An Immigrant’s Story: My Journey to the U.S. Was A Luxury
When he was young, my father dreamed of coming to America. I think about how hard he must have worked to collect the funds for his flights to Georgia, Ohio, and New York and the terrifying confusion he must have felt when walking through the airports with signs in a foreign language. In school, he listened and took notes in “Spanglish” as he tried to keep up with his American professors.
Years later, he would bring my mother to New York with him. As my father recalled the story, I couldn’t help but smile as he told me about my mother’s first winter. Growing up, I would peek inside her closet and see her first coat stuffed towards the back corner. Its light yellow color showed the wear of the years it traveled with her. After New York, my parents got married and started a family, my sister and I. Ultimately, due to my parents’ love for America and the “American dream”, my father moved us to the land of the free. We had to sacrifice the familiarity of our home in Venezuela- a home with playsets, countless aunts and uncles for family gatherings, and childhood friends. However, Venezuela provided a bleak future.
Everything seemed to operate upside-down. Due to rampant poverty and financial instability, groups of people committed crimes and bribed leaders for different positions. For those reasons, my parents lacked confidence in our future. We would be living in constant fear, and my parents wanted the best education for my sister and I.
In the summer of 1995, we flew to Florida. We lived with a family that hosted us for a few weeks while my parents looked for an apartment. I remember always having transportation, warm meals, and the comfort of holding my mom’s hand as we walked through unrecognizable streets. Compared to the hardships of immigration now, we made it through customs without any issues because my dad had easily secured visas for us. We weren’t met with resistance at any point on our journey because we were from Venezuela, a obscure country during the 90s.
Just a few weeks ago, as I was scrolling through my phone, I read the headline of an article: a 7-year-old girl had passed away in a detention center at the border due to dehydration caused by lack of water, stress, and a cold. I immediately felt the clench within my heart. My mind raced as I thought about who she was and who her parents were. I asked myself, where was she? Were there medics at the detention center? How often was she fed? Why did she not get what she needed? Did anyone care when her parents asked for water and food? Was she separated from her parents?
I tossed and turned that night. I thought about how my family and I didn’t cross a border or travel in a caravan. We didn’t walk by foot towards bright lights and men with machine guns. We didn’t get detained when we entered the airport in Florida. My dad had papers with fancy stamps, dates, and markings that secured us spots across the terminal gate. I was young just like her, just four years old. My family and this little girl’s family had two different journeys but one similar mission: to escape the threats of our native country and enter into the freedom promised by what we knew as the greatest country in the world.
Now, as I watch the news, I wonder if we are truly free anymore. Do we live our lives clinging to freedom that is slowly being torn away from us by a government that segregates by color, culture, and language? Why are there qualifications to freedom? According to this government, according to those working in the detention centers, and according to those keeping families seeking asylum imprisoned, this little 7-year-old girl did not qualify.
My immigration story is a luxury because I lived. I made it safely to U.S. soil and went on to live an incredible life. We filed for residency after some time due to the ease of the old visa system. Then about 10 years after that, my sister and I were granted citizenship after my mom’s application was accepted. Last year, I received my master’s degree and my sister is currently pursuing her graduate degree. The start of our story determined the future of our story.
Many immigrants should be given the chance to a fair life and a good education. Our story would be different if my family was casted away at the border.