Immigration process complete, Phung family reunited
MT. PLEASANT (GTNS) – After 13 years, 12 members of Father Joseph Phung’s family have successfully immigrated to the United States from Vietnam.
“They are safe, exhausted, but safe,” said Phung, priest at St. Alphonsus Church in Mt. Pleasant. “Now they can laugh. Now we have another journey ahead of them.”
Phung has been in the U.S. by himself since 1993 and has been working for the last 13 years to help his family members get into the country. On June 17, he was able to greet them in Chicago and welcome them home.
“I went to Chicago to pick them up, and I knew the flight landed at 10:30 a.m., and I waited until 1:30 p.m. and I didn’t see any sign of them,” said Phung.
After a couple of trips to the immigration office at the airport to check on the status of his family members, Phung was finally reunited with his family.
“I was waiting and finally there is my nephew pushing a cart out,” said Phung. “I didn’t recognize him because I hadn’t seen him in six years and I didn’t realize it was him. Then he came up to me and said ‘Uncle!’ and it was such a relief. When he said that everyone was on their way, it was such a good feeling I was able to relax. It was amazing.”
Now that his family is here, Phung has made preparations to assist them in their adjustment to the new surroundings.
“The first step is that they are here, which is good,” said Phung. “The community has given us a lot of support and I thank them. I put my family at the rectory so I can help them start to understand some of the culture here. If I put them somewhere else it would be difficult for me to get back and forth, but with them at my house I can assist them whenever they need me. I tried to provide them with Vietnamese food because American food is still new to them, they will have to get used to it still.”
Phung said he is also working toward getting green cards for his family members to help them get to the next part of the journey in America.
“When we get the green cards, then they can take the test and get their drivers’ licenses,” said Phung. “If they can drive, then we will be OK. Then they can get jobs and work. Some of the children will want to go to school in August. It will be a long journey.”
While there is a lot of work and adjusting still to happen, Phung’s family has had a long journey to America.
“Back in 2001, I sent the paperwork to the immigration department to sponsor my two younger siblings, my brother and sister and their families,” said Phung. “After the paperwork was approved they stayed there for 10 years.
“The scary part was, I sent the paperwork for my brother and sister to the immigration department both in the same envelopes and somehow it had been separated,” continued Phung. “They sent my brother’s paperwork to Vietnam and my sister and her family’s paperwork was processed right here in America. No one said why, just the mysterious ways of doing things in the immigration department I guess.”
Phung found out after this past Christmas that his sister and some of her family members had been accepted to go on to the next part of the immigration process and interview with the immigration department, but his brother had not yet been approved.
“My sister and her family were able to interview, so that was a thrill. But what about my brother? There was no sign of anything,” said Phung. “I called the representative’s office and they checked and checked and finally I called directly to homeland security and they said my brother would be interviewed that day.”
Aside from the obvious joy of having his family finally here, Phung said he is also grateful for the amount of support he and his family has received from the community.
“People in this community are very supportive, and I feel blessed,” he said.