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Immigration and assimilation: Feeling global, but being an American

Mohammed Raziuddin an Indian high-tech professional came to the US for an education and ended up becoming an American citizen. Though he feels like he fits in here, he still feels like a citizen of the world, not just America.

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These immigrants are more worldly than the average American, maintaining ties not only with family, but moving in a global economy that favors multicultural competence and language skills. Both Raziuddin and his wife, Jueliala, visit family and friends abroad regularly, and in many ways, he says, he sees the US as their home base for a citizen-of-the-world existence.

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"We look at the US as giving us a global platform," he says. But it is also, clearly, home, which isn't what he'd expected when he came for his degree and some experience. He'd planned to soon return to India's nascent tech industry.

Then he met his wife and got a job at an automotive-electronics manufacturer in Indiana, then moved to a telecom start-up in Silicon Valley. The sight of the Great Salt Lake Desert on his drive west is still imprinted on his mind.

It was in Silicon Valley, at the height of the 1990s tech boom, that Raziuddin realized he couldn't leave the US: "There was so much buzz and excitement in the Valley. I couldn't fathom leaving ... I felt ... a part of that whole revolution...."

It was a bit later, on a trip to Malaysia, that he and Jueliala decided to make America their home. In the Kuala Lumpur Airport immigration line with their son, they realized they all had different passports. "It hit us [that] we are an international family" needing to make someplace home, he says, and the couple soon became US citizens.

In 2000, Raziuddin left Silicon Valley to add a business degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to his master's and PhD. He figured the family would quickly return to California. But when the tech bubble burst, they found themselves in Boston. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks came a short time later – three years to the day after Raziuddin got his US citizenship.

Raziuddin, a Muslim, was on the tarmac at London's Heathrow Airport when it happened. "There was trepidation, nervousness," he says. "We were in shock that someone had done this in the name of our religion. We were uncertain of what the future held."

At the time he'd only been at his job for a couple of months. But back in Boston, his boss called him in: "He said, 'We want you to know that we will take care of you. Let us know if anyone is making you feel uncomfortable and we will take care of it.' "

Raziuddin never did feel uncomfortable. But the conversation, he says, was "a moment of great clarity that I had made the right decision to make the US my home."

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