'It’s always been ‘Cesar the New Yorker’'

Mexican immigrant Cesar Vargas has been profiled in media organizations including The New York Times for his advocacy for the Dream Act — legislation which would give legal status to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, have resided here for at least five years, earned a high school degree and completed two years of college or military service. Cesar, who is undocumented, came to the U.S. with his mother when he was five-years-old. His dream was to join the military. He repeatedly tried to enlist, but was rejected. He recently graduated from City University of New York School of Law and passed the New York state bar — and now his goal is to serve his adopted country as a military lawyer.

Courtney: When and why did your parents move to the United States, and what age were you?

Cesar: “I was actually five-years-old when I came to the U.S. My father passed away when I was, maybe three. Naturally my mother had a tough time working there, with that kind of climate in Mexico, especially in small towns. She did the most natural, courageous thing, which was to make sure that we were provided for — and that we had the opportunity for education. So my mom decided to go to the United States. And I have older brothers and sisters who came to the U.S. first, and they really helped my mother get there.”

Courtney: What was it like for you growing up in the U.S., and what was it like for your mother to adjust?

Cesar: “For me, the way I tell people, I consider myself Brooklyn-born and raised. New York City has been my home for the past — almost 25 years. So I grew up here, I went through the New York City public school system, I graduated college in New York, attended and graduated law school, passed the New York state bar, and am now in the process of applying to be admitted as a licensed lawyer in New York state. So this has been my home. And it has been definitely a challenge, because as undocumented students we did not qualify for state financial aid. It was definitely challenging and different. My mother, she had to work all throughout her life to support me, in whatever capacity, whatever way that she could. It was definitely a struggle for both of us to cope, not even socially, but to live with the reality that we didn’t have the same employment opportunities. I had to work two, three jobs to pay for college. I had to be in a restaurant, had to tutor, just to make my tuition payment — never mind eat. I understand there are issues for other college students, but I think you can definitely see throughout our lives, us working three times harder.”

Courtney: What does the word immigrant, or migrant, mean to you personally?

Cesar: “I think it’s really about seeking an opportunity to find a good opportunity. This is what Senator Marco Rubio outlined in his recent book — he’s a senator from Florida — that his family also came for a better future, really to find themselves a new beginning, for family, for happiness. So that’s what I consider a migrant or an immigrant, someone who really goes out there for their family for a better future.”

Courtney: Is there any way that you carry your Mexican background with you in your daily life in New York?

Cesar: “New York is so diverse, that yes you do identify with a specific culture, but I think in New York state you have a very different attitude than someone from Florida. For myself, yes I’m Mexican, but I’ve always considered myself a New Yorker. People from other states tell me I speak like a New Yorker; I have the attitude of a New Yorker. I am Mexican, but I don’t think my Mexican culture has affected me in my everyday life; it’s always been ‘Cesar the New Yorker’.”

Courtney: What was or is your ‘American Dream’? I had read in The New York Times that you had always wanted to join the military; was that it?

Cesar: “Yeah, I think that’s still one of my goals that I’m hoping to work now to ensure. Right now, with the present announcement, we do have the employment opportunities. But my goal was, for one, to go to West Point after high school, and that didn’t happen. After college I wanted to go into the ROTC program to become an officer; that didn’t happen either. Right now I’m working to ensure that hopefully there is legal authority that the Secretary of Defense and the president can allow dreamers with deferred action to enlist in the military. And for me, one of my dreams has been to be a military lawyer, and also to be a marine.”

Courtney: You have been featured quite a bit in the media related to the Dream Act. Can you explain how you became involved with the promotion of it?

Cesar: “The way people get involved in the dream movement is really to shed the fear and tell your story of who you are. And who you are not only as an immigrant, but also as an American living — we’re undocumented immigrants. So I got involved because I saw other students really going out there and sharing their stories. Going out there at rallies, at state legislatures, really fighting for their dreams — and fighting for my dreams, really. For me it was enough of being on the sidelines, and I needed to come out and tell my story and really get on the field, at rallies, and call on my congressional members and senators to join the fight. That’s how I got involved. And it was my first year of law school that I really forced myself to go out there, and the first time I told my story it was in front of the Senate, so it was a moment that you need to take on.”

