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Teng Lee



Teng's family members were refugees who fled to Thailand after the communist takeover of Laos. Teng was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. His family emigrated from Thailand to Minnesota in 1988. His family brought very little with them, but they did have a bag of immigration documents, including their I-94 cards to enter the United States. The family later obtained green cards. When Teng was nineteen, he applied for U.S. citizenship. Finally receiving citizenship was emotional for him because he was no longer stateless.




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“Teng Lee: My Immigration Story”
My name is Teng Lee and I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. My people, Hmong, escaped into Thailand after the communist takeover in Laos. My family and I entered the U.S. in the year of 1988 from Thailand to Minnesota. Unlike other immigrants, we did not come to the U.S. for economic reason and we did not have a country. We came to the U.S. as political refugees.
My family did not bring anything to the U.S. except our clothes and immigration documents given to us. I remember the white bag with the world. These white bags were given to refugees and inside of them are important immigration documents such asI-94. My I-94 was a very important document because it was proof that I was a legal alien in the United States and the document I needed in order to enter the United States.
After one year of living inside the U.S., my family and I went to immigration for our green card. I remember it was the longest line we had to wait. We suffered the long wait and applied for our green cards that day.
After a couple of months, we received our green cards. I remember my mom told me that my green card is the most important document in the U.S. It was so important that my mom wouldn’t let me take it unless I really needed it.
When I was nineteen years old, I decided to apply for my U.S. citizenship. I took my interview and passed it. The day I took my oath for my citizenship ceremony, I could have sworn that the line went for a couple of blocks in downtown. The judge swore us in and told us that there was three thousand people who became a U.S. citizen that day. After that the judge told us to go to the desk for our Certificate of Naturalization and that we have to give up our green card in order to receive it. I traded my green card for my Certificate of Naturalization. It was emotional to finally become a citizen of a country. My journey of being stateless and without a country was finally over. It was the small white paper, I-94, that gave me the tickle to enter the U.S., my green card to help me get my Certificate of Naturalization, and my Certificate of Naturalization to recognize me as a U.S. citizen.