Student immigrants in pursuit of the American Dream

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“It was morning and my mom woke me up. I didn’t know what was going on.

     “She was screaming at me to put some clothes on. I heard two guys rattling the door outside.”

     “Then my dad came into the room I was in and jumped outside our second floor window to try to distract them (the men).”

     “As my dad ran they followed him and they shot him.”

    “We left Mexico because we knew it was too dangerous after my dad’s death.” Justin* said.

     Every single year, thousands of migrants set off for the United States in hope of finding the “American dream” and escaping the danger of their third-world countries.

     These immigrants spread across all 50 states, including Nebraska.

      Even SHS has a few undocumented immigrants.

     One of our upperclassmen arrived to the United States from Argentina when he was a year old.

     “The poverty line from here to there (Argentina), is a lot different. In terms of poverty here, it would’ve been a lot better than what we were living at; and we weren’t even at poverty yet.” Ethan* said.

     Many who were lucky enough to be born in the United States have feared the ‘American Dream’ is dead.              For immigrants however, the “American Dream” takes on a whole different meaning.

     For immigrants, this metaphorical dream means being able to be free from war or persecution, being provided with opportunities like no other, and finding a good job.

     “The way I see it, you can’t really lose in the United States because there is so much help that you can get. Work is everywhere as long as you actually go out and look for it and you are not really limited to anything,” Ethan said.

     For other immigrants, their only concern is escaping the terror of their old countries.

     “In the newspapers I would see dead bodies everyday. One time we were coming from a vacation and a group of men dressed like policemen stopped us and took one of our friends, maybe two months afterwards we found out he was okay,” Justin said.

     Even though both students were born in different countries, they both said the United States was home to them.

     “It’s all I’ve really known; of course, our own family traditions and cultures are a lot different, but the U.S. is pretty much all I know,” Ethan said.

     According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Canadians lead the United States immigrants in illegal visa overstays. DHS reported that Canadian overstays double those of Mexican overstays.

     In fact, according to the PEW Research Center, only 42,000 Mexicans overstayed their visas compared to 93,000 Canadians and a little under 124,000 Europeans.

     “I never liked the idea of all illegal immigrants being classified as ‘Mexicans’ because I’m not from Mexico, and there are plenty of other illegal immigrants that cross the border.”

     “Even Canadians that cross the border are still illegal immigrants,” Ethan said.

     Both students felt like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement refuses to shine the spotlight on other undocumented immigrants besides those of Mexican descent.

     New President Donald Trump has shined a spotlight on undocumented immigrants, specifically Hispanic immigrants.

     Trump promised his followers he would build a wall, he would carry out mass deportations, and even made some racist remarks along the way, generalizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

     The students felt Trump was able to put a derogatory label on all Mexican immigrants and people still continued to support him.   

     “I guess ignorance is bliss. I wish they were informed of the reality of what is illegal immigration.”

     “Just automatically putting a label on one set of people for the entireties is just pure ignorance,” Ethan said.

     “It makes me angry because it’s not true. Not everyone is a rapist or a criminal; I feel like people who come here come to get a better life,” Justin said.

     For many undocumented immigrants in the United States, Donald Trump’s campaign and now Presidency has been discouraging.

     Many fear their ‘American Dream’ might be cut short, or taken away completely.

     “I’m scared mostly because my parents want me to continue my education and I also want to continue my education. I feel like maybe that might not be an option for me later into his presidency,” Justin said.

      Both students agreed the term ‘illegal alien’ was their least favorite of the common, snide remarks they hear.

     “Illegal alien just doesn’t feel right to me,” Justin said.

     “I always thought being classified as ‘alien’ was so weird because I’m not anymore different than anyone else just because my skin is a little darker,” Ethan said.

     Both of these individuals are currently going through the very time extensive naturalization process to gain U.S. citizenship.

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