They are warriors, selfless human beings who are determined to give their kids opportunities they never had for themselves. There were willing to leave behind the comfort of family, love, and language for a shot: a shot at that dream we all talk about. It's not a lavish lifestyle but a dream. This dream is achieved through access to education, a good paying job, and opportunity. And it's all for you.
This is for you, the first-generation American citizen who was raised by an immigrant mom that we don't deserve.
Now, don't get me wrong, all moms are badass. But there is something special about those who cross a border, sacrificing everything they know, to see their kids live a better life. According to Pew Research, "more than 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year" and today, "more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country"
Among that bunch, is your mom, my cousin's mom, my neighbor's mom, and my mom. And the truth is, there is so much more that brings our immigrant moms together than what pulls them apart, even if they were all born in different continents.
It all began with packing whatever could fit in a few suitcases to prepare for a long flight, boat ride, or walk across the US border. In the suitcase are clothes, important documents, and photos of family. What doesn't fit is the one-stop-shop to learn the complex English language or the rest of their family. What they feel is hope and anxiety. But they do it anyway.
According to Pew Research, "more than 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year" and today, "more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country"
They are soon entering foreign territory. The only familiar piece of their life might soon become seeing the face of the love of her life, a partner in the journey. But they do it anyway.
Maybe they become a citizen. Maybe they are handed a rectangular beige card that has the word alien at the top. Maybe they live in the shadows—undocumented. Your life is different than that of your American friends because of your immigrant mom who knows they will never be American enough.
You are a translator, in fifth grade or college, at doctor's appointments or parent teacher conferences. You first hear the word and not only can you not translate it but you also don't know what it means in English. But you learn. In that moment, you clarify, use hand gestures, and use several small words to explain the big word to make sure they understand. Because you are the translator, and your immigrant mom needs to understand.
You are a financial provider. You work at the fast food job, because you know there is only enough money to pay the bills. You apply for college scholarships, because there is no way you can ask them to co-sign for a student loan. Mom is working in a factory and is not eligible for higher paid jobs because of a language barrier and lack of access to acquiring new skills. But she doesn't complain even though she knows that she is sacrificing her body working the job that most Americans would never apply for.
Your life is different than that of your American friends because of your immigrant mom who knows they will never be American enough.
You are the one who will overcome adversity. Your mom has proven that there is no alternative. Because when your mom picks up and moves to another country without even knowing the language, your motivation is at its highest caliber possible. There's a certain pep in your step to achieve success. You will not only survive, but you will thrive.
Because you are the child of an immigrant mom: a mom who has shown you that being in this country and providing you access to opportunity is worth the repeated sacrifices.
Follow Theresa Agonia on Twitter or Instagram at @TheresaAgonia
This article was originally published January 29, 2020.
WRITTEN BYTheresa Agonia