Thursday, June 30, 2011

Decades in the Making

from Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

Sonn Ke’s journey to America began in 1980. She and her six children escaped the brutal Khmer Rouge by trekking through the Cambodian jungle on foot and avoiding minefields at every turn. Eventually the family made it to the Thailand border, where they awaited their fate with 40,000 other refugees.

Five years later, Ke and her children received word that they would be sent to Fresno, CA. There, Ke’s children attended school, learned English, started their own families, and eventually became American citizens.

More than two decades after arriving in Fresno, Ke was the only member of her family left who was not a U.S. citizen. Her son, San Soth, says Ke worried that she would be sent back to her native country if she could not become a citizen.

Thirty-one years after it began, Ke’s journey finally reached its last leg. Yesterday she joined 58 other refugees in an official citizenship ceremony. At the age of 84, a wheelchair bound Ke grasped a miniature flag and was sworn in with her son at her side.

Upon receiving her citizenship papers, Ke smiled broadly and declared, "I'm happy to become a citizen. I don't want to go back to Cambodia."

Are you happy and thankful to be an American like Ke? What does being an American citizen mean to you? Tell us at

Ali Noorani
Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

P.S. Save the Date! The 2011 Keepers of the American Dream Awards event will be held Thursday, October 13th. Stay tuned for more details.

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