To kick off Immigrant Heritage Month this June, Welcome.us – a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating America’s diverse heritage – is inviting the public to explore and share inspirational stories of immigration.
The “I Am An Immigrant” campaign features interviews with celebrities who are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, including Lupita Nyong’o, Wilmer Valderrama, Rosario Dawson and more.
The campaign is also sharing “Humans of New York”-style stories from non-famous people exploring their immigrant status or heritage.
Hugo, a Cuban immigrant, and Victor, the son of a Puerto Rican immigrant (top photo), sometimes struggle to understand each other. But, working together for six months at a restaurant in Miami, Florida, they’ve managed to find a harmony. “He’s a good guy!” Victor says of Hugo, who was raised in the sugar plantations and now incorporates sugar cane juice into cocktails mixed by Victor. “The best part of my culture is just simply being Cuban,” Hugo says. “I am a Matancero. I am proud to be Cuban.”
Rosa, an undocumented mother of two, immigrated from Mexico to Tucson, Arizona. “With both of my children,” Rosa says, “I would stay in the U.S. for eight months of my pregnancy, then on the eighth month we’d go to Mexico to have our kids. We always wanted to do things the right way and show the government that we were not here to have kids and live off of government help. We wanted to demonstrate that we were working hard to have a better life…”
Despite her efforts, Rosa was arrested during a routine traffic stop and detained in the Eloy Detention Center. She is now fighting for her freedom with the help of Margo, an immigration lawyer whose mother was from Mexico. “Rosa was at the end of the road,” Margo says, “so she came and found me. I wish she would have come and found me sooner, because I don’t lose people.”
Paola came to the United States from Colombia with her mother and brother when she was 2 years old. “My mom… didn’t have anything in her home country, but she had hopes and dreams and ideas. It was really, really hard. My mom was a single mom who spoke no English, had only a high school education, had two young children, ages 7 and 3. No family, no money to speak of, and she was completely and totally alone… There were times that we didn’t have a house, and we slept in a park. Through it all, my mom somehow, some way managed to get a job, learn English, and put her children through school.”
Now Paola and her brother both have master’s degrees. Paola is a filmmaker with a young son who remains connected with both her Colombian and American cultures. “I always know that if my mother was able to make magic out of nothing every day for 30-plus years,” she says, “then I can do it too.”
Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month by reflecting on your own heritage, whether you’re a new immigrant, a descendant of slavery or of immigrants who came to the United States generations ago, seeking a better life.
Generate your own “I Am An Immigrant” image and change your profile picture here. Learn about Immigrant Heritage Month events from California to New York here. Share your story on Facebook or Twitter using #IHM2016.