I had just arrived in New York after a short trip to Russia and was going through customs, which is always in a lot of commotion. As I reached the front of the line for resident aliens, the worker checked my Green Card and said earnestly, “Welcome home.” It was very unexpected for me, but so heartening to hear. In that minute I really felt like I came back to my newfound home.
Choosing the US as the direction to go after high school let me open the door to new, brighter life for not just myself but my mom too, almost as a way of returning the favor for taking care of me all that time before.
It had been a year since I left my home country. My mother asked me on a car ride home from school, do you like it here? I answered with two thumbs down. When the immigration officer said “welcome home” for the first time, I wanted to cry.
El alma llega a destiempo del cuerpo • le cuesta despertarse en el frío intenso • los sonidos del tren y las sirenas • ¿dónde está la algarabía de la calle? • “aguacaaate, pandebono, chontaduro….”
My parents came here in on a little tug boat with little to no hope of actually making it to shore and apparently faced hurricane like waves that pushed them towards Texas instead of Miami (their destination).
My parents had always dreamt about coming to the US and they worked a lot and saved a lot and thought they would be able to come here and find better jobs but no one told them that they needed to become residents and citizens to be able to work or even just be here.
My Jewish grandmother never talked about her family’s immigration from Russia, although I asked her often.
I was a recent immigrant from Hong Kong trying to master English and find my way in a society where Asian men seemed to be sexually invisible or worse, saddled with negative stereotypes.
“My parents fled the hostility and racism of their home to come to the USA where their interracial love was accepted. A happy marriage and two kids later, they have found their true home.”
They gave their all to this country only to be shunned by those who ‘belong’ here.
She’d wear her same get up everyday – colorful sari and bindhi – whether it was picking me up from school or whether she’d go to her yoga/piano classes at the JCC.
She was resourceful, and managed to keep the big house and keep the family together by selling kosher wine. This was during Prohibition. A religious loophole that she turned into a crafty opportunity… Ballsy lady. “Chutzpah” would be the perfect Yiddish word.
My grandma did not speak any English when she first left Guatemala, and had to travel alone.
After my dad settled in the States, my mum followed. What’s funny is that she actually didn’t want to come here. She had a successful business and job in Nigeria. Some people don’t understand that the “American Dream” isn’t the same dream that every immigrant shares.
He made his way across the border and spent several days wandering the desert, figuring he was going to die.
Mi padre poco a poco trajo a los Estados Unidos a sus hijos uno a uno menos a mi hermana mayor que se quedó en México.
My great grandma made whiskey in her bathtub for Al Capone’s ring in Chicago. She had to do that to put food on the table for her kids.
They moved with almost nothing, and my grandpa spent almost all their money on a Canon camera when they stopped in Japan.
The coyote brought them across and then stole their wallets and watches. My father was sent back three times in one day.
Each day I rise and open my eyes to a world they could have only dreamed of. I am free because of the blood they shed, I am fed because of their sacrifices, I am safe because of their journey… My place has been earned.
My ancestors have paid for my life through sacrifice and hunger, through beatings and death.
I always carry my country with me in heart and soul.
I lived the whole American life just like you, so why are you saying I speak English well, or ask me about Korean food when I don’t know.
My partner and I look very very different. We both have an immigrant parent that fled conflict stemming from the Cold War in the 80’s, both of which have PTSD… I think it’s given us both some particular insight on conflict.
When I arrived here I discovered I was an American who had been born in the wrong country.
When people speak to you and they hear your accent they begin to speak with you sooooo loud and soooo slowly. Surprisingly, it is even harder to understand what they are trying to say. Hello! We are foreign, not deaf, not an idiots.
Después de pasar la frontera empezamos a correr hasta llegar a una casa… Nos subieron en un carro… de pronto recibimos un fuerte golpe. Después de reaccionar todos estaban como muertos.
I don’t think I have any immigrant roots, my roots as an African American are in diaspora and displacement.
I wish to die on the same soil I was born.
Los inmigrantes hemos traído con nosotros, nuestras esperanzas y también nuestra cultura.
I was adopted… I am not sure that counts as immigration.
I did have to culturally appropriate my own culture.
She strives to live the WASPY life she so wanted to be accepted in. And she is accepted into it. But in my personal opinion, she is a slave to those people and their ideas because she works so hard to live up to it.
My sister shunned her Asian side. I think we can’t be close bc she sees me as someone who confronts what she is trying to shove under the rug.
Necessity begets rising to the occasion.
Strong women have held this world together since the beginning.
We fled Mexico after a failed kidnapping and extortion attempt happened to me and my family. Started from scratch in Florida.
At times it feels amazing and enriching to have both sides, at others, it feels like you really don’t belong anywhere!