Courtney: So President Obama has announced this new version of The Dream Act — I’ve read that it is not as strong as the actual Dream Act would be, but would have some of the same provisions and potentially affect 800,000 people. What is your opinion of this act?

Cesar: “The president announced it as a very temporary step — the age cap is pretty low than what was in the original Dream Act, and we definitely hope to include more people. But it’s a first step and we’re working very hard all across the country to try to press the president to present the legal arguments, the political arguments — to try to provide the support that he needs — but there’s definitely more to do. And I think that is what the president has said — this is temporary.  And we need Congress to pick up the issue, and we have seen in the presidential elections one of the main issues is immigration, and that’s something we want to continue the momentum on, to ensure that the politics and the policy converge to bring both sides together for immigration.”

Courtney: The Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona immigration law has been criticized by some, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, for not repealing the provision that police officers can demand immigration documents of those they stop legally . What is your opinion?

Cesar: “The court agreed that immigration is strictly a federal prerogative — states, no matter how frustrated they are, they need to yield to the federal government. What we saw in the last provision, the provision that allows officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop lawfully, is very disappointing. We do see that as really a discriminatory provision that’s really just going to stop people based on the color of their skin. At least what we saw at the Supreme Court — it’s didn’t uphold it, it just said once it’s implemented, then we can challenge it again. But we’re very confident that we can challenge it again because it’s going to lead to discrimination — and it has led to discrimination lately. Immigration just recently stopped a former governor of Arizona who is Latino. That just goes to show you, no one’s safe from this. But we do hope to see it challenged again based on the fact that it’s discrimination, based on equal protection, and civil rights.”

Courtney: In your experience as a New Yorker, do you think the city is becoming less or more friendly toward immigrants in recent years?

Cesar: “New York is a very different issue, it’s always been the state of immigrants. It’s been fairly progressive on many immigration policies, to ensure there’s access to education, to diverse languages. So New York has been very progressive — at least to me, to my family. Because many of my family members are citizens we have seen New York as a very comfortable, safe place. You also have your pockets where it’s very rural, upstate New York or even Long Island, where we have seen anti-immigrant fervor really targeting immigrants, and Latinos especially. So you definitely have your pockets, but overall New York City has been fairly progressive and fairly friendly on immigrants — that’s completely different than Alabama, Mississippi, or Arizona.”

The New York Times: Blocking Parts of Arizona Law, Justices Allow Its Centerpiece




WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a split decision on Arizona’s tough 2010 immigration law, upholding its most controversial provision but blocking the implementation of others.

The court unanimously sustained the law’s centerpiece, the one critics have called its “show me your papers” provision. It requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if there is reason to suspect that the individual might be an illegal immigrant.

The justices parted ways on three other provisions. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for five members of the court, said the federal government’s broad powers in setting immigration policy meant that other parts of the state law could not be enforced.

“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “With power comes responsibility, and the sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse.”

“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” Justice Kennedy added.

The decision was a partial victory for the Obama administration, which had sued to block several parts of the law.

In a statement released later on Monday, President Obama said that he was “pleased” with the Court’s decision to strike down some aspects of the law, but he voiced his concern about the remaining provision.

"I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," Mr. Obama said. "Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans."

Monday’s ruling was a partial rebuke for state officials who had argued that they were entitled to supplement federal efforts to address illegal immigration.

The administration’s legal arguments were based on asserted conflicts between the state law and federal immigration laws and policies. The question for the justices, then, was whether federal immigration law trumped – pre-empted, in the legal jargon – the state efforts.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked four provisions of the law on those grounds.

The administration did not challenge the law based on equal protection principles. At the Supreme Court argument in the case in April, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., representing the federal government, acknowledged that his case was not based on racial or ethnic profiling.

Monday’s decision in Arizona v. United States, No. 11-182, did not foreclose further lawsuits based on that argument. “This opinion,” Justice Kennedy wrote, “does not foreclose other pre-emption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

In sustaining one provision and blocking others, the decision amounted to a road map for permissible state efforts in this area. Several other states have enacted tough measures to stem illegal immigration, including ones patterned after the Arizona law, among them Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.

Lower courts have stayed the implementation of parts of those laws, and they will now revisit those decisions to bring them in line with the principles announced on Monday.

