Immigrant Interview

Melanie Cook

EDU 280- Valuing Cultural Diversity

Professor Connie Christensen

College of Southern Nevada
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The

wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These words are engraved in stone on the Statue of

Liberty welcoming and calling for the worlds needy. In 2015, 1,051,031 people immigrated to

the United States and received green cards legally. The United States, for people in other

countries distant and near, it is a savior. Whether it be from war, lack of substantial food and

water, not having education options or simply wanting a better life, the United States is seen as

the “fix all” for all of these issues.

I interviewed a friend of mine, Thiaris Peirra. Thiaris is a young Hispanic female who

immigrated from Nicaragua when she was 15. She speaks fluent Spanish, which is the native

language in Nicaragua, and still finds it difficult to completely pick up the idioms, slang and

semantics of the English language. She does speak and communicate it well.

According to Thiaris, life in Nicaragua wasn’t a terrible life. Though she was only 15 at

the time Thiaris remembers life in Nicaragua was worry free when it came to bills, compared to

those in the United States. The rent was reasonable and everything is not taxed like it is here in

America. The best part of all about life there was that unless you attended a private school

education was free, as well as the healthcare.

Though life was not the worse in Nicaragua, Thiaris’ parents wanted better for her and

her siblings. They wanted them to have a better education, be successful but most importantly

they wanted their children to not fall into the bad habits of adolescents in Nicaragua. According

to Thiaris and her mother Maria, even if you finish school in Nicaragua that did not always

guarantee you a job. They were few and unless you had a connection or knew someone I was

difficult to get a really good paying sustainable job. So, with no place to work and no business to
occupy their time, adolescents and young people would fall into things such as drugs, theft, and

just continuous partying around.

With a hope for their children Maria and her husband paid approximately $15,000 per

person just to immigrate legally to the United States, where Maria herself already resided.

Between the fees, paperwork and the assistance from a lawyer the cost was high but the outcome

down the line would be worth it. It took about two years to finalize everything, but when it was

Thiaris and her older siblings were flown to America.

Thiaris graduated high school here in Las Vegas. She did express some of the difficulties.

The biggest being the language barrier. Which is no surprise according to the text, “many of the

problems Hispanic American learners experience stem from their difficulties with English.”

(M. Manning, 2009, 172). In spite of the difficulties faced, Thiaris made her way through school.

She also began working at 17 as a cashier at a retail store, your typical job for a high schooler.

At the age of 21 Thiaris applied for residency as a United Sates citizen. Thiaris had

assistance through her job at the Culinary Union, who is known for helping employees with legal

and health issues. With their help, she applied through the Homeland Security Administration.

She went through a background check, income verification, if she possessed many good and

most importantly that she had no felonies which would result in an automatic denial of residency.

The entire process cost just under $800 which includes the processing and the fee for citizenship

after the application gets approved. The process from application to citizenship took about 6 to 7

months to obtain with little to no complications during the process.

Before Thiaris became a legal citizen, even before she made it to America she had

images, ideas and expectations of how life would be here. She saw life in the United States as a
utopia. That it would be a wonderful place, that would offer more privileges than life in

Nicaragua. She believed that she and her family’s life would be happier and have everything they

wanted.

Thankfully, Thiaris’ expectations of the United States were confirmed. She felt freedom,

freedom to live where you wanted, to speak your mind, to work where you wanted to work. You

could even own property and actually own things here in America opposed to Nicaragua where

rules of ownership were apparently stricter.

However, on the opposite side of the good life in the United States, Thiaris has explained

that there are difficulties as well. Sadly, these difficulties come as no surprise. She explains that

discrimination and racism are the biggest issues she faces in US life. Because of her lack of

fluent English people tend to stereotype and underestimate Hispanics who immigrate. Simply

assuming they have low or mediocre intelligence simply fit to be cooks, maids or gardeners;

those stereotypical jobs. She has also faced racism because of her skin. People insinuating to her

that because she is Hispanic and immigrated here they assume she is a bad person. Using the

deeds and actions of other Hispanics who may have done bad to as a blueprint of how all

Hispanics act and behave. Simply assuming things about her country of origin and even making

assumptions she entered the United States illegally. Though she is faced with prejudice,

assumptions and discriminations she still views life in the United States as a blessing. Simply

saying, “If you are strong enough you can do more than what they think.” Let them say and think

what they want, she is proving all the stereotypes, doubters and assumers wrong simply by

working hard and persevering after the dream her parents had for her and her siblings.

Thiaris is one of the people described on the Statue of Liberty, she is also living the

American dream many immigrants hope to live. Here in America she is given the opportunity to
become someone she always wanted to be. She can learn a new language, accomplish new

things, such as becoming a medical assistant. Thiaris continues to hope for the future for her and

her family. She is furthering her career as a Medical Assistant by going back to school, her

brother recently received an award at UNLV in his culinary program for his recent

accomplishments, and her sister is working as a successful realtor. Like many immigrants Thiaris

and her family came to America knowing it would not be easy, but knew she was capable of

achieving her dreams and goals. She is continuing to work hard, persevere and look to the future.
References

LLC, S. M. (n.d.). How tall is the Statue of Liberty? Retrieved April 29, 2017, from

https://www.howtallisthestatueofliberty.org/

Table 1. Persons Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status: Fiscal Years 1820 to 2015.

(2016, December 15). Retrieved April 29, 2017, from https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-

statistics/yearbook/2015/table1

Manning, M. L, & Baruth, L. G. (2009). Multicultural Education of Children and

Adolescents. Boston, Pearson.