By Krystal Diaz
Every year, thousands upon hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world travel to the United States, whether in search of religious or political freedom, education development or sponsorship through work reform.
According to Wikipedia, immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout history. The United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than any other country in the world, totaling to 37.5 million people, as of 2006.
One such lucky person that came to the United States was Maria Nieves Alonso-Almagro. Maria comes from the capital of Spain, born and raised. Now, she is an assistant professor of Spanish of the college. However, it wasn’t an easy trip for her.
Maria earned her B.A. at the Universidad Autonama de Madrid in her early twenties, and then later received her M.A. The education system in particular Spanish countries, including Spain and Argentina, differs from how the education system is in the United States.
For most students that do well throughout elementary school into high school are given a chance to enter into public universities…for free. Therefore, college is free for those that are within obtain good grades; whereas those who don’t obtain good grades have to pay for it. The education system determines whether or not a student is eligible to continue in to either public or private school through placement testing towards the end of high school and can also determine what type of degree a student can apply for.
Through the State University of New York, Maria was given a scholarship at Stony Brook to continue her way into a Ph.D. Even though she was able to receive a scholarship she still needed to obtain a F1 student visa. There are many types of visas that one can obtain through the U.S. Department of State. There is a lot of paper work that needs to be done to apply and receive a F1 student visa. Most of the paperwork needs to be done online.
Every year, about 60 to 70 thousand people go to the United States with visas from Spain. However, only those that are financially stable or have an education and are continuing on as a professional can obtain said visas. In order for Maria to get a student visa she had to prove that she could go to Stony Brook without the scholarship she was given.
Some people cannot obtain a visa because they have no money or do not have an adequate education. Mostly it is because in order to obtain a particular visa, it has to be done online, such as a Diversity Lottery. There are still many areas that do not have access to a computer and/or do not know how to access the internet.
According to the U.S. Department of State online, “When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America.”
Although Maria came in 2000 through her visa and scholarship she was able to reapply for another three years. The one thing that she was able to do here that she would not have been able to do in Spain is get a teacher’s assistant job. After her M.A. she would have needed to start a job automatically, but Maria wanted to further her education and get a Ph.D. “Going abroad for a year or going abroad for a semester…it’s something that you cannot really put a value to that,” said Maria, “I’m very glad that I did it.”
It takes a lot of courage to leave ones country and try to make it here in the United States. Many people come here without papers looking for work. This country was created through a melting pot of immigrants. However, the economic and social part of immigration have brought about controversy regarding ethnicity, religion, economic benefits, job growth, levels of criminality, nationalities, and work habits.
In any country, whenever something bad happens, economically speaking, usually the first to blame is the immigrant. There is a climate of fear: fear of people that are different and mostly through ignorance.
Maria is one of the editors of a bilingual magazine titled HYBRIDO. Their latest issue contains true stories of those that can be found on the streets of Farmingville; those that huddle near each other in the damnedest of weather looking, waiting, and struggling for work. Not everyone that migrates to the United States has a happy story like Maria…this is Ana’s.
This story comes from the tenth issue of HYBRIDO in 2008. It is a vague translation of her story since it is in both English and Spanish. Ana comes from Colombia.
She came to New York with her parents when she was 16 years old. She obtained her degree in political sciences, is married and it works with an agency that promotes the rights of people. In this fragment she speaks of her first experiences working in this country. Her parents, who were professors in their country, work here in a factory.
Ana: It was September eleventh. At that time, my father was working at an airplane parts company. He left and began to work with my mother as assemblers, lines of work pieces were passed to and from them… where they put tickets for the soda machines.
My father had afternoons free and one lady of a restaurant wanted him to work in “fast food.” Then, he took me and said to me, “See if they accept you.” Well, we were, we applied, and without any problem, they accepted me too. Well, I knew more or less English they placed me in the front.
It was very hard because we worked, my father and me, and sometimes we returned home twelve and on average one in the morning. We had to wash everything, fry things; in that restaurant I lasted more or less 2 years there. I was in High School; I was seventeen.
I remember this one time, it seemed horrible to me, was when I worked in that fast food restaurant. All of the cooks were of El Salvador or Mexico. They hardly arrived and they do not speak English. We spoke in Spanish because it’s necessary but…
We worked there in the restaurant a little while when the manager said to us, “Oh. We have complaints from the customers and they would like not for you guys to speak Spanish.”
-So they’re not going to get chicken? I’m sorry. They’re not going to get chicken, or they are not going to get anything? You know nothing.
Because how am I supposed to tell the people that cook that I need tacos con queso con tomate con lechuga con…? If they want to have their food on time, how am I supposed to tell the person that cooks, you know, they need chicken, they need this, they need that. How?
-“Oh, well then they should speak English.”
-All right then. Then we leave and then bring the people that speak English. This was their customer. He came in. He orders. So I’m like Juan, José, whoever. I need this and I started asking them in Spanish.
The guy said, “What are you saying? Are you talking about me?”
“I’m telling them to cook your meal, is that a problem?” That is the typical American who thinks that we are always speaking badly of him or that everybody is looking at him. Delirious of persecution.
And he’s like, “Are you talking about me?”
-“I’m not talking about you. You’re not that important for me to talk about you. I just met you.”
-“Oh, are you being rude?”
-I’m like, “I’m not being rude. You are being rude to me.”
-“Oh, you people come here, and you think you own everything and you don’t even speak English.”
-And then I’m like, “Do you really want somebody that works here to speak English? How many kids do you have? You have kids? Tell them to come and apply and see if they can do the job that they are doing. Believe me. Believe me. If you have people in the United States, Americans, that want to go and work and do the job that the immigrants do, believe me, nobody will come here. For what? They will go to another place. For what?” And I told the guy, “Tell everybody we’re hiring. You want applications? I’ll give you applications. Tell everybody that we are hiring. You get me 5 cooks and we leave.”
And unfortunately I got very upset and I threw the chicken at him. But, whatever…
It is very hard for immigrants to obtain a visa let alone remain here under the God given respect that every human being deserves. The pen is mightier than the sword; just as it is written on those Starbucks coffee cups, “I wish everyone could see how much we all have in common.” For more information on what Long Island is doing about it go to www.longislandwins.com, www.longislandimmigrantalliance.org, and check out the latest issue of HYBRIDO at www.hybridomagazine.net.