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A First-Hand Look into the Immigration Experience

Everyone has a journey; everyone has a dream—a loose proverb that holds true, no matter who the individual is. The lengths to which people go to pursue their dreams are immeasurable. QC students recently talked about the journey of immigration that their families went through.

NYPIRG project coordinator, Ilayda Polat, spoke at the event. She discussed how her family had immigrated here from Turkey and that while Long Island gave her family an American life, there were still challenges that she had to face. One of the key problems she brought to light was the financial cost of applying for citizenship. Thankfully, in her case, she was able to find a program that helped pay for everything.

Aside from the financial hardships when applying for citizenship, Yerania Aguilar, an exercise science major, went on to talk about her immigration journey. “I wasn’t originally born here, I was born in Mexico. My parents, once they had me, came to America. I stayed with my grandma for three years in Mexico. Upon turning three, my parents decided they wanted to bring me to America after my aunt strongly voiced that I should be there. I came as a resident at the age of three.”

Aguilar added to this by mentioning the problems that come along with residency. “To come to America, of course you can’t come illegally. So, a resident status only allows you to live in America, but you don’t get the citizenship benefits,” Aguilar detailed. Additionally, “ The residency application process is harder than citizenship. Think about it this way, you’re completely new to the country. The government has to do a background check (which you pay for), you have to pay for fingerprinting, the government has to make sure you’re not bringing disease, and that you have income and a residence where you can support yourself.”

Aguilar built on the discussion of the journey of immigration by talking about the emotional toll it took on her. “When I obtained my citizenship, it didn’t feel any different. However, when I first started elementary school, that’s when it really hit me that I was different. I didn’t speak the language, everyone looked different than me. It was hard for me to identify to my Mexican friends because my first exposure to a Hispanic community wasn’t until junior high school”

The discussion ended with a talk from Mayra Sanchez, a junior political science and psychology major. Sanchez detailed how she went through the process of immigration alone at only age 15. Sanchez emphasized, similar to Aguilar, how adapting to life here in America is difficult, especially coming from the Dominican Republic at the age of eight.

NYPIRG project coordinator, Ilayda Polat, emphasized the importance of the discussion by concluding, “this discussion is building community through our shared yet individual experiences in a way of objectively looking at the issues of immigration policies and also ways of fighting for undocumented students to receive financial aid.”

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