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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Her Immigrant Parents Chose Her College and Her Career

Jane Wong never got to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up: her parents decided for her. “They decided that I would go into medical school,” she told RadioActive’s Kamna Shastri. “They decided that for my brother too. That was from when I was little, so I’ve sort of grown into the idea.”

There are more than 900,000 immigrants in Washington state, and almost half are white-collar workers like Wong’s parents. Some children whose immigrant parents work in professional fields like medicine and engineering feel pressure to follow the path set by their families - families that left so much behind in their homeland.

Wong didn’t even get to decide what college to go to. She wanted to go to the University of California-Berkeley, but her grandmother didn’t want her to be so far from her home near Seattle. Wong says her grandmother “made a whole big scene. She was really sad and crying, so I had to respect her wishes and compromise. I ended up going to the University of Washington, [even though] I really didn’t want to go to UW because everyone goes to UW.”

Wong recently started her freshman year and plans to go to medical school after college. She likes the idea of becoming a doctor, though she isn't sure if that's because she's always been told it’s her plan. Still, Wong wouldn’t have it any other way. “In Asian tradition it is really important to ‘uphold the family honor’ - to use ‘Mulan’ phrasing,” she jokes, referring to the 1998 Disney movie.

RadioActive’s Kamna Shastri spoke with three college-bound students, all children of white-collar immigrants, to find out how family pressure influences their life decisions. Listen to the entire conversation here: