A Father’s Love Crosses Borders
Young women and young men can fall in love no matter the circumstances. Htoo Htoo, (pronounced Too Too) a young Karen refugee women fell in love with Nickorn, a Thai citizen, while temporarily displaced in Thailand.
Htoo Htoo was working to advocate for equal rights for Karen women living in Burma and Thailand. Nickorn, although ethnically Karen, was working as an interpreter for U.S. refugee interviews in Thailand, as a Thai citizen.
One year into their relationship Htoo Htoo moved away from Nickorn to a Thai refugee camp. But Nickorn followed his heart, and soon came to live with Htoo Htoo and her family.
A few months later Htoo Htoo found out they were expecting a child together. With her parent’s approval, they planned a small wedding to celebrate with friends and family. At the end of 2010, Htoo Htoo and Nickorn welcomed their son into their first home in a Thai refugee camp.
Two years later, the time came for Htoo Htoo and their son to be resettled in America. Nickorn had to stay in Thailand, until he would qualify as Htoo Htoo’s husband to come to America. Even though Htoo Htoo and Nickorn are both ethnically Karen; as a Thai citizen, Nickorn was unable to register as a refugee in the camp.
Resettling in America
Htoo Htoo and her son were resettled to the Twin Cities in 2013, and with the help of Arrive Ministries’ Immigration Counselor Amber Kerrigan, she filed a petition for Nickorn to join her in Minnesota.
“I want to especially thank Amber, she helped me a lot. I always report to her, and she always updates my husband’s case and she always updates me. I really want to thank her, I appreciate her a lot. She is very helpful,” said Htoo Htoo.
While Htoo Htoo and Nickorn were apart for nearly 3 years, Nickorn missed watching his son grow from a curious toddler to an energetic kindergartner. The father FaceTimed with his son and wife multiple times a week, so their relationships developed over the years, but it wasn’t enough to stop the ache of a young boy for the arms of his daddy.
“He really loves his father. He always talks about his father, and on the phone asks him ‘Why are you not coming (to America)? What are you doing there (in Thailand)?’ He’s really excited to see his father now,” said Htoo Htoo.
Nervous and Excited
Two earlier plans for Nickorn’s arrival were cancelled due to processing delays, so both Htoo Htoo and her son were suspicious that this arrival on October 28, 2015 wouldn’t happen.
“They always cancel our flights, even now I am not sure he will arrive here or not,” said Htoo Htoo.
But when Nickorn’s flight landed at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, and his luggage showed up circling the baggage carousel, anticipation mounted for Htoo Htoo and her son.
“When we said, ‘Here’s his bag, he is here, this is his bag,’ the little boy got really excited,” said Amber Kerrigan, Arrive Ministries Immigration Counselor.
“I feel very happy and nervous,” said Htoo Htoo.
Htoo Htoo and her son were anxiously waiting for Nickorn to walk through one set of doors at the baggage claim. But Nickorn surprised his family by entering through the other set of doors. The family ran towards him for the moment they’d all been waiting for.
No Longer Separated
Finally, a dad long separated from his growing boy, was able to pick his son up and plant a kiss on him, and hug his wife who devotedly waited for him.
“Very exciting, I got to see my son and my wife. It’s been almost 3 years,” said Nickorn. “I am very happy to see my son and my wife, it’s very exciting.”
Nickorn took a moment to glance at his now 5-year-old son, and proclaimed, “He’s very cute. I really love both of them.”
The family of three gathered their things and left for home, hand-in-hand.
“Doing the refugee family reunification cases are definitely the highlight of my job, because all of the administrative work that I do, means that a dad who hasn’t see his son in 2 ½ years can hold him again. That’s incredible,” said Amber.
A boy, who for too long had no memories of the touch of his father, was clinging tightly to both mom and dad, ready for their future as a reunified family.