What It’s Like To Be An Immigrant In The US

This year has been a strange time in my life.

I first moved to the United States 10 years ago. I was 16 and it was a hot summer day in July when I got to Las Vegas. The minute I stepped out of the airport, it felt like I was breathing fire. That’s how hot it was that day. And it was at that moment, that I realized I had just completely stepped into a whole other country. A whole other world. I had left behind everything and everyone I knew for the past 16 years. That was a lot of shit to take in at 16. My 16-year-old self was torn. I was afraid to leave my family and friends, but at the same time, I was excited to be given a chance to live the American Dream. It was embedded in me not to squander such an opportunity, so it was imprinted in me to give it my best shot – at everything. I became driven and ambitious to do my best on this newfound adventure that was waiting for me.

I landed in this country as a teenager so I got my high school diploma here and eventually my college degree as well. Getting my college degree was probably one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me because I associated it with independence and freedom. And that was what I wanted. My very goal in life was to be an independent woman. And now, I am kind of a prisoner of my freedom.

After college, I had a few bullsh*t jobs here and there before I scored my first big girl job as a project manager for a company at 25. I was f*cking elated. And I f*cking worked hard. I worked my ass off. I worked 12 to 13 hours a day to make sure everything was see fit. I reported to the COO of the company. And she loved me. I had margaritas with this woman after long work days. The president of the company even said I reminded her of a younger her. All was swell.

And then, bullsh*t just started trickling one by one. I came here on a student visa. In a nutshell, the way it works is that an individual with a student visa can stay in the country for as long as they are in school. Since I had graduated, I was allowed to work in the country for a year with an employment permit. That employment permit had an expiration date and it came closer and closer. Like dawn at night.

You are, however, allowed to apply for a working visa, in which you can stay in the country for job purposes. The company you work for is typically the one that applies for a working visa for you. They wanted to keep me so they were going to do just that for me. Except they missed the deadline for applying. I was f*cked. In every sense of the word. It meant I had to leave the country 60 days after my employment permit expired. Yup, I was f*cked.

I was anxious. I worked so hard only for me to f*cking feel anxious. I was supporting myself so all my fears started trickling in. Fear of becoming homeless, having to be deported, not to mention I was in a really shitty relationship too and was heartbroken most of the time. It felt like it was game over for me. I had worked hard to get to this point – only for the simple fact that I wasn’t from here to ruin everything. That I was a foreigner. It started crashing down.

Thankfully, I am a persistent person and did not want to give up the fight. I consulted with a lawyer. He said I could apply to become a permanent resident but it was a lengthy process and in that remainder of the time, I was not allowed to work.

There I was, six months after talking to the lawyer, still not allowed to work. Still waiting for my application to push through. I became a prisoner of my freedom. I was depressed. And bored. But mostly depressed. This kind of situation hurt me for as ambitious of a person as I was. I hated not doing anything. I liked being productive. I envied my closest friends who were able to go places and get ahead in life because they were allowed to pursue their dreams – legally. Meanwhile, I had no choice but to literally Netflix and chill. I was like Sandra Bullock in the movie ‘The Proposal’ except I did not have a Ryan Reynolds.

And then one day, I just snapped out of it and had the ultimate epiphany. I said to myself that I am not going to be miserable over a situation I have no control over. I am not going to be a prisoner of my circumstance, but at the same time, I am going to fight for what I want. I think I became a better person for it and in the process, found myself.

I had to make a choice. Did I want to fight and figure out a way to stay here in the United States so I could live the coveted ‘American Dream’? Or did I just want to take the easy way out and let the system dictate my fate? I decided to fight.  

I decided to lawyer up and in the next few weeks, I will be traveling all the way to California for one meeting with him. A meeting that I have been waiting to take place for six months now. The goal? To file for permanent residence here in the U.S. of A.

Fighting for what you want, for me, translates to waiting for six months for this one pivotal moment of going to one very important meeting to claim back the one thing that was always mine: my life and my right to work and pursue the American Dream whenever the f*ck I want.

Featured Image via WeHeartIt

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