Threefold Staff Share Immigration Stories

Daria Hall – Staff Photographer

In August 2018, I met my future husband, William, in Paris, France.  Several months later, he proposed to me during his trip to my hometown, Yekaterinburg, Russia, and we started to look for some ways for me to move to the United States.

My immigration story started almost two years ago when we made a big step and applied for a fiancé visa. For this type of visa, an American citizen fills out some forms that prove that he is going to get married and financially support the person that he applies for.

For us, the application approvement took around seven months—seven long months—when we were not able to see each other often and when several thousand miles were between us.

After our application was approved, all of our paperwork was transferred to the General Embassy of the United States in Moscow, Russia. I prepared tons of paperwork, pictures and other evidence of our relationship, went through the medical exam and visa interview, and finally got my fiancé visa.

After a couple of weeks, William and I landed in New York. After I entered the United States, we had 90 days until getting married. We got married in July 2019 and filled out the application for my permanent resident status. This process took another seven months, and I finally got my green card in February 2020.

Behind all of the paperwork, all of the stress and thousands of dollars that we spent to get everything completed, we had our love and we had each other. God was so good to us and helped us to complete everything quickly and smoothly.

It’s been a year since I moved to the United States. We moved to Fayetteville, bought a house, got two amazing puppies and I already forgot about all of the difficulties that we had during the immigration process. Our big dream came true, and we are so thankful for this experience.

Catherine Nolte – Executive Editor

I am proud to be German-American, and I am proud of my family’s immigration story.

My Opa immigrated to the United States when he was 13 and my Omi immigrated to the United States when she was 23. While my Opa served in the U.S. Army, he was stationed in Baumholder and Neu Ulm, so my dad attended school in both the U.S. and Germany.

When I was younger, I would watch Fußball on Saturday mornings with my grandparents and have Kaffee und Kuchen on Sunday afternoons. While I don’t get to visit them as often now, we still talk over the phone. I love celebrating Weihnachten with them, especially with Adventskalender, Spekulatius, Stollen und Marzipan.

Growing up, I struggled to relate to my friends whose heritage went back generations, leaving their families to scour archives and take DNA tests to learn more. It was even more difficult whenever I would share my family’s traditions with my classmates. I was often jokingly labeled a Nazi, especially in my English or history classes. I got tired of trying to laugh it off or defending my family, and I realized it was easier to just not talk about it.

So, I left my Die Mannschaft and Bayern kits in the back of the closet and gave up trying to learn a language I never had hopes of understanding. I squirmed in my seat during history classes, praying that my classmates wouldn’t call me out during discussions on World War II. Of course, I still ate German foods and watched matches. But because it hurt so much, I confined my culture to the four walls of my parents’ and grandparents’ homes.

Coming to John Brown University helped those walls come down. Being with students from other countries and cultures opened a new world to me. As I witnessed my friends celebrating their homes and families, I found new ways to share my own.

If there is anything I have learned here, it is that people should not be ashamed of where they and their family come from. Instead, we should use our cultures and stories to motivate us to a future that our families have sacrificed for. Those who know me well know that this has been a driving factor behind my advocacy for genocide prevention and remembrance.

While I have encountered some in this space who do not understand, I am forever grateful to have found a community that embraces me and encourages me to continue to love and share my family’s culture.

In Erinnerung auf mein Onkel Albert, Ich werde dich nicht vergesse.

Armando Hernández – Faith Editor

Hey there, cowpokes, my name is Armando Hernandez, and I’m the Faith Editor at the Threefold Advocate. This week’s issue centers around the conversation of immigration around the world and in the U.S. The topic certainly has grown in prominence since the 2016 election and increasingly does so. Instead of delving into the political discussion about its legal issues or policies, I want to highlight the connection immigration has to my life.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, I grew up around the rich, Hispanic culture with its wonderful color, beautiful language, deep heritage, festive celebrations, spiritual beliefs and familial community. San Antonio has a predominantly Hispanic population that is deeply rooted in celebrating its heritage.

My story connection with immigration concerns my ancestors: their escaping abuse, finding better jobs and desiring a better life in the U.S. Listening to how my mother and father’s sides of the family entered into this country deepened my sentiments for my immigrant history. Although many entered with little to their name, they were the foundation that established my family. Therefore, let their names be heard on paper for their actions that rippled across generations to forward me this opportunity:

Isabella Benavidez from Nuevo Leon; Cesario Chavez from York, Texas; Maria Lopez from San Luis Potosí, Julio Puente from Cuatro Ciénegas, Petra Rivera from San Buenaventura, Coahuila; and Manuel Hernandez from Aguascalientes City, Aguascalientes.

I commemorate their names in my work so that my family can remember them here in my own work rather than on the obituary. Their foundational work ripples across generations, including the current descendants. We build off what was given to us and strive to create a better life for the generations to come.

The U.S. is a melting pot of different cultures coming together to achieve the American Dream. Many believe the dream is dead or does not exist; however, immigrants still flock to the U.S. because they, too, dream of creating a better life for their family and the generations that spring from their choice to come here.

María Aguilar – Managing Editor

When Dad picked me up from middle school, he would firmly wrap me around in his arms and kiss my forehead. As a 10-year-old, my mind was plagued with shame and unease when my dad would oh-so-publicly show his affection in front of my classmates. Wearing his jaded tennis shoes and washed-out jeans, he would happily welcome me into his presence, purposefully ignoring the annoyed look plastered all over my face.

When Dad had job interviews and couldn’t drop me off at my abuela’s house, he would take me with him and rigidly hold my hand on our way there. He always wore his only decent tie and checked his hair every five minutes in the rear-view mirror. His voice was calm and collected, but his eyes told a different story. I remember feeling impatient during his interviews, not understanding the weight he carried over his shoulders, as a recently laid-off parent with pressing bills to pay.

When Dad took me grocery shopping with him, he would gently pull me toward him whenever I stopped to eye the toys section, feeling bummed out that he ignored my deep desire to get another Barbie doll for my collection. I remember him always nervously approaching the ATM, not entirely sure if he would have enough money to buy that week’s supply of food.

When Dad decided to leave home after struggling to find a job for two years, I tightly crashed into his arms and wrapped my short arms around his neck. I was not “annoyed” anymore. I remember our early morning drive to the airport and how his laborious hands not once left my shoulder until we arrived. He carried one small suitcase, but it felt like the heaviest load as he packed his whole life with him in order to provide me with the opportunities he could not find.

When Dad woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to start his 12-hour shift at work, he would always call to wish me a good day. For the four years he was physically absent, there was not a day he did not call to tell me he loved me. At times, I would break down crying because I missed the hugs I vehemently rejected for years. I missed seeing him wait for me at the entrance of my school with his arms wide open. I missed grocery shopping with him and watching our favorite movies.

When Dad finally came back home after years of loneliness and difficult times, I was graduating high school. His sacrifice finally paid off; I had a diploma. He firmly intertwined his arm with mine as he walked me down the stage to receive the fruits of his hard work, to claim the prize that he himself did not enjoy during his youth. I remember his proud smile, taking as many pictures with his cheap camera to never forget this moment.

When I was granted the opportunity to study in the U.S., Dad sadly smiled, his words still ringing in my head: “I came back just to see you leave this time, huh?” He dropped me off at the airport, his strong grip never leaving my hand, until the time to say goodbye finally came. It was my turn to leave for four years and do my part. Now it’s my turn to work hard for my parents’ sake.