As a child, I was embarrassed of my parents for not speaking the language: English. I would be in elementary school and see other parents using English while my parents needed a translator to help them understand.
I felt embarrassed when my mom would ask me for help at the cashier’s to translate if they had a size for this clothing or what the price was. I wondered why she didn’t know how to speak English like others or at least try to learn. Sometimes my mom would get mad because she wanted me to translate but I was too shy to ask for help. She expressed that if she knew English, “she would talk to anyone.” Not only was she frustrated because she didn’t know the language but I was frustrated because I had no one to support me. Not only was it my mom; my family members also didn’t understand English.
“Speak English,” my family members and I often heard. Some laughed because my family was communicating in Spanish and had difficulty translating to English. Some were frustrated that a nine-year-old was translating for an adult. Those are the challenges that immigrant families face day to day. Why are they being ambushed by society for not understanding English?
Learning from a young age to be independent; doing government documentation, appointments, and asking adults questions. Even going to the immigration center to help my mother out with talking to an officer about my brother’s detention. I learned from a young age how serious it was for my parents and family members. As the only one who knew English and as the oldest child, I had to help my parents. It was my responsibility. I had to help my aunts, uncles, and cousins with translating or understanding. I had to step up and become an adult. And I know that I am not the only one who experienced this.
I feel the pressure till this day. I have to do adult things since from a young age I’d help my family with anything English-related. This experience helped me mature as a person, which I am thankful for, but at the same time, I lost my childhood in the process. Some kids my age didn’t have to stress about helping their families understand something that was fragile; their only stress was to be a kid. I know it’s hard for me but what about other immigrant families?
Already struggling to adapt to a new place, new language, new people, immigrant families don’t know where to begin the journey of “American Dream.” Having to leave their country because of the mess that America has made of their country. These immigrants are not leaving their lands because they want to or because they are criminals; they are leaving because they don’t have food to feed their families, because they are in danger, because they have limited resources.
We as a society need to help these families. How can we claim to be a successful nation when we cannot help our own people? Immigrants are coming to the U.S. without knowing the language or how to adjust. Our communities have no resources for immigrants; they are America’s outcasts. Aren’t we supposed to be United as One?
There needs to be more support for immigrant families. They are coming here to work the jobs that Americans don’t want. Minimum paid jobs, such as janitors, construction workers, and cooks, cleaning up the dirt that America hurls at them. No matter what life throws at these immigrants they will reach for what they desire.
There needs to be more political output to help immigrant families. To provide places where people speak more than one language and that have translation support so that they don’t feel frustrated for not understanding. To help them make sense of important information because America does not only speak English. We speak every language.
In communities, we need to have organizations that support immigrants by providing relief to children and parents. We need to have nonprofits that teach newcomer immigrants about their new communities and the basics of English. We need to have structures that make them feel welcomed and provide them with clothing, jobs, medical care, food, and housing. If we can take these steps, immigrants are going to thrive.
– Meylin, age 18, was born in Boston but raised by Salvadoran parents. She likes spending time cooking with her family and going on car road trips. Some of her favorite dishes are Pupusas and Chicken Alfredo Pasta. Hopefully, like Meylin, others should strive for their dreams, no matter what obstacle is in the way.