Three justice dissented. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have sustained all three of the blocked provisions. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. would have sustained two of them.

The three provisions blocked by the majority were: making it a crime under state law for immigrants to fail to register under a federal law, making it a crime for illegal immigrants to work or to try find work, and allowing the police to arrest people without warrants if they have probable cause to believe that they have done things that would make them deportable under federal law.

Justice Alito said the first of those three provisions conflicted with federal law.

Justice Scalia read a lengthy dissent from the bench that addressed recent developments.

“After this case was argued and while it was under consideration,” he said, “the secretary of Homeland Security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants.” This was a reference to the decision by the Obama administration this month to let younger immigrants — the administration estimates the number as approximately 800,000 — who came to the United States as children avoid deportation and receive working papers as long as they meet certain conditions.

“The president has said that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’s failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the immigration laws,” Justice Scalia went on. “Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind.”

Justice Elena Kagan disqualified herself from the case, Arizona v. United States, No. 11-182, presumably because she had worked on it as President Obama’s solicitor general.

Robert Pear contributed reporting.

Check out Japanese immigrant Masako Emvall’s story in audio format! Produced by Courtney Brooks.

21 plays

‘It was, and always is, that I can be myself here in New York’

Photos by Megan McCormick (http://megwethersfieldphotography.virb.com/)

Story by Courtney Brooks

When Japanese immigrant Masako Emvall came to New York City 25 years ago, she had no intention of staying.

The aspiring writer had a publishing company waiting for her to contribute to a guidebook. She had a family in Tokyo, a limited grip on English, and unclear career goals.  

Masako had yet to feel inspired.  

“I was feeling that I couldn’t find what I wanted to do. It was frustrating because I really felt like I am a passionate person and I have something that I really wanted to do,’” she said. “And I felt like it was stuck in my throat — it was like when you can’t remember your words.”

Masako, who is outgoing and bubbly, said she always felt the need to suppress her true personality and feelings when growing up in Japan.

"It was very hard for me, because what I wanted, or how I felt was almost always different from what people thought. But when I came here, I felt I can express all that and no one is going to say anything."

Arriving in New York City on a two-week sightseeing trip, she felt an unfamiliar energy coursing through the city — and through her.  

“I wanted to stay because it was so fascinating,” she said. “And I was really mesmerized by the energy that the city had, and while I was staying here I didn’t want to leave. So I postponed; and I don’t even know how many times, and it became two months, and then three months, and then I just postponed forever,” she said with a laugh.   

Although Masako was now sure where she’d plant her feet, the how wouldn’t be easy.  

She first stayed at a friend of a friend’s, helping take care of their toddler and cleaning their home in exchange for free room and board. She worked as a hostess at a Japanese club, where she could get hired without documentation or fluency in English. While she hated the job, Masako didn’t have any other way of making money.  

Meanwhile she felt increasingly frustrated that people didn’t listen to her. Although Masako had learned English in school, she found herself unable to communicate with New Yorkers. She took classes, but finally realized that her language skills weren’t the crux of the problem; it was her attitude. Masako saw that New Yorkers were completely comfortable telling other people what they wanted; the opposite of how she had been brought up in Japan.  

“So, I realized that I was not telling them what I really want, but since I was very insecure and thinking my English was not good, it just showed in [my] attitude, that I’m kind of insecure, and I don’t know how to speak English well, and then, already, I can’t tell them what I want,” she said.  

“It was really hard, because I didn’t realize that was something that I had to learn to deal with better.”  

Masako said it was a long journey to master her more assertive, New York mindset. She has only felt completely at ease balancing her Japanese upbringing with American culture in the last few years.  

Along the way things started looking up. The ambitious mentality of New Yorkers pushed Masako to identify the passion she had been searching for in Japan. She realized that her dream in life was to become an actress, and she went to theater school in Manhattan.

Masako also went to a speech therapist to improve her accent. She said she felt her heavy Japanese accent made people less willing to listen to her, and was affecting her acting career.

A friend from class helped her get a job at an upscale French restaurant, which had better wages and a better work environment than Masako’s job at the Japanese club.  But Masako was still undocumented –-  which weighed on her. At the time she was living with a French chef at the restaurant where she was waitressing.

