Why I came to North Carolina
Imagine being born in a rural area with limited resources to help you get ahead in life. You only made it to the seventh grade because you had to drop out of school to help provide for your family.
Now you have a family of your own, and you have to provide for them as well.
What do you do when you know your situation will not improve as long as you stay where you are?
Your only option is to migrate to a country you know nothing about except that you might be able to find a job to provide for your family.
Imagine having to leave everyone you know behind: your mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and even your children.
My dad left Guatemala in 1991 in order to provide for our family. After living in different parts of the U.S. as a migrant worker, he eventually settled in Siler City to work in the local poultry plant.
My mother and I came when I was 6 years old.
We came because to survive in a poverty-stricken country you must either be born into a wealthy or educated family.
We didn’t come because we wanted to; rather, poverty and the lack of resources we faced in Guatemala forced us to come.
We couldn’t apply for visas because visas are nearly impossible to acquire if you lack an education. That is, unless you are a highly-skilled worker or are wealthy, the U.S. government doesn’t think you will benefit the country or the economy.
Even without proper documentation, I have been paying taxes since the day I moved here. I have been economically contributing to my community, like everyone in the country, whether I am a citizen or not.
I have been living here for more than 14 years and have never gotten in trouble with law enforcement. I went through the education system and excelled academically in high school.
Over the course of my life, I have devoted myself to making sure that I can help others.
I have translated for Spanish speaking parents at teacher-parent conferences, sang Christmas carols at retirement homes, was class president of my class in high school, organized a mentoring program at the local elementary school and advocated for accurate sexual health education in North Carolina.
Regardless of the way I came here, I know I am a part of this country and have contributed to the betterment of my community.
Although no one chooses where in the world he or she is born, migration is an inherent human right. It is in our instinct to better ourselves and those around us.
To what extent would you go to provide for your family? Would you cross borders to have a better future?
As UNC students and the next generation of leaders, we must understand why people migrate to this country.
We will be making the policy decisions and driving the debate, so we mustn’t forget the human face of the issue.
Emilio Vicente is a columnist from the Daily Tar Heel. He is a sophomore public policy and philosophy major from Siler City. Contact him at email@example.com.
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