In 1989 my mom became the first latina to work her in classification at SF family and children services.
Her story just reminds me of how many hoops immigrants have to go through to get jobs they are clearly qualified for. I think about that all the time…
I remember her telling me that before she came here she thought that the snow made everyone in America white.
My mom immigrated to the United States from India when she was 12. Her dad died soon after she moved and she was brought up by a single mom, my grandmother.
In India, it would have been really difficult for a widow to raise two children on her own. However, because of the opportunities in the U.S., both my mom and aunt are very successful businesswomen.
I believe that not being born and raised in the US gave me a perspective of an outside viewer and enabled me to explore various cultural and social issues from a unique point of view.
I enjoy my Grandmother’s stories of living in crammed townhouses full of relatives when she was a small child. I like hearing of the joys and happiness she found at a time where they had so very little.
When my grandmother was young, for entertainment, they would sit her on a table and say “Dance, Lola, Dance!” I took my name from her.
Not knowing more than two words of English, he could give no argument or protest when the Immigration representative shortened the name he uttered. A brand-new dynasty.
I was never really sure if the story was 100% true or accurate, as told to us by his wife, my grandmother, but I always liked it, even if that guy DID detest me for some reason… But I do remember him occasionally saying, “I am NOT POLISH!”
They had to do a lot of translation for their parents.
Es difícil vivir lejos de nuestra tierra, pero es una forma de ayudar a nuestra familia y tener un mejor futuro.
My grandparents moved their family to the US because they wanted to make sure their 3 daughters could basically grow up to do whatever they wanted.
My mom is so brave leaving everything she knew behind to start a new life in America.
I am the proud son of a US Air Force veteran and a brave Japanese immigrant. I know this isn’t my story, but my parents’ stories are part of me.
He was five. He was put in steerage on a ship with a distant cousin. The first thing his cousin told him when the ship left port was that he was going to grab him in his sleep and throw him into the ocean once they hit the open sea. He spent the entire voyage sure he was going to die.
When he got to the border, he met the coyote, paid him, and they took him on a trek into the desert. They slept in some small house and when he woke up in the morning the coyote had gone. He was totally alone…
I came here in 2013 from Germany Hamburg, went first time to the burn in 2013 and changed my life completely. Today I’m living as digital nomad with a base in New York and home in the world and following my passion for music.
I often learned as much in my native country by being away from it as I did about my country of adoption here.
A woman from Rwanda with her baby in her arms was sworn in near me as well, and was overwhelmed by emotion and crying.
One of the most moving moments was the day I was sworn in as citizen. It was a powerful experience to see people whose trajectory might have been so different from mine, often much more difficult and painful, intersect in that place and time together.
As my mother brought home her elementary school primers, my Busia learned some English as well, although she was never completely fluid, which made her English quite funny and charming.
My Busia was an incredibly talented seamstress, so for some money, she made wedding dresses to fit individual people, without a pattern. She also cooked food at Polish weddings.
As I was growing up, the family legacy was that ‘the worst CAN really happen’, however, what I believe is the true legacy of my mother’s family is the importance and power of humor.
I was thinking about “American Dream”, surprisingly I never expected anything good from changing the country of living.
We are Californio. Descendants of a Spanish People.
He is still missed. He was my great, great, great grandfather.
My dad was the first in our family to leave his town in over 200 years and I was the first to leave the country.
“Whenever your grandpa got drunk, he used to speak English.”
They didn’t like us because we were different, That’s why we lived in one apartment with 10 people and all I had were my cousins and family friends to play with. It was nice to see us grow up together and stick together even though the odds were against us.
The bad thing about having three nationalities is that you never really feel present where you are, there’s always something missing. The good thing is knowing they exist, that this life isn’t simply lived in one way and that’s unique.
Hoy he cambiado de hemisferio y mis ojos capturan colores nuevos, intensos y vibrantes. Colecciono los verdes y azules, guardo los rojos y blancos… y desde un suspiro húmedo vuelvo a recordar la tierra de tonos ocre que he vuelto a dejar.
They worked hard and we are at a better place now. There were days where I’m sure they didn’t know what they were working towards, but they made it through!
Idk if I would be as strong as they were in their position.
Both my parents immigrated here from Poland. They snuck out escaping the Russian communist regime after WW2… they came here with little to no knowledge of the language… Hearing their story always puts things in perspective for me and gives me reason to continue to work hard.
My relationship with identity and privilege has evolved… as an Argentinian, there was much that differed me from the Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in my area… I became more comfortable with acknowledging my privilege within the latin community.
Unas personas detrás de mí hablaban sobre ir al cine. Como les entendía, me dije… hablan en español. Les preste más atención y, ¡hablaban en English! ¡Casi daba saltos de alegría!