“I was telling him that ‘I don’t have a green card, and I just can’t do anything. I am actually working in this restaurant off the books,’” Masako said. “And he said ‘if that will help, I can get married to you if you can get [a] green card.’”  

They married in 1991, but Masako’s husband was an alcoholic, and as their marriage progressed he drank more heavily and eventually became violent.  

Masako said she became withdrawn and depressed as a result of their relationship. They were divorced four years later.  

She remarried last year to her longtime boyfriend, a Swedish immigrant she also met at a different restaurant 16 years ago. He still works at a restaurant, while she is focusing on her acting career.    

Masako is currently writing, producing and acting in an adaptation of a Japanese science-fiction adventure story.  

She said she is first making a short film to post online, and then hopes to find financiers and produce a feature film.  

But as she’s grown into being a New Yorker, Masako said she struggles to connect with her family back in Tokyo.  

"My parents, and especially my brother’s family, have their own way of communicating, which is very Japanese, and I don’t,” she said.  

During her last trip home she felt uncomfortable; as if she could no longer relate to her family.  

“I was getting really tired of their communicating — of adjusting to the way of their communication. And I kind of gave it up, like, ‘to Hell with it!’ So I started expressing the way I felt [with my brother’s family], and that really started causing a lot of turmoil. We really started arguing because I said this, or I didn’t understand this. It really hurt me, really deeply, because now I can be myself, now I am myself, so I am expressing how I feel — [and] they don’t like it. They can’t accept it, they don’t understand. They just resented it.”

But Masako said she never regretted moving to New York, or the struggles that she has met in her adopted country.

"You always find out about yourself, because here, it’s like… you’re kind of like a warrior, and you’re being strong, but you’re always alone — you have your partner, or your family, but you’re alone. And you have to protect yourself. And then you learn, and you realize what you are. Who you are. It’s a constant realization, who you are in New York." 

“It was, and always is, that I can be myself here in New York,” she added. 

'My Job is Trying to Make Chicago the Most Immigrant-Friendly City in the World'

Adolfo Hernández, 29, was named Chicago’s Director of the Office of New Americans in December. Hernández’s parents immigrated to the United States at young ages— equipped with the determination to support their families in Mexico. The sacrifices they made and struggles they endured while going from undocumented to naturalized citizens has inspired Hernández’s commitment to community work.

Today, as he works to bridge the various perspectives on immigration in Chicago,  Hernández hopes to transform the conversation and build more effective policy.

Andrea: Why did your parents come to the United States?

Adolfo: “My dad has 10 siblings and grew up on a small farm. It’s beautiful, but there wasn’t an abundance of food, or money when he was growing up. So basically all the older brothers, my dad and the two older guys, they moved away so they could send money back and support the other siblings and my grandparents. He came in the early 70’s on a visa and actually overstayed his welcome when he came here. (laughs) He worked as a taquero and now one of my uncles owns a taqueria on the southwest side, El Pastor.

My mom is a very similar story. She grew up in Durango. She was one of the older siblings; she came here when she was 16 or 17 years old and started working, cleaning houses. They both had really rough experiences in the U.S. initially. They’ve both become naturalized citizens, and they love it here but each of them goes back at least once a year since the time I was born. I go back at least once a year—and they make sure I go back. When I was a kid I didn’t appreciate going there. But in retrospect, it was so incredible to spend that much time every single year in the place where my parents grew up. I probably had 30 cousins growing up, so if you could imagine 30, 10-year-olds running around on a farm it was a really great environment.

I still feel so incredibly connected to it. I always tell people I would only live in two places—Chicago and my family’s farm in Jalisco, because it feels like home. I grew up there a quarter of the time I grew up here. And I still have a ton of family, way more there than here.”

Andrea: What was growing up the son of immigrants like and why did you stay in Chicago?

Adolfo: “I grew up in Little Village—you don’t really need to leave the neighborhood for anything. You don’t even need to speak English in that neighborhood. For me this ‘fitting-in’ didn’t really come into play until I entered high school. Little Village felt like this controlled, safe environment where everyone speaks Spanish, everyone has family, or is a person that recently moved here. That’s part of what makes that neighborhood great—there is freshness there because everyone keeps coming in from Mexico.

