30 Years an [North] American

Its a bit disconcerting to be in Karachi celebrating 30 years of immigrating to the United States. Yes, you read that right. I was a little under three years old when my mom and I migrated to the United States. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Thirty years later, here I am celebrating my cousins wedding and my having left Pakistan 30 years ago, in Pakistan.


If you don’t know, then it helps to understand that my path to the United States started with something the Federal government rolled out after the Immigration Reform act of 1968. This legislative genius struck down the xenophobic barriers- policies really- that prevented non-Western Europeans from getting access to migration status to the US.




Its disconcerting because the feelings I have are of irony, comedy, and reflection. That I find myself “celebrating” this as a milestone when I can’t even recall ever recognizing that my 20 year “anniversary” had passed, and most definitely not my 10 years of being in the States. The dislocation seemed more real back then, but now its not like that. Being back in Karachi, I feel more out of place then I have in my life. Things are familiar in an odd way, yet completely strange.


At 30, it feels like a celebration of sorts. To quote The Life of an American Teenager, “[life in America] is like a drive by, you’re happy to have survived.” And I think at 30 years of immigrant life, I feel like I know how to survive as an [North] American, that I am an [North] American regardless of how others question that identity or my patriotism.


Being in Pakistan also helps solidify this feeling of belonging to [North] America. Pakistan is not my home, and it never was. Too much of my life had been spent in the States, that the very fiber of my character is molded by that experience. I have such a hard time with things I see in Pakistan, the attitude and culture, while presenting itself as “familiar” on the surface, it is incredibly foreign to me.


If Donald Trump has his way (denunciation from the Economist, no less), deporting the nearly 6 million Muslims that call the US their home, then I would end up here in Karachi, Pakistan. Yet, the irony is that while possessing a birth certificate of my Pakistani birth, I can not get even the simplest of government documents, an ID card for entry into a private community, made here.




At the local NADRA office, where I presented my birth certificate, my witness forms with my Grandparents identity card numbers and signatures, along with a copy of my US citizenship papers that state my country of birth as Pakistan, I was unceremoniously told that the documents were not sufficient and that they could be forged. Further, to rub salt deeply into my wound, I was told that my father and mother would have to be present, that they would have to have valid national identity cards, and that I would need my fathers male sibling to attest to my identity.


Maybe its a suspicion of Pakistani Americans, where do their loyalties lie? Maybe the CIA is paying them to infiltrate Pakistan and spy? A thousand what if’s roll through my head. Yet, where I find myself concluding is that I am neither welcome in the US nor in Pakistan, that I am truly stuck between continents, a transoceanic refugee.


If Trump wins and puts forward his masterplan, I don’t think he’s considered the idea that these receiving countries, like Pakistan and Egypt, would take in all these [North] Americans. In Trumps world, he’s always winning, and in that Canada seems to be the solution for us poor homeless [North] Americans, until Trump et al decide to annex it.

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