What I Want Every Natural Born American Citizen To Know
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Politics and Activism

What I Want Every Natural Born American Citizen To Know

A Colombian immigrant’s view on immigration.

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What I Want Every Natural Born American Citizen To Know

The topic of immigration and immigrants in general brings a flood of mixed emotions. For those who have little knowledge on the subject, stigmas and stereotypes come to mind. But to those like myself, who have experienced immigration first hand, the conversation may lead to frustration as we try to unveil the truths that many fail to comprehend. Since the time I moved to United States at the ripe age of four, I have experienced a number of uncomfortable situations that have made me realize the importance of helping my peers understand the reality of immigration.

While many choose to learn and educate themselves on the subject, those who rely on the media or the opinions of those around them may be led to believe some ideas that are in fact, not true. My goal is to point out a few things that I wish others knew about immigration and immigrants in general.

Not all Latino immigrants come from Mexico.

This is pretty obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked if I was Mexican simply because I spoke Spanish in public. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being from Mexico, but just like most natural born citizens who are “proud to be an American,” I am proud to be Colombian. Although Colombia is known for its many exports, such as co…ffee, I am always more than willing to talk about my culture and homeland with those who may know little or nothing at all about the country.

The correct term is “undocumented.”

A person is not illegal, their actions are. When someone enters the country under the wrong circumstances (AKA, some way other than through customs and homeland security approval), they are coming in undocumented. Yes, their actions are illegal, but the people are not. I hate hearing people talk about “the illegals” as if they were objects, not humans. Not only is it demoralizing to be addressed as an object, but it can also influence those individuals’ desire to become assimilated with the American society. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone the act of entering illegally, but the people who have no choice but to enter illegally often do so for economic reasons, in hopes of coming to America, the land of opportunity to better their lives. I could talk about this for hours, but all I want Americans to hear from me in regards to this is that those immigrants are people too, and while we may not agree with what they are doing, we do not know their circumstances. So rather than referring to them as illegals, use the term undocumented.

And to piggy back on that…

Not all immigrants are here illegally.

When I tell people that I am from Colombia, the first question I am often asked is, “are you illegal?” My family arrived in the United States by plane. We flew into Miami before catching another flight to Richmond, Virginia. We had our passports stamped with Visas, just like anyone traveling from the U.S. would do in order to enter another country. We followed every rule and regulation and obeyed all the laws that were set for those entering the U.S. I know this isn’t the case for some immigrants, but to assume such simply because you hear about it happening is almost offensive, and I find it ignorant. My parents worked hard and spent hundreds of dollars to make sure that everything we did, in terms of moving to the U.S., was done correctly.

Most immigrants try hard to learn the English language.

In high school, I was forced to take a foreign language, so I took French. It was hard, and my classmates and I struggled to remember the correct pronunciations, conjugations, and definitions. Now I know it is different learning a language in the classroom, but coming to a foreign country and learning a totally new language can be extremely difficult. No matter how many times someone corrects your pronunciation or subject verb agreement, you cannot be fluent and speak perfectly without months of practice. I say this because many times I hear Americans say that every immigrant needs to know English perfectly before even thinking of interacting with anyone in our English-speaking society. Although I agree that learning English should be a priority, I urge everyone to understand that learning a new language can be extremely difficult, let alone English where there are three different meanings for a word that sounds exactly the same (their, there, and they’re). And having an accent is often inevitable when the sounds of one language are so different from someone else’s native language. Rather than assuming someone who sounds differently or struggles to speak English is doing so because they choose, try to bear with the individual because the practice of interacting with them could be the help the person needs for bettering their English.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is not as easy as it sounds.

Until you go through the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, you don’t realize the difficulty of the matter. I hear people say that the simple solution to fix having undocumented individuals in the U.S. is for them to become citizens. However, no one ever tells you everything that must be done in order for that to happen. To name a few: hiring a lawyer, meeting every requirement for the application process (having had legal status at all times during the stay, reaching the point in your stay when you are allowed to apply), paying thousands of dollars to apply, waiting for months for a simple “we received your application” response, waiting more for another response, sending more evidence to prove your existence, resending documents because “they got lost in the mail,” and did I mention waiting some more?

Seriously, the list goes on and on. Not to mention, becoming a citizen is not the only option for a foreigner who lives in the U.S. for an extended period of time. There are plenty of other options for an individual’s status such as simply coming with a tourist Visa, student Visa, or a work Visa. Similar to individuals who like to travel and work in other countries, some folks choose to do the same here in the States.

It is hard to speak for every immigrant here in the U.S. but for those with similar opinions as myself, I hope to relay a few things that we want our friends and peers to know about our situation. Not everyone who comes here has good intentions, but what I don’t want is for those few to mask the country’s opinion on every immigrant that enters the country. My intentions are in no way to reprimand those who have made these assumptions at any point; however, I do hope to shed light on some incorrect popular opinions in order to bridge the gap that is created as a result.

After all, the U.S. is said to be a melting pot, and I don’t know about you, but I think that is something to be proud of.

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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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