Dow Boyer Was Moments From Deportation. Now She’s a Citizen | Feature | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events
In a sunlit conference room high in St. Louis Federal Court, Komdown “Dow” Boyer channels her nervousness into her hands and tied her fingers in her lap. Fifteen prospective citizens stand around the room, which is arranged like students before a test.
They each waited months for this moment, passing interviews, citizenship tests, and background checks. Today you are here to take your final steps towards naturalization. Dow is here to take her life back.
While waiting for the ceremony to begin, some candidates absent-mindedly play with the little American flags given to them on the door, others peer through an oath of allegiance and scan his formal here and now, his vows to be against the Constitution defend his renunciation of “any foreign prince or potentate”.
Dow has never known a prince, but she knows what it is like to be a stranger. As a child, she said goodbye to her grandfather in Thailand in 1977 to move to California with her recently married mother and her American aviator stepfather. Dow took memories of her grandfather from her native land, but little else. She grew up believing that she was American.
A federal judge dressed in black enters the room. Dow recalls her last experience with a judge in 2013, which almost led to her deportation and separation from her family. For a moment, she can’t help but worry that something else might go wrong.
But this time the judge is here to make things right.
The ceremony begins with the judge introducing, “Welcome to our citizenship candidates, family, friends and invited guests. This is a very exciting day.”
The remarks may betray a lack of recent updates: normally there would be pomp to accompany the patriotic ceremony; Instead, the ongoing circumstance of the pandemic has shrunk the warm celebration into a 20-minute bare-bones sprint. There are no family, friends, or invited guests, no singers to strap on America the Beautiful, or speeches made by the new citizens themselves.
The closest thing Dow gets to the guests are the three people – her husband, her lawyer, and a reporter – waiting to greet them on the courthouse steps. Each of them played a role in the drama that overtook Dow’s life more than seven years ago when an arrest and theft brought them to the brink of deportation, put them on the national news, and an eleventh hour of legal intervention at the time culminated everything seemed to be lost.
Dow survived and with help rebuilt her American life. But until that moment, in that federal court room, she could never be sure that it was really over.
The judge finishes her introductions on the podium. The candidates stand up and recite the oath. One by one, they will be asked to receive their citizenship certificate.
Dow listens to her name.
Dow was nine years old when she arrived in America and first landed on military bases in Hawaii before settling in California for a period where she experienced “my American moment of eating”.
“It was Church’s fried chicken,” she says. “Oh my god I loved it.”
Dow had many American moments, not all of which were good. In a comprehensive interview – the first she has given since the drama of her near-deportation in 2014 – she told the story of her trip to the United States, beginning with a painful separation from her grandfather in Thailand, a devout Buddhist who she raised after her mother married a US aviator stationed in the Philippines.
“It was poverty,” Dow says of her early life in a village. “We lived in the jungle with our cousins, without electricity. My mother couldn’t raise me on her own because my father died, so she went to town to get a job. My grandpa was the one who raised me . “”