While the American experience is beautiful in concept, at this moment in time, I feel, that the foundation of freedom has been usurped.
The idea that immigrants pose any sort of negative influence in our culture as Americans is completely false.
Everyone who lives here on American soil is in effect an immigrant, unless they are Native American.
Our country was in fact founded upon one of the greatest genocides in the history of the world, the murder of millions of Native Americans.
I was adopted. I was made a US Citizen at about 6 yrs old, 4 yrs after I arrived in the US at age 2.5.
US customs thought my parents were smuggling in foreign children. I remember offering to help by reciting the pledge of allegiance.
It’s funny, but I don’t feel like an immigrant.
Yeah. We went to Korean restaurants. But back then, the idea was to assimilate the kid into the American culture.
Some adoptees got adopted and treated like they were hired help. It’s sad.
I saw them like they were an anthropology project of people like me, yet I wasn’t them.
I got really into the whole “Asian” thing. But eventually came to realize I wasn’t wholly accepted by them.
I was still an outsider. So I just kinda went back to me and just accepted I am what I am and if others can’t deal or get it, they’re not worth the time.
I guess anywhere you go, if you’re not native, you get some looks.
Nowadays, the idea is to really celebrate the background and culture of adoptees.
“We’re just alike!” And I wanted to tell her , “No we’re not! You had a family and roots who looked like you so there was support of people who look like you.”
It was great meeting other Asians in college. It really helped with identity.
It’s like they knew they were the minority and had to support each other. So they obviously thought I needed that support. In a way I did.
I was seen as Korean first. I don’t think it made it harder to define myself; it just challenged me more.
It made me have to confront who I was and who I was to other people. And how to approach that, and accept it.
She can’t accept that she can be Asian and pretty.
She went back to Korea on a tour. I think it was too much to confront about herself, and she reverted back to what was comfortable.
Like I said, I get it. But it’s sad. On the outside she seems very happy and has everything. But she’s chasing that WASP life that she’s not going to get.
I said one day, ‘oh have you gone to the restaurants in Chinatown?’ And she said very derisively, ‘no!’ I asked, ‘why not?’ She said, “because they all think I’m Chinese there and I’m not!” I said, ‘well I get that all the time, and that’s just the way it is’.
All of my great grandparents came in through Ellis Island around 1880– all Jews from Germany, Poland, and Spanish Morocco….. all settled in New York. And all we’re successful….
He was a big man in town, wealthy, great big house in Jamaica Queens, but during the flu epidemic, he turned his fleet of service trucks into makeshift ambulances, and drove one of them, caught the flu and died trying to help save people…
I am proud to be Spanish-American and to have grown up in two distinct cultural worlds.
My abuelos taught me to enjoy life and friends and family even through something as simple and mundane as getting groceries or running errands.
There’s definitely a connection to France, but I wouldn’t say it’s a defining feature in my life or hers.
Immigrating to the US wasn’t so difficult then, but getting a well-paying job was hard.
My grandpa worked as a dishwasher, and my grandma first worked in factories and then babysat from home so she could simultaneously be a housewife and raise her own 6 kids.
A Traveler’s Aid volunteer was very helpful to her when she arrived in the US. In gratitude, she volunteered as a Traveler’s Aid at the LAX Airport for years.
Both my grandparents were lucky to eventually work in fields that related to their own experience as Spanish-speaking immigrants. My grandpa worked as a courtroom translator until he just retired this year at 89 yrs old.
We moved for our children so that they could be free to do whatever pleased them without any repercussions. We moved so that we could have an opportunity and a future.
Shit hit the fan, they fled the country.
Mom sells everything we have and the house, we drive up and join my dad in texas a week later.
When did diversity start in the States? When will it end? Hoping that the States doesn’t forget how the nation started. The States seems to be going backward. Immigration vs. people who were born here.
It’s funny because after all this time in the states where I always felt out of place, and more French than American, when I actually came to France, I’m more and more aware of being very American.
I know I’m not from the U.S but all the people who would have known remotely anything about my family’s origins have passed away at least a decade ago. Sort of a black box.
This is a country built on immigration.
My Great Grandfather escaped an IRA prison camp in the 20s to sail to America.
He actually had to hide on the docks for a few days so as to not be recognized by anyone that would send word back to Ireland for fear that he’d endanger his family back in Limerick.
A priest that often visited the internment camp for political prisoners came in with an extra robe and dressed him in it so he could sneak his way out.
His wife always had better jobs than he did because he had run away from home and 12 and got adopted by the IRA.
My dad’s family has been in the US since the Oregon trail and my mom’s family has been in Appalachia for as long as we can tell.
My Abuelo came here on a work Visa and never left. He was an architect and designed some buildings around the globe.
