Opinion: Fourth of July 2020 feels different for new U.S. citizen Franco Sui Yuan
Franco Sui Yuan moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to Oklahoma City, then back to Los Angeles, then back to Oklahoma City for sports-media jobs during the past decade.
Each move was unique. Different phases of life. Different stuff to pack.
But there was one constant — his immigration paperwork.
It never went in a box. He always kept it with him. No matter where he was moving or who was going with him, he always had his documentation, a work visa in the early years and a green card in more recent times.
“Carrying that paperwork all the time,” he said, “it just makes you go crazy.”
Sui Yuan doesn’t have that worry anymore.
In late May, he became a citizen of the United States. The consultant and media officer for several soccer organization who also works in the communications office at OU has lived in the country since 2005. He has celebrated lots of Independence Days here, but this will be his first Fourth of July as an American citizen.
He's living his American dream.
Franco Sui Yuan was born in Argentina to Taiwanese parents who had met and married while living in Bolivia.
Multicultural was a way of life. Franco grew up going to a Spanish-speaking Argentinian school during the week, then spent the weekends at Chinese school. But even as he lived and learned from both cultures, soccer was a throughline.
Argentina is the land of Maradona and Messi, and like most kids there, Sui Yuan played soccer. He envisioned a life in soccer — but not as a player.
“Since I was 7 years old,” he said, “I wanted to be a sports reporter, be on the sidelines.”
Sui Yuan would see reporters on the field next to the players, and he wanted that kind of access to the action and to the stars.
His dad, a lawyer, wasn’t so sure, urging Franco to become a doctor or a lawyer.
“If you wanted me to take that route,” Sui Yuan jokingly said, “you should’ve just stayed in Taiwan.”
Being in Argentina was a game changer.
Franco Sui Yuan brought his desire to be a sports broadcaster to America when his family moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles in 2005.
He went to a junior college, then to Cal State Fullerton. He did nine internships during college. Most journalism students do a couple. But Sui Yuan knew landing a job out of school was critical.
He needed one to attain a work visa and remain in the U.S.
“Knowing that I didn’t have citizenship or a green card,” he said, “my biggest worry — and I think it’s the biggest worry for many immigrants — is what’s next after I graduate from college? After you get out … ”
He snapped his fingers.
“ … it’s like, you have to find a job to stay legally.”
While doing an internship with the L.A. Galaxy, the Major League Soccer team, he got a lead on a media relations job with the Chicago Fire. He applied and was soon moving to Chicago. After a year, he took a job with Telemundo Oklahoma in OKC. After a couple years, he moved back to Los Angeles to be a producer for the Spanish-language pregame and postgame shows for the Lakers and Galaxy. But having met and married a woman from OKC, Franco decided to move his family back in 2015.
That was around the same time his work in soccer started opening a new door. He was asked by international contacts he'd made to be work as a media officer moderating press conferences and coordinating interviews.
Sui Yuan has worked Gold Cup and Copa America matches.
“Watching Messi live, working on the same field as Messi, asking him if he can do an interview,” Sui Yuan said, “having that one-to-one interaction…”
“They won’t let you take a picture, take a selfie with them, but I think you just take a quick picture with your brain.”
As thrilling as those moments were for Sui Yuan, his trips out of the country to those matches also provided one of his least-favorite times. Coming back into the United States and going through customs, he would present his Argentine passport and his American green card. Those are legal documents for entrance.
But he’d be quizzed about why he’d traveled, what he’d been doing. It always made him uncomfortable.
What if something went wrong?
One Saturday or Sunday night last fall, Franco Sui Yuan opened his computer and started the process of applying for U.S. citizenship.
He was done with the uncertainty. Finished with the stress. He suspects he would’ve gotten his citizenship in late March or early April, but the pandemic pushed the big day back to May 26.
He was given the oath of allegiance with eight others during a small outdoor ceremony in Oklahoma City. Everyone wore masks and maintained social distance.
After only a few minutes, it was official.
“The amount of weight that was let off my shoulders that day,” Sui Yuan said, “was great.”
Franco Sui Yuan expects to celebrate this Fourth of July the way he always has.
There will be an “Asian-Hispanic flavor” as he calls it, stemming from his background. There will also be a Mexican flair because of his wife’s background. But then, he figures that mash up of cultures is what America is all about.
“At its best, we get to share our experiences,” Sui Yuan said. “At its worst, we get to learn from each other.”
That diversity makes him proud to be American.
Sui Yuan is looking forward to post-pandemic international travel for soccer. He's looking forward to returning to the U.S. for the first time as a citizen. There’ll be no more questions about where he was or what he was doing.
“I’m very lucky,” he said, “because I don’t have to live with that worry anymore.”
Even though Franco Sui Yuan is a U.S. citizen now, he still has all his paperwork saved in a safe place. He knows he doesn’t need it anymore, and yet, it is a reminder of where he’s come from — and what he’s become.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.