Immigrants sacrifice for better lives in U.S.
Choosing to leave a home country is not an easy decision, but sometimes it is the only decision when it comes to what best can support a family or guarantee safety. For many Latino immigrants, living in the U.S. is a conflicting experience, and all have stories of their own unique ups and downs. One thing most have in common, however, is the fact that their lives in America are safer than in their home countries. For example, several countries in Central America have experienced civil wars and other armed conflicts, leading to a rush of political refugees.
“I left El Salvador in 1993 because I was in a war,” Oswald Hidalgo, a 49-year-old Salvadoran native and permanent U.S. resident, said. “I came here for my friends and my family.”
Others see that America provides a safer environment to grow up in, like Alfonso Lugo, a 25-year-old who emigrated from a city just outside of Mexico’s capital when he was 10. In recent years especially, Mexico has experienced significant turmoil due to a corrupt government and law enforcement system, and the violence that sparks from the illegal drug trade. “It’s hard to tell [how different my life would be growing up in Mexico instead of the U.S.], but I definitely think moving has had an impact on my life. You’re more exposed to things like drugs and alcohol in Mexico than you are here,” Lugo said. “I think the culture here in general is more suitable for a young person to grow up in than in Mexico, especially the low-class areas.” Carolina Puga-Mendoza, Fishers High School junior, has similar thoughts on moving to America. She came to the U.S. from a small coastal state in Mexico in 2013 with her family. “Moving to America has shaped me for the better. Back in Mexico, you are not allowed to choose your classes in high school. Here, I am taking as many advanced classes as possible and have joined multiple clubs,” Puga-Mendoza said. “I enjoy the opportunities America has given me.”
The stories of immigrants are important to get across, especially now. To humanize people who are frequently misconstrued and dehumanized is important if citizens want to bring together the country as a whole and promote greater tolerance for those whose lives are different from their own.
“Most immigrants leave everything they know, their families, their homes, their countries, just to look for that one chance, that one opportunity of a better life. They work non-stop to be able to send that little money to their kids so they have a little more of chance to give them a better life,” Puga-Mendoza said. “An immigrant comes here with dreams, with the dream of opportunities, with the idea that someday they can bring their families or they can go back as a new person. We do not come to do nothing, we seek prosperity.” Sacrifices are often a large part of coming to a new and unknown country, especially for those who are older and have more ties to their home communities. Hidalgo said, “Most come here looking for a better future and more money. We leave families and friendships behind.”
Immigration is currently a hot topic in the U.S. due to Donald Trump’s presidency so far and the policies he has enacted, like the travel ban, and policies he claims he will enact in the future. The controversy has spurred discussion about immigrants and what they should and shouldn’t do while living in the U.S.
“I obviously don’t agree with the travel bans because what really makes this country so awesome is the diversity it has,” Lugo said, “but I do think people should have to pay taxes and be a part of the society here, learn English, learn the history of the United States, and get acquainted with the culture.”
It is also important to know that not all immigrants are a part of the protest culture that has come to define news about immigration. While effective, strong emotion is not always a defining feature of the immigrant community.
“I don’t hate Trump, I don’t hate the people who support him, everyone has their belief, and I think that they are afraid of the accomplishments and new ideas immigrants bring with them,” Puga-Mendoza said. “Many are afraid of change, and that’s normal, but it’s not okay to want to stop others from looking for a better life.”
Remembering the beginning of this country is crucial if citizens want to understand immigrants and their stories.
“This country is made by immigrants,” Hidalgo said, a comment made about the white pioneers who took over land originally belonging to Native Americans. “Immigrants have made this country a better country. Without them, this country wouldn’t be what it is now.”