My father moved from Israel after completing his service in the IDF. His first job was in a warehouse, moving heavy items on his back. He was able to climb up to opening a retail store in the Bronx and becoming a business owner.
They were among the privileged to get here.
I live a mile away from where they immigrated from in the 1850s in Brooklyn.
They opened a seltzer shop on the lower east side which evolved into what is now a lingerie shop on the upper west side.
On my mom’s side, we have Mayflower relatives, but that’s the extent of immigration in my family, that I know of.
Just super American…
My mom literally has pilgrim ancestors.
My paternal Grandfather was a teenaged apprentice carpenter during the rise of the Nazi regime just before WWII, and thanks to his parents’ own good sense and self sacrifice, he fled on his own to America and to safety.
When I was younger, my babysitter Patty, a Peruvian immigrant, was like my second mother.
My family’s pretty far removed from our roots so I don’t really have any connection to our immigration story.
My grandpa immigrated from Turkey but I don’t really know the story.
My grandparents were immigrants. Their families were Ukrainians who fled Ukraine in the 30s because of bolsheviks and moved to France and then to New Mexico.
They were pretty familiar with America/Americans before because they worked for the military in Paris.
Her and her sisters were made fun of in school because their family was from Eastern Europe.
They moved to New Mexico to be closer to their daughters.
My family came here and we stayed at my aunts, there were 3 little families staying in one house and we all had to share the attic.
When we first got here, my dad would get us so excited about going on a day trip to NYC. Now a days it’s not a big deal to any of us, but my dad still makes it a big deal. It’s so cute!
It was definitely easier to become a resident before 9/11.
América nos ha ofrecido un mejor bienestar y futuro.
La economía de nuestro país es limitada y emigramos para tener un mejor futuro y ayudar a nuestra familia en Puerto Rico.:
His father died and his mother sent him to the States when he was five.
I came to the US when I was 3 and we lived in this apartment building and didn’t know anyone at all so I remember it was pretty scary at first for me and my parents.
My mother’s father, Frank Data, was burned alive a few days before Christmas in 1927 in a factory accident where he worked. He was about thirty-four and left behind my grandmother, my Busia, with six children.
In 1927 there were no social programs like Social Security or Aid to Dependent Children, and what little money she had was lost when the banks closed in 1929 at the start of the depression, so the had nothing except themselves.
I was constantly harassed by much older woman at work. And once I was “not in the mood” or more exactly “not in a good mood”, and she was telling me what we Russians did to her (I think personally). And everyone in the office was standing listening to this and they could not believed their ears. As you know I am not a violent person, never was, and I hope (after that never will be again), but at that time her harassment get under my skin and I decided to live up to our reputation. I made couple of steps in her direction, made a fist and horrific face. And paused. Complete silence….And one of the woman who sits next to me said loud and clear “you better run”.
Me bajé corriendo, y llegaron helicópteros y ambulancias, me escondí en una granja y pedí trabajo para disimular. El señor no tenía trabajo pero me dejó hacer una llamada a mi familia y me dio unos dólares.
Después de pasar la frontera… Cuando llegaron mis hermanos por mí ya no pude moverme a consecuencia del fuerte choque que horas antes había recibido.
They worked the hard jobs: seamstresses, back of the restaurant servers, and chicken feather pluckers to one day experience a peaceful life… paving the way…
“Our grandma accompanied us to the USA. We had so much stuff with us that she forgot to bring her luggage. Thank God she remembered while we were still in the taxi!”
“The champagne was stashed with the baby products. When we were crossing customs, a security officer stopped us and we started mentally saying goodbye to the champagne, but he simply wanted to help us carry everything because he also had just had children!”
The expectation and Identity I have… is one of responsibility and prestige; it’s unspoken, it’s present and it feels like I have so much more to fight for.
My mother made such an effort to bring me back every summer. Family matters… It’s felt like a segmented life, 3 months here and there.
My mom used to have little quotes about the things she went through without papers like “I like living out of a suitcase because it’s a mini home I don’t have to pay rent for”
My cousin and his wife had their children here in California, and when they went back to visit Mexico they had to hire someone to take the girls across the border legally, and hire a coyote to take them across.
While I always appreciated the backgrounds around me, I grew up feeling detached from my own.
“The most fascinating part of the U.S. was its grandeur in everything – because many things are difficult to achieve, they are seen as huge achievements – getting into good schools, sports teams, colleges, getting a job. I often feel like, in a way, this is a big part of the American spirit; by having few social benefits and support from the state, Americans perceive and appreciate their successes as their own, as something they had to fight for and are proud of. In Germany, most of these things are a matter of course, which they should be, but as a result they are also often taken for granted.”