Our Immigrants

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In thinking of immigration stories most people imagine a simple route, a person travels from point A to point B. Maybe you imagine danger in point A. Maybe unemployment. Decisions to leave one's homeland are never simple. It seems this needs saying in our country.

Point A for me was Colombia. I was thirteen. My father was kidnapped. Then he was let go. Then he lost his job. My mother put food on the table by asking her friends to donate produce and meats. We ate like this, by the grace of others, for months. When our phone began to ring again with kidnapping threats, this time for my sister and me, we panicked.

You'd think this is when you seek asylum. But this is Colombia, and in the scale of horror, the danger we faced did not qualify us - not even close.

Instead my mother attended a party knowing the boss of an international company would be there. She zeroed in on this stranger. She took up his hands, and with no command of English she looked into his eyes. She let her eyes tear. "My daughters," she told him. "My daughters." He needed no other words. He gave my dad a job in neighboring Venezuela. Venezuela was point B for us. I waited until I was alone and then I kissed Venezuelan soil. The solid ground on my lips, I thanked it for saving us. But in a year, we would be back at point A again, then a point C, then A again, and finally I made my way to the U.S.

Ever since the election I keep thinking of our immigrants, who have against all odds escaped realities that are unimaginable and impossible. How many letters of the alphabet did they go through to reach safety?


This is me taking up your stranger's hand.

This is me looking into your eyes.

This is me telling you, "Our immigrants. Our immigrants."

With a Perspective, I am Ingrid Rojas Contreras.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is a San Francisco writer currently working on a memoir of her grandfather, a Colombian medicine man.