As A First Generation Bosnian-American, I Know Immigrants Are What Make America Great
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As A First Generation Bosnian-American, I Know Immigrants Are What Make America Great

Immigrants are not the problem with this country, so stop treating them like they are.

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As A First Generation Bosnian-American, I Know Immigrants Are What Make America Great
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To start this article, I have to let you know a couple of things about myself.

You might be wondering what I'm holding up in the header of this article. It's my certificate of citizenship. I got it after 18 years of living here. I was born in Croatia, but just by circumstance.

I'm actually from a teeny, little country in southeastern Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina. My family moved to the US when I was two months old, so I've practically spent my entire life in America. Now that you know a little about my immigrant background, I need to get something off of my chest:

Immigrants are not the problem with this country, so stop treating them like they are.

When my family came to the United States, my parents were in their early 20s and neither knew English. We had only a suitcase, 90 dollars, and our sponsors.

My mom and dad grew up in a Communist nation, Yugoslavia, that had been ripped apart and ravaged by a civil war that targeted Bosnia Muslims simply because they were Muslim. My family identifies as Muslim, as does 46% of the Bosnian population.

In Yugoslavia, specifically in Bosnia, there had been three different ethnic groups -- the Bosnian Muslims, the Catholic Croats, and the Orthodox Serbians. Now, many Bosnians today will admit that life under communism was good, but life when communism fails, the consequences definitely outweigh the good under communism, to say the least.

The war lasted from 1992 to 1995, with about 80% of the 100,000 that died being Bosnian Muslims.

People were tortured, raped, killed -- just because of what holidays they celebrated and how they prayed to God. The worst genocide on European soil since the Holocaust occurred in Bosnia in 1995, when, within 24 hours, 9000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in a Serb-led campaign dubbed "ethnic cleansing".

So, the people that left after the war had absolute cause to leave.

Back to my parents and their 90 dollars. Obviously, we had to be on government assistance, but it was only for a little less than two years.

My parents were determined to make a life for us. My mom worked at various clothing stores; my dad worked at a factory during the day and went to night school to learn English. Looking back on my childhood, though, I never felt that I didn't see my parents or that I didn't have a doll or something to play with. I never felt the poverty that my parents were trying so desperately to get us out of.

Day by day, month by month, my parents worked and worked and worked, until when I was about three years old. We moved out of the project apartment complex in Clarkston, and into a house in a suburb in metro Atlanta. Within three years of being in the United States, my parents had enough to buy a home in one of the highest rated counties in the state of Georgia.

Now, almost 19 years later, my parents run a successful business and are blessed to make enough money to let us live a privileged, blessed life.

However, the label "immigrant" has a negative connotation, and that label, once you've been branded with it, does not leave you.

In high school, I had a friend ask me a question that made me want to flip: "What kind of welfare does the government give you Bosnians that you can afford all those nice German cars?"

What?

This question shook me to my very core.

All of my parents' hard work had been undermined in just a few words. I was angry. I was livid. I could not BELIEVE that someone would actually think that I lived a comfortable life due to welfare. My parents worked days and nights and went to school to learn the language to make life better and easier.

They never took the easy way out. They saw the goal of having a life and being someone and they never looked back. They instilled in me and my sisters that a good work ethic, a goal, and determination are the only things you need to be successful, no matter what your circumstances. This friend continued to say that my parents "had drug money..." Nice Eastern European joke, pal.

This doesn't pertain to just my parents. 90 percent of the Bosnians you will come across have similar stories: their parents moved here, were on welfare for a little while, saved money, and moved into better homes in safer areas.

In St. Louis, Missouri, a population of about 70,000 Bosnians turned the Bevo Mill neighborhood from a run-down section of town to a part bustling with new businesses and new families. And it's not just Bosnians. It's most immigrants. Which brings me to my main point.

The point here is this: immigrants are what make America great.

The negative association with the word immigrant is something that our society and our world have to change. People who leave their countries don't do it just because they want to. They don't leave the comfort of the familiarity of their home and move somewhere to abject poverty and WANT to stay in that poverty.

They leave because they know, while it will be hard in the beginning, it'll all be worth it. It'll all be worth it when you open your business. It'll all be worth it when you get that little certificate with your name on it, saying you're a US citizen, and when you get that American passport.

It'll all be worth it when you see your kid getting into one of the best universities in the country and seeing them graduate high school. We, as a society, have got to stop continually dumping immigrants in a pile of hopelessness. There is no reason to make someone who already feels like an outsider feel like they'll never be an integrated member of society.

It simply isn't fair.

The struggles an immigrant family faces are numerous, and societal isolation shouldn't be one of those. Experiencing this first hand, after having spent 19 years in the States, it made me feel like I didn't belong. Like I didn't belong in the country that I had called home for so long.

America, we have to do better.

So give those that left all that they knew to come to a country as great as this one a look of respect and admiration, not one of pity. They didn't come here for us to feel sorry for them. They came here to make something of themselves.

The sideways glances and snide comments they receive only make it harder for them. How would you feel if you were in their shoes?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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