Mei Yu Huang first came to the United States from Taishan, China, on the coast of the South China Sea. This conversation was translated by Allen Wong.
I came to the United States 22 years ago from Taishan, in Guangdong province. I came looking for a better life. I have three children. My second daughter sponsored my husband and me and we lived with my daughter for our first eight years in Chicago, in a three-bedroom house. It wasn’t easy. I could not speak any English, and it was very difficult to get around. I found work here as a tailor, and today I am retired.
My three grandchildren were born here. They are citizens, but they are too young to vote. When they are older, I will tell them that in China there are no elections. They shouldn’t take voting for granted. I wanted to become a citizen so that I would be able to vote. I wanted to vote for the president, for the governor and for the mayor. I want to be prepared, and to help choose good ones.
I became a citizen 17 years ago. I studied for the citizenship test with the help of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) where I learned some American history and I learned about living in the United States. Learning the language was the hardest part. I studied very hard. I listened to English language tapes for 8 months, staying up every night until midnight to study. I took the test in English and I passed it. I am still taking ESL classes. The CMAA teachers are very good. As I told my cousin, don’t be nervous, don’t be afraid, join the citizenship classes, and become a citizen. My cousin said if it had not been for me pushing him, he might not be a citizen today. When I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen, I was very nervous, but I was also excited and happy. The first time I voted I went with my husband to the Truman College in Chicago with the CMAA students for early voting. The United States has given me freedom. As a citizen now, I feel a responsibility to make sure we have a good government.