Kay Yu was just three-and-a-half when her mother, Yunja, brought her family from Seoul, Korea, to Seattle, Washington, in December of 1968.

“She sacrificed everything so that I could live the American Dream,” Yu says on a recent spring afternoon. “Even though she didn’t have a plan for how to feed the family, she had an entrepreneurial spirit. So she made an investment, bought an IBM Selectric, and started typing other people’s dissertations.” In time, Yunja became a secretary for the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. Life in the U.S., it seemed, had fallen into place.

Then Yu discovered the book.

“I was 10 years old and about to start middle school, when I picked up a book at home and found deportation notices for me and my entire family,” Yu says. It turns out that the family’s visas—which they’d obtained as dependents of Yu’s father, who’d come earlier in 1968 with a student visa—had run out. All that time, Yunja had been not only bearing the burden of financially supporting the family, but also the toll that the threat of deportation takes.