Meet Nhi Tran, whose story should inspire us all

Published 4:40 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A recent survey conducted by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation determined that nearly two-thirds of Americans could not pass the test required to become a United States citizen.

Nhi Tran could — and she did. Nhi became one of our newest citizens last month, and we are fortunate to have her among us.

Nhi is a native of Vietnam and came to the U.S. on a student visa in 2012. She excelled in her studies and graduated summa cum laude from Pennsylvania’s Mercyhurst University in 2016.

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While in college, she met Ryan Kushner, a Pennsylvania native, and they soon fell in love.

After college, Ryan moved to Smithfield as a reporter for The Smithfield Times and Nhi moved to Wisconsin where a company had hired her as a business analyst. Productively employed, she thought she would be able to obtain a Green Card and remain in the country, but Nhi was told that due to a paperwork error by her employer she would likely have to return to Vietnam.

Nhi’s employer, Aurora WDC, thought so highly of her that they hired an immigration attorney who worked to keep her in the U.S.

She and Ryan were planning to marry, and her attorney said her chances of staying in the country would be much improved if they went ahead with those plans.

We loved having Ryan at the paper and when he told us of his and Nhi’s plight, we offered to help with wedding plans. Nhi moved to Smithfield and she and Ryan were married in the Church of the Good Shepherd. His parents and brothers came down from Pennsylvania, and thanks to computer technology, Nhi’s mother and father watched the ceremony from Vietnam via Skype.

All of us at the newspaper fell in love with Nhi while the couple lived in Smithfield. She and Ryan attended our family Christmas Eve party and Nhi even came to the house on another occasion to prepare a Vietnamese dinner for us as a gift.

Nhi had been doing her job remotely from here, but her employer wanted her back in Wisconsin, so the couple moved to Madison, where they still live.

That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Due to cutbacks in immigration staffing, applications were backed up for more than a year. Eventually, she was granted a Green Card and is now Aurora’s senior business analyst.

Nothing short of citizenship was satisfactory for Nhi, however. She began the lengthy process and last month took the oath of allegiance.

I was thinking about writing Nhi’s story when I also learned this week of Linda Zhang, a native of China who has been the chief engineer in Ford Motor Co.’s development of an F-150 electric truck.

Both Nhi and Ms. Zhang reinforce what common sense should be telling Americans — that America needs immigrants. We need their talent, their work ethics and most of all, right now, we need their passion for America and what it represents.

Immigrants don’t take liberty for granted, which we natives seem to be doing in increasing numbers these days. They go through a rigorous orientation program designed to equip them to be productive — and loyal — Americans.

There have to be limits to immigration, but we need a rational policy that recognizes the value of immigrants to the economic and civic well-being of our country. The xenophobia that has marked so much of our political life in recent years is not only shameful; it is harmful to our country’s best interests.

When I learned that Nhi had been granted citizenship, I dropped her a note of congratulations and told her that the nation’s future rests with young couples like she and Ryan.

In one of the nicest letters I have ever received, Nhi wrote, “It has never been as clear as it is right now to me that I am sworn to do my part and carry on the legacy of democracy that the Founders built and generations of Americans have fought to protect.”

With new citizens like Nhi, perhaps our nation’s future is in pretty good hands after all.


John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is