Citizenship in the Philippines and the U.S.

Jennifer Chavez is the Executive Assistant to the Head of School at the Manzano Day School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. An immigrant from the Philippines, she loves America and thinks opportunities are endless here. Our conversation covered gender, immigration, and America’s big problem.

Why she’s a good citizen:

I do believe I am a good citizen. I’m self-sufficient. I provide in the world. I don’t need a crutch to survive. I give to charities. I follow the rules and vote. I’m not a drain on society, which I think is a huge problem in America.


Her brother is an exemplary citizen:

I think my brother is an exemplary citizen. He came here from the Philippines and has served in multiple wars. He’s served through all kinds of different things. He’s disabled now, has strokes, but he still has full-time work and keeps his household. He’s proud, very proud to be an American. He’s not judgmental; he accepts differences.

Being a female citizen is quite different in the U.S. than the Philippines:

So much is different as a female in the Philippines. It’s really hard to be a female anywhere. But females are actually respected here (in the U.S.), for who we are and how we are. We’re asked opinions. We’re equal in that we’re not afraid of each other. I think a lot of men in other places are afraid of women. I have an education, I can get a job, go to the grocery store, vote. There, you can’t.

People often don’t realize she’s from the Philippines:

I’ve absolutely been confused as Mexican. I’m always asked, “What do you think as a Mexican?” I can be sarcastic about it. And that’s okay. People forget Americans all bleed the same even if they look different.

Someone told my husband, who’s darker than I am, “Trump was right about you Mexicans.”

Her thoughts on immigration:

It’s a tough question (about DACA recipients). But they’re here, and they’ve been here awhile. They deserve as much opportunity as the people who are born here. They’re taking opportunities Americans don’t want. They’re productive. It’s wrong that people want to take that way. They’re doing it!

They also shouldn’t take their parents away either. They’re improving themselves, their families, and society. There’s not a pediatric allergist here in New Mexico. So if an immigrant comes here who can do that, they’re saving lives.

We need a mindset shift:

We need to accept people for who they are and stop thinking we’re better than other people. We’re different, but we have the same common goal.

What she sees as America’s big problem:

I think we live in a sympathetic society, where we lack accountability. I think it’s very sad. It’s always someone else’s problem. People had a bad childhood, or a bad mom; people always have reasons why they aren’t productive And our society is so sympathetic, this is stroked. You can be this person who this happened to, and it’s okay, people will support you.

From a non-American point of view, as someone who came here from the Philippines, my mom came here to America to be all things she couldn’t be, to get all the things she wanted. She’s accountable for herself. No matter how tough it is, you have to become an adult, become productive.

I think that’s why a lot of people are coming to America. Americans aren’t using all this country has to offer, and we’re upset people are coming here taking it from us. But we aren’t using it.

Do and be all that you can be. My father and brother were in the service. I want them to be proud of all that I’ve done in this country. I want them not to feel like they came for nothing.

Her piece of advice to Americans:

Opportunities are endless. Open every single door. Figure it out. In America, you can do whatever you want.

What it means to be an American:

It’s such a privilege and an honor. I think the compassion people show when they come together is what I’m most proud of.

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