I loved growing up there. I went to high school in this city; I went to grammar school in this city; and I went to college in this city. Part of the reason I want to stay here is that I want to do work to help the city. I just remember all these youth basketball programs, or people my mom took an English class from for free when she was becoming a citizen. I just think of all that work someone was doing for them. That idea of serving your city, your community is important to me. I know it’s important to my parents.”

Andrea: What does the word immigrant mean to you?

Adolfo: “I think of that word three different ways, firstly thinking what does it mean to me, but I couldn’t get there without thinking of the national context. The word has this horrible connotation attached to it—like criminal, or illegal, or some other sort of violence or crime… we’re like the worst of the worst from other countries. But then I thought about the actual term. And finally I got back to what it means to me—I associate that term with family because everyone I know: my parents, uncles, [and] my friends’ parents, they moved here to support their families. 

Read More

'Immigrant Means Family to Me'

We’ve been a little quiet this week at Voices Beyond Borders—we’re hard at work producing some upcoming features. One of the stories is an interview with Chicago’s Director of the Office of New Americans Adolfo Hernández (pictured above).

Hernández is an integral part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s effort to make Chicago “the most immigrant-friendly city in America.” Raised by immigrant parents in the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s southwest side, Hernández said his upbringing influences the work he does today.

Check in Friday for the full story and Monday for the audio interview.

Want to join the conversation? Find us on Facebook or share a profile via Instagram.

"Is there some kind of hierarchy of foreigners?"

Nadya Ivanova, 24, is originally from Bulgaria. She moved to Chicago in 2006 to study journalism at Northwestern University. Since 2009, Ivanova’s worked as a reporter, producer and grant writer for Circle of Blue, the world’s leading online source for water news. Ivanova has traveled to China and Australia to investigate the global water crisis. For VBB Ivanova reflects on her immigrant experience: highlighting the freedoms of being in America and an imposed global hierarchy of foreigners.

Andrea: Why did you move to America and Chicago?

Nadya: “I came to the United States to study in September 2006 to study journalism and I got the opportunity to stay and work after graduation in 2010. So for the last two years I’ve been a reporter and producer for a small non-profit news organization based in Michigan.”

Andrea: What does the word immigrant, or migrant, mean to you?

Nadya: “Well that’s one of those very loosely defined, loaded terms that are haunted by a very strong legacy of stereotypes, or economic considerations and so on so—it’s hard to define it. The simplest way [to define immigrant] is someone who’s going to live in a foreign country permanently. But you know I’ve always wondered about the difference between immigrant and expat for example—why would a British citizen living in China commonly refer to himself or herself as an expat, but a Chinese citizen living in Great Britain would be referred to as an expat? Are these two terms interchangeable? Or is there some kind of hierarchy of foreigners—I just don’t know. But it’s an interesting question to think about.”

Andrea: What does the work immigrant, or migrant, mean to you?

Nadya: “Not to simplify it because it’s a very, the immigrant experience is very nuanced. My personal impression is that being an immigrant in the U.S. is somewhat more liberating than being an immigrant in Europe. For example I base this on my experience living in Cyprus with my parents when I was a kid and just being around Europe. When you think about it, the U.S. was created as an immigrant country; it was created by immigrants and it grew up as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, while European countries are very much based on the idea of the nation-state. So basically the idea that the political entity coincides with the ethnic and cultural entity in the same territory and so on. Europe is really grappling with the idea of immigration, especially after the fall of communism and the influx of immigrants from Africa. So being Bulgarian as I am, and being an immigrant in Europe would have these negative connotations, which makes the experience more difficult. Whereas in the U.S. because you’re part of a more diverse group and because my country is so small and unknown in the U.S. it gives me the liberty to choose how to describe my identity. So for example, I can tell an American that I’m from Southeastern Europe; or I can say I’m from a former communist country; or I can say I’m from the Balkans; or I can say I’m European; or from the Mediterranean if you will, and it probably wouldn’t make a difference to them. It gives you the freedom to choose what to do I think. While in Europe you’re often constrained by the very strong stereotypes attached to your nationality.”

Andrea: Is there any way that you bring your home with you?

