It’s Immigrant Heritage Month. The smallest Latino achievement is a huge achievement
It was only a few weeks before the pandemic shut down the world that my husband crossed the finish line: at 31, Hanser Marmolejos Lantigua became a US citizen on February 28, 2020, with 97 immigrants in a ceremony held at 26 Plaza in New York.
I remember feeling relieved, wiping tears from my cheeks, thinking about the scrutiny he went through, the additional proof that I, as a wife, had to provide for him. , and the anxiety it all gave us during the 14 month process. .
But, more importantly, it was a moment in my last five years in this country where I felt deeply happy.
It’s not that my feelings should really matter that much. As a Dominican born in the United States, I am very aware of my own privileges: a blue passport with which I can travel to 187 countries without a travel visa or with a visa on arrival, a citizenship which gives me access to federal jobs, government benefits, the right to vote in any American election and even to run for office.
My English skills could rival any native speaker and I have cinnamon-colored skin which under certain circumstances could be considered whitening. But, for the vast majority who read these words, I will never be exempt from being considered an outsider.
So this year, as Hispanics and Latinos have been hit hard by the pandemic with high rates of death and COVID-19 infection as well as the highest hospitalization rates in the country, I want to break to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month, honoring the resilience and achievements of our communities in the United States
Before COVID-19 arrived, do anything in the United States was an uphill battle for Latinos and Hispanics. Today, our smallest achievements remain the most important successes that we will have to share in our lifetimes.
My husband, a certified commercial driver with almost 15 years of experience on Dominican and American roads, spent three years learning English in an intensive five-day-a-week, three-hour evening course afterwards. have completed their trip by school bus. There was about five hours of sleep during this time, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Earning a low salary as a bus driver, he paid $ 875 to become a U.S. citizen: $ 150 to a social service organization to complete paperwork and a $ 725 fee for citizenship application and biometric services. (The fee was increased by 60% during the Trump administration and still exists today.)
The failing immigration system has always been a money-making machine.
Others have had similar experiences, such as Verónica del Carmen Lara Marquez, the South Philly mother who was arrested by ICE agents on February 11, 2020, after dropping her US-born daughter off at the Eliza B. Kirkbride Elementary School on Seventh and Dickinson Streets. . She was then three months pregnant.
The Salvadoran woman and her family invested $ 3,500 in application and attorney fees, case finding and paperwork to avoid the agency’s order to deport herself to Honduras – a country where she had never been, but was recorded as her country of origin in the files. After a one-year process, she received a work permit on February 12 that allows her to stay in the United States.
Lara Marquez, 33, who worked part-time in the maintenance of a bar on 20th and Manning streets before being arrested, said she felt last year was a “big, huge ghost.” Which happened for a good reason and put him in a better position.
“My godmother often tells me: ‘Every cloud has a ray of hope.’ Now I don’t walk around town fearing immigration [ICE agents] more, ”said Lara Marquez, who, along with her mother-in-law, takes care of a nine-person household. She is waiting for her former employer to reopen to resume work.
Some have more complex situations, like Albania Luciano-Wilmo, Oxford Circle. She improved her fluency in English, won a battle with cervical cancer and obtained American citizenship while raising her 8-year-old son on her own.
Last year, the 30-year-old did social work in the mornings and ran a cleaning service business she owns with her brother in the evenings, while attending college full-time. On May 15, the single mother graduated with an undergraduate degree in social work from La Salle University.
Luciano-Wilmo has said she won’t give up, even though her routine continues to be a 24-hour marathon.
“That doesn’t stop me from fighting for my dream and for a better life for my son,” said Luciano-Wilmo. “He said to me, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to college like you.'”
The accomplishments in the communities are as complex and singular as the Latin American experience itself: from upgrading a driver’s license, to obtaining permanent full-time employment, to obtaining ‘a ready to meet in person with family and lifelong friends.
The most ordinary tasks these days can be life-changing moments.
For Sagrario Germán, getting a loan this year to buy the building where his restaurant is located means “taking life more calmly”. After 12 years in business, the 46-year-old closed the deal for the property in Fairhill’s Centro de Oro shopping corridor. She is no longer a tenant.
“Now I am focused on my retirement and I have something that my daughters will inherit,” she said. “I feel accomplished. “
Restaurant Vivaldi has been the main source of income for the single mother of two daughters, who have now graduated from college, established careers and live on their own. Her extended family works in the restaurant.
On this day, when Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to travel to the US-Mexico border to curb migration, I would like to offer her advice.
Look at the long history of US interventions in Latin America, study the oppressive policies implemented by previous administrations, analyze the impact of the targeted shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and consider the economic consequences and of the pandemic, before taking any immigration action.
After all, we all survive in the hope of accomplishing what brings us happiness.