I admit, I grew up really sheltered. It has/had its perks, but I don't want to walk around with blinders on. I want to know what is going on around me, and if I can, I want to help. I learned last year about farming, and I learned about the human trafficking problem in Houston. The first trimester this year the focus is on Immigration. I usually hear immigration on TV or the radio and immediately change the channel. I know its going to turn into some type of political debate and I don't feel like watching people argue when I could be watching Criminal Minds, baking, or trying some type of craft project that will turn into a failure.
This month Viktor Kopic from Vox Culture will join this little blog of mine and tell his immigration story. I hope to learn something from his story, and I hope that you will too.
Please give a warm welcome to Viktor and lets get started:
Over the month on January, I will be posting a three-part series of weekly blogs meant to introduce the audience to the issue our first trimester of 2013 will be focusing on, immigration. The series of blogs are a personal glimpse to my story as an immigrant to the United States, which some of you reading this might share as well. While there are many reasons why I took the time to write this series of blogs, none of them have anything to do with looking for self pity and are not intended for pushing any sort of political agenda.
If anything, this series of blogs is to raise awareness amongst you all of how the issue of immigration is not black and white, as many of us are led to believe… there’s a large grey area that most do not know about and I and my family are just one of the many of existing cases that are affected by this large grey clout. The process of applying for a legal status, citizenship, and the like, within the U.S. does not just involve a sheet of paper or a stamp saying whether you have been approved or denied. It is a long and tedious process involving lawyers, numerous documents, and potentially large expenses, that can take years to complete and can have serious hurdles and effects on individuals and entire families. The issue of immigration has long been held hostage by political bickering and while certain efforts have been made to reform and tackle the issue, immigration has remained a taboo subject in what is ironically a nation mostly MADE of immigrants.
If I were to give my main reason as to why I wrote these blogs it's because I wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone of the human side of this topic, which in a period of ideological divisions, many people have either forgotten about or chosen to ignore. While certain points and views will become clearer once the upcoming blogs are posted on the Vox website and on Facebook, the following should be seen as a summary of what to expect, hear more of, as well as my general opinion of the overall immigrant experience from my eyes.
If I could sum up my experience in the U.S. so far in one word, I do not believe it would be one that would be appropriate from a professional stance. While many immigrants do go through the process without any problems and are able to live their lives normally, I would have to say that I have not had that luxury. While I do consider myself fortunate in so many other ways (having food, shelter, etc), when it comes to aspects such as having the freedom to choose where you want to work and what you want to pursue, the freedom to fly and go where you want without facing the possibility of being detained and questioned, or the ability to just be yourself without having to pose the question “Am I allowed to do this? Or will I be breaking the law?” are just some of the things I have had to endure or live without.
Docked at a port and learning "how to sweep", during my days sailing on the ship with my father.
In big part, because of the existing immigration system (and also thanks to what were supposed to be “excellent” lawyers), I’ve not been back “home” in just over a decade nor have been able to leave the country for nearly the last five years. The reason that I put “home” in quotes is because in fact, while I was born in Croatia, my entire life I’ve spent travelling and living abroad; on top of the fact that I have now literally lived over half of my life in the United States.
With my mother in the water during some beach-time in Croatia, then-Yugoslavia.
The only home I have really ever known has been my family. In what is supposed to be the “land of the free” I have found myself imprisoned within these borders with my fate, and that of my family, out of our hands and out of our control. While it might not be a “big deal” to some, I’ve missed one of my cousin’s weddings and haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with many other of my relatives (given that the last time I’ve really hung out with any of them I was a child).
With some of my cousins in Mauritius, I'm on the top step.
The most personal however has always been not being able to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Had I left the U.S. and tried to come back with my current status, I would likely be questioned, be treated as a suspect, been seen as violating my status, and likely be officially kicked out; because again, the system only sees the world in black and white.
(Top Right) Sitting on my grandfather's lap during my 1 year old birthday celebration, having my first sip of beer... a tradition going back generations in my family. (Bottom Right) Among the last pictures of my grandfather and grandmother together, before he passed away.
In sum, the current system and the issues of immigration that have come up for me have put numerous road blocks in my life, taken away golden opportunities, slowed down other aspects I once had planned, destroyed friendships and relationships, and has also been a tool for others to use against me for their own professional advantage. While by this point you are probably thinking that the upcoming blogs will be “Debbie Downer”-ish as it gets, I’d say you’re probably right, but it is a picture of the reality many others such as my family face in this country.
Despite this, while I may have lost many things along the way, I have gained so much more as well – such as appreciating everyday life and the individuals I meet along the way. In many ways, while in the short term I may have been weakened before, I feel stronger and more determined now more than ever, because at the end of the day I have learned that these bumps are exactly what they are… bumps; but it is a bump worth knowing about and asking questions of how to fix it. The U.S. immigration system can be fixed; it just takes the will, determination and the power of voice to do so.
I haven't known Viktor very long, but I didn't have a clue that he was an immigrant. I'm looking forward to hearing more about his story!
Are you an immigrant? Do you have a similar experience to Viktor? Please feel free to comment and ask any questions that you may have for Viktor.
Introduction to My Immigration Story | Part 1 | Part 2 (Coming Jan. 23rd ) | Part 3 (Coming January 30th)
Do not, under any circumstances start a political war on this blog - your comment will be deleted.