More than 500,000 undocumented immigrants in New Jersey share roads, work, and school with us. Some emigrated to the United States recently, and some were brought here by their parents when they were only young children. A better life, and a chance to live the American dream is all they desire.
This past Tuesday, four students from Montclair State University gathered in University Hall to discuss and share their immigration stories. The panel was part of the Constitution Day celebration, which was hosted by the American Democracy Project.
The four students each had a unique story to tell.
Debora Cubias, a junior and part of the jurisprudence program, came to the United States as a young child from El Salvador. With Spanish being her native language, Cubias struggled with English. Despite the challenges, she appreciates all the help from her elementary school teachers and believes that children who were brought to the United States deserve a chance to advance in their education.
“America gives us the chance to succeed and have a better life,” she said.
Kamila Kolodynska,a senior studying jurisprudence and political science, isn’t the typical face behind immigration. Through a sponsor she emigrated with her family 12 years ago from Poland. At the time her sister was suffering from a serious medical condition that Poland medical institutions could not treat.
As a young child she had to deal with feeling like an outsider, but now as young adult she faces a new obstacle. Kolodynska had a visa as a minor, but after she turned 21 she was removed from the system. She then had to apply for an international student visa. However, once she is done with school she will have to return to Poland.
“How does the system expect me to leave this country when I have lived here for 12 years?” she said. “I consider myself an American, but on paper I am not.”
Kolodynska is now relying on a job training program that could allow her to file for a green card after she has worked for a year. If immigration reform bills fail to get through Congress, her last option will probably have to be marriage. Undocumented immigrants can receive a green card if they marry a U.S. citizen.
Jonathan Maiorano and Melissa Zuniga are both children of immigrant parents.
Maiorano described the pressures of being the son of hard-working immigrant parents. His father came from Uruguay to the United States to find a better future for himself and for his family. “One day I will make my dad proud,” he said. “My success will become his success.”
Zuniga’s mother is an immigrant from Mexico, and her father is from Chile. Melissa also described some of the sacrifices her family had to make. As a child she lost the chance to grow up with her grandparents and other family members. Melissa also believes her success will be worth all the struggles her parents faced.
These students all agreed that the United States gives them the chance to succeed and make a better living for themselves. Their accomplishments are not only for themselves, but for their parents as well.
Montclair State | New Jersey