Nadya: “I usually carry small things that people in Bulgaria give me. Small things that my grandma gave me, or I’m wearing this bracelet that’s connected to a Bulgarian tradition that we have on every March 1. I cook Bulgarian meals sometimes; one of my roommates is Bulgarian. I think it’s easier to carry your country with you emotionally these days because the world is so interconnected. For me Bulgaria is mostly my family and my friends, so when I keep in touch with them, or when I stay in the loop about what’s happening with them I bring Bulgaria in some small ways in my everyday life—by just being in touch with them.”

Andrea: What has your greatest challenge as an immigrant been?

Nadya: “I don’t know if I see myself as an immigrant in the U.S. I think the greatest challenge probably has to do with proving yourself in a situation in which there are institutional barriers to what you can do. You know, anything from going through a daunting interview process at the U.S. Embassy to come here to getting a work visa, which is so much more difficult for a foreigner than a citizen, naturally. These have been the biggest barriers.”

Andrea: Anything else?

Nadya: “When you said that you wanted to do this interview, I was thinking about what it means to be an immigrant. I think a lot of immigrants see themselves as products of the system. You have somewhat of a choice—you come here you can choose to isolate yourself in an immigrant community, and not learn the language, and stay with your own small group of people because it’s a protected space and it’s what you know. Or you can choose learn the language; soak up the culture and mingle with Americans, or locals and have a richer American experience, which I think more people should be doing. It’s what I’m trying to do at least.”

"I feel this is my country now"

When John Arvanitis, 56, moved to Astoria, Queens in 1974 he found that the area was filled with coffee shops and diners, but devoid of the type of cafes ubiquitous in his native Greece. So, he opened his own. “Omonia Cafe” initially only sold coffee and pastries; today it has two pastry shops and a large restaurant — they even baked the wedding cake for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”!

Courtney: Why did you move to America, and to New York?

John: “To be honest to you, I came to see America, what it’s all about; like the ‘American Dream.’ Everybody wants to see America. I have a sister here who’s married with a couple of kids, so I came to see my nephews. Then I decided this is a good country, a strong country, there are good things here. To compare to my country — I’m from Greece — there’s a big difference in the business way, life wise, but I see everything with more opportunities here. A  lot of opportunities. So I decided to stay here for a little more, then a little more, and then I started to love it. And then I decided, in 1974, 1975, when I was here, that it was missing a cafe like this. Back then they had diners and coffee shops, that’s all they had. So I had the idea, but I didn’t have the money to do it right away. I started in 1977, with a small amount of money, I started with $19,000. That was the amount of money I had. And then the cafe got bigger and bigger and bigger. Thank God today I’m okay, you know?”

Courtney: What does the work immigrant, or migrant, mean to you?

John: “Immigrant means people from different countries. I’m an immigrant too; I came here from a different country.”

Courtney: Is there any way that you bring your home with you?

John: “Of course, always I think about my life in Greece, how I grew up, and everything. I miss it, I go there once a year and see it, but always come back here. I feel this is my country now.”

Courtney: Is being an American, or living in America, different from what you expected it would be?

John: “America, no, when I came back then, I loved the way it is. I love the roots in this country, I love the opportunities, of course it’s not the European style of life, it’s different, but it’s much better here. More opportunities, more things to do here. My country, like a lot of other countries, is very conservative, very small, the opportunities are much less than here. Here, if you’re smart and you know what you want to do, you can do it in this country.”

Courtney: What has your greatest challenge as an immigrant been?

John: “I see the opportunities for business, doing business. You can grow and go very high here, go as high as you want. You can be anybody you want to be in this country. You can be a doctor, you can be a businessman, you can be a lawyer, you can be anything you want. They give you all the opportunities to be high in life. No other country gives you this opportunity. I love America. I do love America. I’m here, I have family here, everything is here. “

The net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.
Pew Hispanic Center
Voices Beyond Borders documents the experiences of immigrants and migrants from all walks of life in New York City and Chicago. Our central aim is to foster a greater understanding of these communities in our two cities.

We want to foster a democratic exchange of storytelling — open, honest and sincere.

We encourage submissions from anywhere in the U.S, as well as abroad. Please contact us if you would like to contribute: borderlessvoices@gmail.com.

view archive

Who We Are