Thank You (This Is Not a Thank You)
Feb 2021

I received a third letter from the bureau.

The first one was written in Dutch, except for the line: We did not invite you to a hearing at our office because we fully agree with your point of view.

I put the letter aside and basked in my right to health insurance.

I was, momentarily, free of bureaucratic concerns.

I reclaimed a right from the blank stares of

(oppression, I wanted to say, but perhaps it was only)


(how come that I already minimized the whole ordeal)


The second letter was written in English, a brief version of the first one. The third, sent two weeks later, was a full translation of letter #1.

Ms. S— was feeling something. (I knew her initials from our correspondence.)

I typed a few sentences on my laptop, exported it as a pdf and uploaded it through the bureau’s website, the place where I had previously uploaded government forms, invoices, tax returns.

Dear Ms. S—,

I feel sufficiently informed.

Thank you.

Best, Jue


It’s the Dutch election season. I finally read an article about the parties and Members of Parliament.

I wonder whom I would vote for, should I be able to vote.

I have not had the right to vote in the past decade.

Yet I speak of “systemic change.”

There is something terrible and terribly funny about this contrivance.

I have been a believer of law because I have believed in fairness. I have consulted five lawyers in my life, four of which have been immigration lawyers. I am working with one now to figure out my life in this country.

Ever since I learned the word “litigious” I have used it to describe myself. I file my taxes (enthusiastically). I call out a problematic clause at the lease signing and start an email to the landlord with “My lawyer has informed me that your non-refundable security deposit is illegal.”

I read the legal requirements of immigration and trudge through paperworks I have to produce to prove that I am 1) capable and 2) “relevant”. I itemize my existance for the immigration office, which judges individuals based on checkboxes: here is my life phrased as “assets and inventories”, here is my cultural significance, here is my potential in the specific corners of the labor market in which you have allowed me to operate.

Have I become a tragic diplomat — having learned to speak the neo-liberal language, the same language used to make the law?

In the US, a friend once told me she never understood why I complained about my visa. “You have a job,” she said, “many people don’t.”

I didn’t know how to describe the paper prison that confined me

the paper shackles that tied together my wrists

the paper weights that sank on my chest

the paper cuts that drained my soul from my fingertips

As I experience immigration in the Netherlands — once all over again, five years after I left the US — I realize what I have ignored for all these years — ignored, forgotten, too busy surviving to take notice:

Laws are made by law-makers.

Law-makers represent interests more than they represent justice.

Fairness — what I thought was the foundation of law — is relative and convoluted.


Reading Audre Lorde’s Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism, for the second time:

Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change… Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action… [A]ll too often, guilt is just another name for impotence… it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.

“I am caught in limbo,” I said to Ms. S— at the end of our last phone call, “I did not have to do this. I followed the rules and I dug myself a hole.”

There was a pause after.

She said, “I understand.”

Then she sent me three letters.

We did not invite you to a hearing at our office because we fully agree with your point of view.


Dear Law-makers,

This is not a thank you.

I understand that Articles 1.2.1, 1.2.2 and 2.1.1. of the Long-term Care Act (Wlz) and the National Act on Administrative Law (Awb) ensure my right to health insurance.

However, I feel dishonest thanking a system that makes me an outlier in the first place. I do not thank you for coming around and acknowledging my humanity.

Equality should not be a compensation. Equality as afterthought suggests exclusion. And nothing is being done about exclusion. I do not thank you for “granting me the rights”. If I say this, I become a co-conspirator in your descrimination and your prejudice.

Co-existing with you, Jue

I hear a voice.

But you could have had it worse. We are ensuring rights of foreigners like you!


No thank you.

I tune to the songs of birds. They have started chirping on the roof since the unusually warm days.

I turn to my books: Notes on Nationalism, The Thing Around Your Neck, Pleasure Activism.

There is a lot of work to do.