Via the newstab (thanks, KXB!) there’s an article on thirteen-year-old Kunal Sah of Green River, Utah, who will be representing the state in the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May. Kunal’s story is unlike those of other brown spellers we usually hear about. His parents were deported last year after living in this country legally for sixteen years.
According to the article:
Ken and Sarita Sah were deported back to India last July after 16 years residing legally in this country. Ken Sah came to the country as a student, and later applied for asylum because the region of India from which he came was experiencing religious violence. Then Sah waited for an asylum hearing for nearly 10 years. Had 10 years passed without a hearing, Sah would have been granted automatic asylum. But three weeks shy of that 10-year window, he got a hearing, and was denied asylum. He appealed until he ran out of appeals last year. Tougher immigration laws after 9/11 made his request for asylum more difficult. He and his wife ultimately lost their battle to remain in the country.
Kunal, however, was born in the US, so he’s a citizen. His family owns and operates two motels in Utah. Kunal is currently staying with his uncle, who’s also overseeing the family business in the Sahs’ absence. The irony of this story, however, was not missed on a local journalist:
Patsy Stoddard, the editor of the Emery County Progress newspaper, describes Ken and Sarita as model citizens. “Our governor went to India to bring back a baby,” she says. “And yet here is a family torn apart, and nobody is doing anything about it.”
Regardless of anyone’s views on the immigration process, my heart goes out to Kunal.
In a telephone interview, Ken Sah is matter-of-fact. “It’s very tough. He calls every day, and he cries,” he says of his son. “He needs to live with his parents. But he doesn’t have that. We try to make him feel better and stronger.”
And yet Kunal is undeterred:
While his classmates enjoy the spring-like weather, Kunal is learning the hotel business and studying. “Mainly, I just want to finish school in this country. I want to go to Harvard,” he offers. “My classmates have more freedom than I do. But I spend my time educationally and want to gain more knowledge…When I am missing them, I mostly just go to spelling study,” he says.
What is most haunting for me is the note that he posts above his desk to motivate himself:
If I study and win the National Spelling Bee, and go to a good university, I will benefit myself. But if I don’t I will regret myself for my whole life.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee will commence May 31, 2007. Best of luck, Kunal.