come a long way and yet there is still much work to be done. Today, we are still banning certain students from our institutions of higher learning because of where they were born, which is more acceptable than exclusions based on race.

I hope everyone has a blast even in the snowstorm!

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