The American Dream and all its Glory: A Family's Immigration Story
By: Pratibha Agarwal, Board Member
Why is immigration important to me? To say that immigration has shaped me as a person and given me all that I have is an understatement. When Just Neighbors asked me to write about why I am passionate about immigration and why I serve on their board of directors, I could think of no better way to do it than to show our readers the photograph above. This is my family at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Here stand 3 generations that all began with that one handsome man front and center, wearing a blue shirt and holding his granddaughter on his lap.
My uncle immigrated to the U.S. nearly fifty years ago. This was a time when graduates with certain degrees could apply for a green card without sponsorship and literally set foot in the United States without knowing a single person and without employment. He told me he arrived in the U.S. with four hundred dollars in his pocket and without family or friends in this strange new country. After arriving, with his Engineering degree in hand, he opened the phone book and went (by foot) from company to company looking for work. He finally found a job, an apartment, and brought his wife (front and center in the orange sari) and son with him from India.
Years later, this same aunt and uncle sponsored my family to also immigrate from India. In addition, my uncle sponsored his sister and her family. As you can see in this photograph, what started with one brave, hard-working, persistent man with a dream, has resulted in 31 of us (and counting) living here in the U.S. and experiencing the American dream and all its glory. In that photo are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, software developers, consultants, administrative assistants, marketing executives, students, adorable children (need I go on?). All because of immigration.
We entered this country with a fraction of what we have now. We built our home, our careers, and continue to dream without limits. As for me, I am incredibly grateful to have completed my law degree, opened an immigration law firm, and built my family of 5 (plus dog). I was lucky to have supportive parents and family, an education, and, most importantly, legal status.
I serve on the board of Just Neighbors because I know our clients have arrived in the U.S. with the same spirit held by my uncle when he first set foot in the U.S. Unlike my uncle, many of our clients lack the support system and sheer luck my family was fortunate to have. I believe everyone that has come to the U.S. can succeed and contribute greatly to the world around them. Just Neighbors helps new immigrants find their footing, to gain legal status, and build their life. Just Neighbors shows our newly arrived friends that they are not alone. I serve on the board because I want to have a hand in helping our clients get one step closer to having that same family photo above. To achieving their dreams and truly experiencing the glory of this country.