Immigration close to home

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In The Short Rows Header

Some of the issues surrounding our nation’s struggle over immigration became a bit more personal this year for those of us here at the newspaper.

Staff writer Ryan Kushner, a Pennsylvania native who joined us last summer, was visited during the Christmas holiday by his fiancé, Nhi Tran. She and Ryan came to our house Christmas Eve for an annual family event and we quickly came to know and admire her. Nhi is a native of Vietnam. She and her brother both came to the United States on student visas a few years ago, and that’s when she met Ryan.

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Her brother’s visa is good for several more years, as he is working on a doctorate, but Nhi has completed her bachelor studies in business intelligence and finance and her visa was set to expire.

Nhi and Ryan are clearly meant for one another and planned to marry, but the expiring visa made that a bit more pressing issue. So, a couple of weeks ago, Ryan’s parents traveled from their home in Pennsylvania to Smithfield, together with two of his three brothers. Here, they participated in one of the smallest — and most poignant — weddings I have ever attended.

To this old timer, though, the most amazing aspect of the day was the technology. During both the wedding and a lunch and reception that followed, members of both Ryan and Nhi’s families who could not attend were there, nonetheless. Using two laptop computers and Skype software, Nhi’s parents in Vietnam, her brother in New Hampshire and several of Ryan’s family members watched the wedding vows and then joined us for the lunch and reception.

Nhi’s father, in a gesture familiar to fathers of daughters the world over, sent a written toast that Ryan’s father read. It was one of the most touching testimonials to a daughter I have ever heard and you could imagine the emotions Nhi’s family must have been feeling as their daughter committed herself to a culture and future totally different from her upbringing.

Nhi’s parents couldn’t come to the U.S. for the ceremony and she can’t go home right now and expect to get back into the U.S. But thanks to technology, she and her family can stay in touch.

I’ve been called a troglodyte with respect to my computer skills, and will readily admit to a significant lack of sophistication in that regard, but I became a believer during Ryan and Nhi’s wedding that computers can indeed bring our world together in ways never before imagined.

Ryan and Nhi are busy building a future now, and you may see them around town. If so, welcome Nhi to the U.S. She will eventually have a “Green Card” and someday, I suspect, will become a citizen. In the meantime, she’s already an attribute to this great mixing bowl.